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Social Innovation

Center for Social Innovation

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The long-term strength of our nation relies on the level of commitment we have toward innovation. Influx of talent, new mindset and new network technologies are the new convergence of innovation. President Obama must broaden the focus across and among the private, public, and nonprofit sectors—to seek and spark the most promising innovations whether they come from commercial or social entrepreneurs, executives or line workers, community leaders, public servants, researchers, or citizens who don’t fit into any of these categories.

Resource: Blog Post

Philanthropic and social capital markets are emerging, but they need issuers, investors and intermediaries to function. There is a range of activity and structure on both sides-–from nonprofit organizations to social businesses on the sell side and donors to investors on the buy side. Put together the full spectrum and you get nonprofits and grants on one end and social businesses and investors at the other end. Where it gets tricky is in the calculation of the social or environmental return. How to calculate the extent of these impacts is a thorny problem no matter where on the financial spectrum you participate.

Resource: Blog Post

An interview with Gavin Glabaugh, long-time IT guru at the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, gives incite on where nonprofits have been and where we’re going in terms of using technology.

Resource: Blog Post

Foundations can do much more to address the economic crisis and the human toll it is taking. Instead of hoarding their assets so they can perpetuate their wealth and their power, foundation boards should be voting to pay out more in assets and better fulfilling their governance role by taking a more active role as shareholders. Foundations should be putting all their assets, including those they pay out and those they invest in the capital markets, to more productive use to address the critical and escalating social and global problems we face.

Resource: Blog Post
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Spring 2009

Our economy is in bad shape and will only get worse. So what can fundraisers do to minimize the impact of this difficult period on our organizations, and at the same time maximize income? —By Mal Warwick

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article
[photo - New Technology]

For a d.School course called “Design for Extreme Affordability,” Jane Chen and three of her classmates developed a low-cost baby incubator tailored to the needs of the developing world. That incubator—a reusable heating pouch—became the Embrace Infant Warmer, and ultimately launched Embrace and Embrace Innovations, a joint social enterprise promoting child and maternal health across the globe. 

Resource: News Article
[photo - Jake Harriman]

Jake Harriman,'08, explains how rejecting conventional wisdom about financing a nonprofit helped him turn his vision into a real intervention.

Resource: News Article
[photo - What Makes a Happy vs. Meaningful Life?]

Professor Frank Flynn looks at the difference between “happiness” and “meaning” in life –– and how these two concepts relate to being prosocial.

Resource: News Article
[photo - Businesses Impact Social Policy]

New research explores the impact of gay-owned businesses on anti-discrimination laws.

Resource: News Article
[photo - Joshua Rauh]

The symposium was the culmination of massive open online course about retirement and pensions.

Resource: News Article
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Winter 2007

The MacArthur “genius” prize winner creates drugs for the developing world.

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Winter 2007

One of the most important, but often overlooked, ways that a nonprofit can improve its effectiveness is to develop a strong brand. Not only does a distinctive brand personality help a nonprofit raise its visibility among the general public, but it also develops deeper ties with donors, partners, and other stakeholders. By Adrian Sargeant & John B. Ford

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Winter 2007

International development organizations spend lots of money and effort building the capacity of small businesses. Yet they often fail to ask whether people want the businesses’ goods and services. As these stories from Peru show, successful programs start with real buyers who are willing to buy real products. By James T. Riordan

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Winter 2007

Most people think of networking as a means for advancing their own self-interest. But successful social innovators take a different tack, nurturing close ties between members and infusing their networks with a common set of values. As a result, their networks power both personal transformations and large-scale social changes. By Joel M. Podolny

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Winter 2007

Nonprofits aren’t as nice to their employees as you might think. By Mal Warwick

Resource: Stanford Social Innovation Review Article

Mario Morino, chairman of Venture Philanthropy Partners, opines that nothing is more important for the long-term strength of our nation than driving greater levels of innovation across and between all sectors of our economy—for-profit, nonprofit, and public.  Expounding on an colleague's anecdote that innovation is like a coral reef, Morino connects the metaphor to the dot.com boom in Silicon Valley as an example of a healthy innovation ecosystem.  The solution for long-term social and economic success in America lies in a national strategy of combined efforts across all regions, disciplines and walks of life—similar to the combined efforts needed to create a coral reef.

Resource: Blog Post

Many nonprofits may be reluctant to play an advocacy role because they believe they lack the resources or know-how, or because they fear they might put their foundation, corporate or public funding at risk.  But advocacy work can make a big difference in shaping the public policies that affect nonprofits and their clients.  Recent research shows investment in nonprofit advocacy and community organizing yields a big return in benefits for underrepresented constituencies.

Resource: Blog Post

Fundraising professionals play instrumental roles at nonprofit organizations but get less pay and support than they need and deserve.  The way a charity’s fundraising staff treats donors is more important than any other factor in determining whether givers give to a particular charity, according to Adrian Sargeant, Robert F. Hartsook Professor of Fundraising at the Center on Philanthropy.  So if they expect to be more successful in their fundraising, nonprofits will need to increase their investment in fundraising, particularly in paying and supporting the work of their fundraisers and closing the pay gap between men and women.

Resource: Blog Post

“For social benefit organizations to truly “work” we all need to be part of the design, the process, the success.” -Hildy Gottlieb

Resource: Blog Post

“Merge Minnesota: Nonprofit Merger as an Opportunity for Survival and Growth” published by MAP for Nonprofits proves a useful source of information about the merging process of nonprofits. 

Resource: Blog Post
Video/Audio : All | Audio | Video
[photo - Atlanta Mcllwraith]
How can philanthropy mesh with a company's core strategy? In this panel discussion, executives from cutting-edge corporate donors share the various strategies used by their companies to serve societal needs. They consider issues such as the value proposition of giving for shareholders, and whether for-profits' philanthropic efforts can be purely altruistic.
Resource: Audio
[photo - Ayn Lavagnino]

Why should professionals care about the environment? In this panel discussion, executives from environmentally conscious companies talk about their strategies to market clean products and share their personal motivation for working on environmental issues.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Marty Ashby]

As executive producer of MCG Jazz, Marty Ashby works with musicians who often devote their proceeds to a community arts and vocational training center in Pittsburg, Penn. In this audio interview, Ashby charts for Globeshakers host Tim Zak his career from jazz musician to director of this philanthropic jazz performance and recording venue.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Bill Strickland]

On Pittsburgh's gritty north side, just down the street from where he grew up, Bill Strickland has created a youth development and adult training center like no other. In this audio interview with Globeshakers host Tim Zak, Strickland talks about the environment he has melded over more than 40 years surrounded by stunning art, the sounds of jazz, beautiful orchids, and brilliant architecture, with programs that get kids into college and adults a job with a future.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Luther Ragin, Jr.]

Luther Ragin, Jr., Vice President of Investments for The F.B. Heron Foundation, explains how the mission-related investment approach can harness a foundation's financial power to maximize its social return. From the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford.

Resource: Audio
[Video-Does Impact Investing Really Have Impact?]

Impact investing: is it actually investing? Or is it venture philanthropy by another name?

Resource: Video
[Video-Leadership in the War Against Extreme Poverty]

Stanford GSB alum ('08) founded Nuru International to maximize local leadership to drive sustainable change.

Resource: Video
[Video-Unleashing Green Chemistry: A Societal Need and Business Opportunity]

A panel on the the importance of mainstreaming and investing in green chemistry for the future of energy and the environment.

Resource: Video
[Video-Jane Chen: Crazy Enough to Change the World?]

Jane Chen (MBA '08) shares her journey to success in tackling one of the world's pressing issues -- low birth rates of premature babies around the world.

Resource: Video
[Video-Robert Sutton: Scaling Up Excellence]

Professor Sutton discusses a challenge that determines every organization’s success: scaling up farther, faster, and more effectively as a program or an organization creates a larger footprint.

Resource: Video
[photo - Amory Lovins]

Where do you save the most energy and capital costs? In this audio lecture, Amory Lovins challenges Industry leaders to consider a different approach for systems analysis, and identifies four target areas where the greatest savings are to be found.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Amory Lovins]

In this audio lecture, Amory Lovins discusses conservation and efficiency strategies that enable industry to eliminate waste, achieve cost savings, lower capital outlays, identify additional capacity, and increase profit. A simple commitment to new energy policies, combined with innovative design strategies and the implementation of cheaper, more powerful, and readily available technologies can provide manufacturing enterprises with a wide array of material and financial benefits.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Fazle H. Abed]

Fazle Abed explains in this audio lecture how the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is leading grassroots efforts to achieve the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals in Bangladesh. He describes a multipronged strategy aimed at education, gender equality, health, environmental, economic, and political progress.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Amory Lovins]

Well-designed buildings not only conserve energy and reduce costs but also create conditions for better health and wellness. In this audio lecture, Amory Lovins uses several examples to show how the right mix of materials, resources, and expertise can create structures that celebrate living.

Resource: Audio
[photo - Amory Lovins]

Buildings represent an ideal opportunity for reducing energy use through clever design. In this audio lecture, Amory Lovins explores the many possibilities that building design offers us to "think outside of the box" in order to save energy. He shares numerous examples of effective design and even a few cases where smart energy design actually costs less to build, not more.

Resource: Audio
Case Studies : All | Academic Cases

Commissioned by KaBOOM! and authored by Katherine Fulton and alumna Heather McLeod Grant of the Monitor Institute, this case study looks at the challenges KaBOOM! faced and lessons the organization learned while pioneering an online strategy to scale its impact. This strategy involves giving away the nonprofit model online for free to empower others to act on KaBoom's behalf.

Resource: Practitioner Case

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project—a five-year effort launched in late 2006 with $17 million in funding from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Resource: Academic Case
[photo - Stefanos Zenios]

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project—a five-year effort launched in late 2006 with $17 million in funding from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One of the team’s primary objectives was to investigate sales and distribution challenges in this space. By conducting a portfolio of field-based pilots, the team hoped to test different models for improving customer access to these safe water products in an effort to identify scalable, sustainable, and replicable solutions. Although specific results varied across the pilots, which spanned India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Kenya, they collectively gave rise to series of important sales and distribution insights.

Resource: Academic Case
[photo - Stefanos Zenios]

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project. One of the key objectives of this effort was to explore how the private sector could help make HWTS products more affordable. By conducting a portfolio of field-based pilots in collaboration with commercial partners, the PATH team sought to better understand the effect of different pricing, consumer financing, and subsidy models on demand within low-income population in developing countries. 

Resource: Academic Case
[photo - Stefanos Zenios]

This case provides an overview of the nonprofit organization PATH and its Safe Water Project—a five-year effort launched in late 2006 with $17 million in funding from the global development unit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of the grant was to evaluate to what extent market-based approaches could help accelerate the widespread adoption and sustained use of household water treatment and safe storage products by low-income populations.

Resource: Academic Case
[photo - Laura Arrillaga]

Arrillaga created Silicon Valley Social Venture ("SV2") in partnership with Community Foundation Silicon Valley (“CFSV”), a nationally recognized public foundation that had experience working with individual donors and had established credibility within the philanthropic field. Arrillaga formed SV2 as a donor-advised fund to ensure that CFSV staff would help guide SV2 partners leverage their expertise and funding to select high-performing community organizations, thus generating the greatest social impact. 

Resource: Academic Case
Research Papers : All
[photo - Ask for help]

How can a certain kind of behavior actually contributes to inequalities? Specifically, do children’s social-class backgrounds affect when and how they seek help in the classroom, thereby teasing out children’s own role in educational stratification? We consider how teachers may use such information to correct these dynamics, and thus contribute to more equal access for all children at school.

Resource: Research Paper
[photo - Flu Shot Reminder on Calendar]

Seasonal influenza leads to >200,000 hospitalizations and >8,000 deaths in the United States each year. The influenza vaccine is widely available at low cost and reduces mortality, morbidity, and healthcare costs. Nevertheless, many of those for whom vaccination is indicated fail to comply with CDC recommendations for vaccination. If low compliance is the result of careful calculations by individuals weighing the costs and benefits of vaccination, it may be difficult and expensive for policymakers and organizational leaders to increase vaccination rates. However, if low compliance is the result of forgetfulness or procrastination, low-cost interventions that use psychological tools may be effective at increasing vaccination rates and improving public health.

Resource: Research Paper
[photo - Collaborative Filtering of Medication Lists]

Evidence suggests that the medication lists of patients are often incomplete and could negatively affect patient outcomes. By predicting drugs the patient could be taking, collaborative filtering can be a valuable tool for reconciling medication lists.

Resource: Research Paper
[photo - Medical Expenses on tax form]

Workers who earn just below the Social Security tax threshold receive a larger tax preference for health insurance than workers who earn just above it.

Resource: Research Paper
[photo - vertical integration & Medicare Reimbursement]

Health care providers may vertically integrate not only to facilitate coordination of care, but also for strategic reasons that may not be in patients’ best interests.

Resource: Research Paper
Courses : All

The two-quarter Elective Course series provides lectures from a diverse group of faculty that expose students to the practical aspects of technology invention and development. The class features a presentation or discussion from one of the guest speakers or faculty. Students work in small project teams in the Biodesign prototyping lab or bench space, collaborating with the fellows of the program.

Resource: MBA Course
[photo - Jennifer Aaker]

The goal of this seminar is to investigate how social technology (e.g., blogs, websites, podcasts, widgets, community groups, social network feeds) can change attitudes and behaviors in ways that cultivate social change. We study the strategies and tactics used by companies and causes that have successfully catalyzed social persuasion.

Resource: MBA Course
[photo - Robert Burgelman]

This seminar helps participants develop strategically informed action plans that are imaginative, inspiring, and workable in highly dynamic environments. Through informed debate and the writing and presentation of position papers, participants evaluate and hone their views on the seminar's critical themes.

Resource: MBA Course
[photo - Rick Aubry]

This course focuses on the efforts of private citizens to create effective responses to social needs and innovative solutions to social problems. It equips students with frameworks and tools that will help them be more effective as a social entrepreneur.

Resource: MBA Course
[photo - William Meehan]

This course surveys strategic, governance, and management issues facing a wide range of nonprofit organizations in an era of venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. It introduces students to core managerial issues in the nonprofit sector, such as development/fundraising, investment management, performance management and nonprofit finance.

Resource: MBA Course
Innovators : All
[photo - Kate Surman]

Kate Surman, MBA '04, Administrative Director of Strategic Operations, Stanford Hospital & Clinics, discusses how she has leveraged the Public Management and Social Innovation certificate to take her career into a new direction.

Resource: Alumni
[photo - Farm to Cup - Root Capital Lending]

A grassroots student effort led by Caroline Mullen, MBA ’12, Catha Mullen, MBA ’13, and Monica Lewis, MBA ’12, now has even more impact through a merger with Pachamama Coffee Cooperative.

Resource: Alumni
[photo - Robyn Beavers]

Leading a Social Innovation Study Trip lands Robyn Beavers, MBA '10, in a new industry.

Resource: Alumni
[photo - Jeremy Sokulsky]

Jeremy Sokulsky, MBA '04, President, Environmental Incentives, discusses how he's drawing upon the tools and training he received from the GSB to help make a difference.

Resource: Alumni
[photo - Ashanthi Mathai]

Vision care is something that is practically taken for granted in the United States, but that’s not the case throughout much of the world. Some 300 million around the globe suffer from correctable vision loss, leading, as Ashanthi Mathai, MBA '04, says, “to people accepting their vision impairment and adjusting their lives around it.” The result? A lower quality of life, restricted job options, and even further economic distress.


 

Resource: Alumni
[photo - Hau Lee]

Mountain Hazelnut Venture Limited was founded with economic, social, and environemental objectives. It planned to distribute young hazelnut plants at no charge to a large number of subsistence farmers in Bhutan; it was also the first 100 percent foreign direct investment company in Bhutan. This is an example of supply chain management, environment, and entrepreneurship in developing economies. 

Resource: Academic Case
[Video-DC2VC Panel Discussion ]

Government representatives and venture capitalists came together to hear Stanford student teams speak about the barriers that routinely prevent healthcare innovations from getting to market.

Resource: Video
[Video-Biotechnology, Diagnostics, and Genomics: Panel Discussion]

What are five individuals in biotechnology doing to make the sector more efficient?

Resource: Video
[photo - Erica Plambeck]

Zeta Communities is a housing company that aims to address the housing crisis by innovating old manufactured housing technology to create prerefabricated homes and simultaneously create a viable organization. Part A of the ZETA Communities case provides the background and history of the company. 

Resource: Academic Case
Corner