10 SSIR Articles Every SOCAP Attendee Should Read

Posted by on December 1st, 2015


By Devin Briski

Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) has been called the “social entrepreneur’s Bible”—it is a top resource for impact leaders to stay up-to-date on the latest thinking in the social sector. Covering multi-sector solutions relevant to nonprofits/NGOs, foundations, government, impact investors, and social enterprises, SSIR’s mission is to make cutting edge research and new theories on social change accessible to leaders like you. Landmark articles like “Collective Impact” and “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition” have spawned new thinking around the most important ideas for the sector and inspired organizations to adapt the way they work.

SSIR is offering a $10-off discount (subscription price of only $39.95 per year) for SOCAP conference attendees to stay up-to-date on the latest thinking in social innovation. Just click on this link to take advantage of the offer!

Here are the 10 articles every SOCAP attendee should know.

1. The Power of Lean Data, Winter 2016

Published in the most recent issue of SSIR, this feature merges two keystone principles in social innovation—lean experimentation and data-driven impact. Based on research conducted at Acumen, Sasha Dichter, Tom Adams, and Alnoor Ebrahim lay out how it’s possible for organizations to inexpensively gather high-quality data to inform their strategic decisions.

2. Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Spring 2007

A mainstay on SSIR’s most-read list, this feature has become a foundational piece in social entrepreneurship courses globally. Sally Osberg and Roger Martin present a rigorous definition of activities that qualify as “social entrepreneurship,” in addition to arguing the necessity for exclusive definition.  They expound on this article in recently published book, Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.

3. The Promise of Lean Experimentation, Summer 2015

Lean experimentation is an established practice in the for-profit sector for testing the market viability of new products. Peter Murray and Steve Ma adapt this methodology for the social sector, laying out a process for leaders of social change to test, evaluate, and refine new programs and ideas with the potential for ground-breaking change.

4. The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector, Spring 2012

Brands like Amnesty International and Habitat for Humanity are among the most recognizable in the world. Yet, nonprofits have historically only used brands as a tool for fundraising. In this feature, Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone present the “Nonprofit Brand IDEA,” a framework for how brand can play a cohesive role in strategic thinking for nonprofits. This article inspired the book, The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity.

5. The Dawn of System Leadership, Winter 2015

The popular trope of “leadership” is a strong head making unilateral decisions. In this feature, author of The Fifth Discipline Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton, and John Kania argue for a new conception of leadership that is capable of catalyzing groups for collective action.

6. Disruption for Good, Spring 2015

It’s undeniable that technology has unleashed a number of possibilities for fundraising, evaluation, and more. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, author of Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World, explores how rapid advances in technology have disrupted traditional philanthropy, making it more rational, effective, collaborative, transparent, and democratic.

7. In Search of the Hybrid Ideal, Summer 2012

One potent tool of the social entrepreneur is to bring a market-based mentality to issues historically addressed by charitable organizations. In this feature, Julie Battilana, Mathew Lee, John Walker, and Cheryl Dorsey examine the rise of hybrid organizations that don’t fall into traditional nonprofit or for-profit categories, and examine the unique challenges they face integrating these legacy models.

8. When Can Impact Investing Create Real Impact?, Fall 2013

Impact investing is a hot topic among social innovators, and one of the fastest growing sectors of the impact economy. But this article by Paul Brest and Kelly Born  argues that, although it is possible for impact investors to achieve social impact along with market returns, it is not easy to do and doesn’t happen nearly as often as many boosters would have you believe. Read responses to the article published by SSIR here.

9. The Rise of Gender Capitalism, Summer 2014

Gender inclusive companies are more successful, and women’s participation in the workforce has lead to measurable economic growth. In this article, Sarah Kaplan and Jackie VanDerBrug outline the concept of “investing with a gender lens,” a flexible framework that allows both for-profit and for-purpose organizations to invest while driving gender equality.

10. Collective Impact, Winter 2011

Since its publication in 2011, “Collective Impact” has become more than just an article—it’s become a movement, spawning organizations like the Collective Impact Forum. The original article by John Kania and Mark Kramer defines the need and outlines a framework for organizations to coordinate efforts across sectors in order to achieve large-scale impact.

Take advantage of the $10-off discount here!


Devin BriskiDevin Briski is publishing assistant at Stanford Social Innovation Review. She attended Columbia University, where she wrote and edited for Columbia Daily Spectator. Her work has appeared in SSIR Online, The Ventured Life, Inside New York, and Eater.

SOCAP Conversations: Jenna Nicholas on Divest-Invest in 2015

Posted by on November 25th, 2015

jenna-nicholasAs the Project Manager of Divest Invest Philanthropy and in her capacity as founder and CEO of Phoenix Global Impact, Jenna Nicholas is an authoritative voice and leader in the Divest-Invest movement. For SOCAP14 Nicholas proposed and organized the panel Divest-Invest: Philanthropy: innovative finance mechanisms for developing a new energy economy. We recently sat down with Nicholas to hear her thoughts about the trajectory of this global movement that is calling for individuals and organizations to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a cleaner and more equitable future.

SOCAP: So much exciting growth happened within the movement since your panel at SOCAP14 that we decided to make Divest-Invest a main content theme at SOCAP15. Could you highlight some of the developments that have occurred over the last year?

Jenna Nicholas: It’s been a really exciting year. During the US Climate Summit in September 2014 we announced that a total of 50 billion dollars in assets under management had been committed to divesting from fossil fuels and investing in new energy. These commitments have come from institutions across all different sectors including universities, faith based groups, and foundations. In September 2015, a year later, we announced that the same set of institutions has committed 2.6 trillion dollars in assets under management. It is pretty incredible to see that type of growth over the course of a year.

I think a large part of that growth has to do with all of the organizing that has been done across the different sectors. We have grown, for example, with the help of students organizing within universities and the community of practice that has developed within the foundations. Divest-Invest Philanthropy started in January 2014 with 17 foundations and we now have over 115. This is exciting to see. We are also seeing growth similarly with faith based groups and pension funds. A number of large institutions such as the Norwegian Pension Fund, Axa Insurance, CalPERS, CalSTRS and the UC Regents are also coming on board. Seeing some of these large institutions also committing to divesting, I think has really helped catalyze other players within the industry.

So, cross sector collaboration has really helped the movement grow over the last year. Have convenings that gather together and create collaborative opportunities for groups from many sectors accelerated momentum?

Definitely. It’s been great to see SOCAP’s leadership around Divest-Invest programming. We had the Divest-Invest panel in 2014 and numerous panels at SOCAP15. Cross-sector convenings create opportunities for those that have already gotten onboard to think about questions such as, “what are other ‘invest’ solutions?” and “how do we actually go about achieving our goals? It’s great that we have made this commitment but what does this look like in practice?” Then they can share their thoughts and examples of how it has worked. Those that may not yet be on board can see what is out there and hear the financial arguments as well as the ethical and environmental arguments for being part of the Divest-Invest movement. SOCAP has been a great leader in this and there is definitely room for more. We are seeing more and more of these types of convenings taking place at a local level, national and international level as well.

What are some of the most important Divest-Invest conversations taking place at this moment in time?

There are two in particular that I would like to highlight. One is articulating ‘invest’ solutions across asset classes. There are big opportunities in every asset class, both within public and private equity. I think it is particularly important to consider questions of energy access and equity as part of our investment decision making process. We must think about what a just energy transition looks like. Many communities have historically been dependent on fossil fuels. We must consider new job opportunities in these communities. We need to be talking about how to engage the communities that are being impacted by divesting and investing at the front lines. How do we make sure these communities are part of the decision making process around the types of invest opportunities being considered? How do we ensure that their voices are not lost? For example, it is important to think about job creation in Appalachia, where communities have been dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Ensuring that we can bring that lens to our investments I think is really powerful.

You are encouraging conversations about, for example, how switching away from coal production into greener energies is going to economically impact the people in Appalachian coal mining communities?

Exactly. I did a TedX talk in Portland a few months ago about the connection between climate justice, economic justice, racial justice, and social justice more broadly and thinking about how we cannot make progress on any one of these without considering all of them. Furthermore, we must recognize that often it is those communities that are most affected by climate change that are lower income. Divest-Invest is not just focused on transferring assets but it is really focused on empowering communities.

What is inspiring you in the movement right now? What is giving you hope?

It is very inspiring to see the number of individuals and institutions that are committing to Divest-Invest. It really feels as though we are at a tipping point. Even since the announcement made a few months ago at the UN climate summit, we are seeing more and more institutions joining. The question is no longer why should we do this, it is how should we do it? Seeing a shift in the dialogue and seeing groups such as the SOCAP community come on board around this work and participate as a community of practice is very powerful. It has been amazing to see the shift in the discourse around these issues. The legitimacy of the movement has been established and now the focus is on, how do we execute?

If you could issue a call to action to the global SOCAP community, what would it be?

I think a big part of it is recognizing that this is something that anybody or any institution can participate in. I think that sometimes we think about this as being something just for the largest wealth holders in the world, but really this is something that anyone can do with their own individual assets for example through 401K plans. It is important for people to talk to their financial advisors about fossil free mutual funds and to look at private equity opportunities in new energy solutions. We can all take responsibility for the assets that we own. We can also influence the organizations that we participate in as board members or advisors.

Learn More


Jenna Nicholas is CEO of Phoenix Global Impact, a consulting company that specializes in impact investing, social entrepreneurship and strategic philanthropy. Through her consultancy, she has project managed Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of philanthropic foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, divesting from investments in fossil fuels and reinvesting in new energy solutions. Jenna also works with the World Bank Treasury on green bonds and other sustainability projects and with Toniic helping to support an impact investing community. She works closely with the Calvert Special Equities team and is an advisor to the Nexus Global Youth Summit, High Water Women and the Washington DC Impact Hub. Jenna graduated from Stanford University with an International Relations Honors Degree during which time she also read International Development at Oxford University. Jenna is a Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2017 MBA candidate. Jenna has also been selected as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Jenna has special links with China and co-taught a course at Tsinghua School of Economics and Management on Business Ethics, Sustainability and Impact Investing in 2013. She is an active member of the Bahá’í Faith.

Green Event Planning: Sustainability at SOCAP

Posted by on November 11th, 2015

By: Diana Connolly

Diana ConnollyThe SOCAP team aims to produce our annual conference in alignment with our commitment to environmental and social responsibility. As the production manager, I have an important role in making sure we make informed purchasing decisions and form strategic partnerships with our venue and vendors. Here are a few of the sustainable practices we put into place at SOCAP15:




Environmental Impact: By Air, Land, and Sea

Air (carbon and other emissions)

organic-local-food-sourcing-imBy partnering with Acre Gourmet, our catering is made with organic, locally sourced foods, resulting in low food miles and lower greenhouse gas emissions. 






hersbt solar.

We selected San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center as our venue for the first SOCAP in 2008, and continue to enjoy this unique location. Among their many environmental initiatives, Fort Mason has invested in a massive solar array on the Herbst Pavilion to reduce the reliance on electricity generated by coal plants – the number one contributor to global warming.





We aim to protect our natural resources. To do that we avoid use of non-renewable resources, and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to limit our additions to the community landfill. Here are a few of the ways we lessen our impact:


img_2484We reduce the use of non-renewable resources by renting existing AV, IT, equipment and event furnishings.

We reduce use of plastic bottles by partnering with US PureWater, a company that serves green events like SOCAP with a bulk water solution that prevents hundreds of thousands of bottles from landing in the waste stream. We reuse signs from year to year.



socap-recylcing-img_8900We retain SF Conservation Corp to sort all event and catering waste. SFCC typically is able to divert 90-95% of our event waste from the landfill, instead recycling or composting almost all materials.





Our print and signage vendors: Minute Man, Essence Printing, and Image4 use 100% recyclable materials, FSC approved paper and organic inks.

green-printing-2-img_2507    img_5633


img_5639By partnering with an organic caterer, we are ensuring that we support organic farmers whose practices include avoiding pesticides or toxic variations of fertilizers becoming an effluent to groundwater, rivers and oceans.





socap15-pure-water2-img_5628We conserve water by distributing water via bulk water bubblers, so attendees drink only what they require.






Social Responsibility and Impact: Informed sourcing


ethically-sourced-t-shirts-imgOur SOCAP volunteer t-shirts are printed by Ashbury Images – a social enterprise that provides job training for at-risk youth.






Marketplace – Supporting Social Enterprises

market-at-socap-img_5634 (1)The Marketplace at SOCAP supports social enterprises who have an eye towards fair labor, ethically sourced materials, and who help create wealth for underserved communities.





Why All Events Should Be Green Events

From public conferences, to industry meetings, to world summits, events are where people gather to announce academic breakthroughs, discuss industry changes and societal challenges, and put forth our best ideas and thought leadership. Live events are not going away.

Unfortunately, there is a shadow side to the event industry. Large scale events have a big environmental and social impact. Environmental impacts include landfill waste, toxics, and water usage. Social impacts can involve human and labor rights in a global supply chain.

Carbon emission data can give a sense of the scale of this industry and its footprint. There are 1.8 million meetings in the U.S. alone each year. Meetgreen, a green meetings leader, calculates that each attendee at an average event produces .176 metric tons (MT) of CO2 per event day.1 In 2012,  in the U.S.alone, 225 million people attended meetings2. With 225M participants attending an average of two days per event, that’s 79.2 million MT of CO2 per year. How much is that?  According to the EPA, that’s the same amount of CO2 emitted by 16.6 million cars for an entire year3, more than all the cars currently registered in all of California.

All of us who plan events need to understand how the decisions we make at even the smallest level contribute to a global industry impact. At SOCAP, we act on our values by making informed decisions in order to minimize our impact and support vendors and suppliers who are making a difference.

Diana Connolly founded event production company Groundswell Marketing in 1994, after a combined ten years in corporate marketing and the trade show exhibit industry. Her clients are primarily in the technology sector, and range from start-ups to the Fortune 100. Ms. Connolly has an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise and is passionate about triple bottom line results. You can learn more at Groundswell Marketing, or contact Diana via  Linkedin or e-mail.


Article Sources

1 http://meetgreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/eventfoot.pdf

2 statista.com/statistics/197538/number-of-participants-in-business-meetings-in-the-us/

3 http://www2.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator

Equivilency Results


Announcements and Insights from Cheryl Dorsey’s Speech at SOCAP15

Posted by on October 29th, 2015

Announcements and Insights from Cheryl Dorsey’s Speech at SOCAP15

cheryl-dorsey-at-socap15-plena (2)“Is the pioneer gap an impassable gulch?” Echoing Green President Cheryl L. Dorsey considered this question during the opening plenary at SOCAP15. Dorsey pointed out that, despite extensive research into the pioneer gap phenomenon and growing awareness of the insufficient levels of available seed stage financing for social entrepreneurs, “the most promising early stage ventures still face crippling hurdles in accessing capital.” Echoing Green is still hearing from too many social entrepreneurs that they lack access to early stage capital, in large part because of, “systemic, structural market problems.” In her speech, Dorsey outlined some of the ways that her organization is working to build out pipelines and create solutions to help pioneering social entrepreneurs achieve greater scale.

Watch Cheryl Dorsey’s Plenary Appearance

New Research from Echoing Green and USAID

Dorsey announced that Echoing Green recently undertook an in-depth look at some of the data they have been collecting from their Fellowship applicant pool to codify and analyze what they have been hearing from social entrepreneurs. Dorsey announced that, in order to “better inform the field” and support a more robust social enterprise ecosystem, Echoing Green, in partnership with USAID, is now offering the white paper Deviation from the Standard: Funding and Supporting Emerging Social Entrepreneurs. The paper is part of Echoing Green’s impact investing program.

Dorsey went on to state in her SOCAP speech that, in addition to ongoing research, Echoing Green intends to take other approaches as well, including working with other funders to provide blended capital and convening social entrepreneurs and investors to encourage rich conversations that will hopefully lead to actionable solutions.

Echoing Green’s Rich Data Source

The data from the Deviation from the Standard study is drawn from a substantial pool of social entrepreneurs. Echoing Green receives over 3000 fellowship proposals from over 150 countries around the world annually. As a result they have collected literally thousands of data points about early stage social enterprise. This data is already revealing some interesting insights about trends. During their talk Dorsey noted that, “starting in 2006, we started to see about 15% of our applicant pool proposing for-profit or hybrid social enterprises and that number has only continued to grow. About 40-50% of our applicant pool is now comprised of those proposing for-profits or hybrids.”

Insights into the Current and Future Role of Echoing Green

Echoing Green logoEchoing Green intends to help those in the impact space develop networks of relationships that will bring about “positive developments, disruptive innovation, and scale.” One way her organization plans to do this is to offer convenings, such as Echoing Green’s 2015 All Fellows Conference, November 2nd through 5th in Johannesburg, South Africa. At this event, almost 200 social entrepreneurs will gather together for, “peer-learning sessions, engagement with local leaders, and industry roundtables.” Dorsey called upon the SOCAP community, and the broader social impact community to “embrace distributed networks” and “communities of practice.”

Dorsey said that Echoing Green is is committed to diving into their data in order to learn how social innovators are creating dynamic distributed networks. At convenings like SOCAP and at the Johannesburg All Fellows Conference, and through white papers like Deviation from the Standard, her organization will continue to share these and other insights in the future.

Other Reading

Read Cheryl Dorsey’s Forbes article Impact Investing: What Do Emerging Social Entrepreneurs Really Need?

And for more information about Echoing Green and the role they are playing in the social capital markets, read SOCAP Conversations: Echoing Green President Cheryl Dorsey and Entrepreneur Michael Wilkerson.

Social Data Commons (SODA): Connected Data for Social Enterprises

Posted by on October 5th, 2015

By David Bank

A new data exchange for the emerging social capital market is connecting isolated pockets of information about social enterprises and impact investments.

SODA, the SOcial DAta Commons, is either a geeky piece of infrastructure, or a step toward the kind of market liquidity that can unlock private capital for companies that aim to generate positive social and environmental impact. With SODA, any organization can share data on such impact ventures; any organization can access that data.

SODA is like the kernel of the new impact operating system that an interoperable network of platforms can build on.Kevin Jones, Convenor, Social Capital Markets conference

A half-dozen organizations that are tracking, connecting, matching and supporting social enterprises came together to create the lightweight exchange mechanism to raise their visibility and lower their costs. Each profile has about a dozen data fields, including company name, business summary, structure, geography, beneficiaries and social impact, as well as the source of the data.

The organizers say demonstrating a robust supply of market-based solutions to urgent challenges is crucial for meet the capital market’s growing demand for investment opportunities in food, water, healthcare, education, financial services, energy and other industries. Alas, the short history of impact investing is littered with fragmented networks and proprietary platforms.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen countless transaction and similar data platforms pop up in the social capital market space, but little or no connection between them,” reads the group’s manifesto. “From due diligence to the bank transactions that seal the deal, federating these islands of data helps maximize marketplace liquidity while minimizing duplication of effort.”

Collaborative Effort

The founders include Artha Platform, ImpactSpace (a project of ImpactAlpha), Sphaera, Startgrid,SVX, US AID and SOCAP. All have uploaded and downloaded data profiles at the SODA data store on an independent Amazon cloud server.

The SODA crew will be all over this week’s Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, seeking additional participants. Two sessions at the conference will explore ways to deepen and broaden the collaboration. The first will refine technical and governance issues, while the second will tackle “what’s next?”

“We are not asking platform founders to tear down their walls and share their kitchen sinks; we are asking them to keep doing what they do well in the niche, high-touch relationship-based networks they curate,” said Audrey Selian, director of Artha Platform, which enables collaborative due diligence between impact investors. “What we are asking is that the pipeline side of their platforms be more fluid and more easily accessible for simple exposure and visibility.”

Here at ImpactAlpha, we’ve been longtime champions of data-sharing and transparency (see Part 1 and Part 2 of our “Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is” series). Our ImpactSpace open impact database has grown to include more than 5,700 ventures, 1,900 investors and 2,500 deals.

Sphaera is a social enterprise dedicated to putting the best solutions into the hands of people working on the frontlines of change. “We see SODA as a vital part of the infrastructure for accelerating the pace of social change,” says Astrid Scholz, Sphaera’s Chief Everything Officer. “It will help with the flow of resources for solutions to urgent social and environmental challenges.”

Other participants are using the data commons to augment their own platforms for communities, matchmaking, investment exchanges, job boards, newsfeeds and other applications.

Network Effects

“This is the foundation that will enable scaling and for momentum to not fragment the movement, but to translate it to a wider audience and community,” said Kevin Jones, co-founder and curator of SOCAP. “SODA is like the kernel of the new impact operating system that an interoperable network of platforms can build on.”

The group’s manifesto says all are welcome but the initial focus on investable deals suggests that entities that are “connecting projects to donors, introducing donors to entrepreneurs, generating and disseminating knowledge about best practices, solutions and sustainability, creating standards certifications as they relate to impact, or any similar action of intermediation (particularly using technology platforms) should be first in line.”

SODA’s organizers say they are taking a page from the Internet playbook and countless other examples that demonstrate that a robust commons enables products and services that add real value on top of a shared foundation.

The Internet, of course, grew into a network far more resilient and useful than the siloed, corporate networks that once seemed likely to prevail. Geeky protocols such as TCP/IP and HTTP created a technology commons that spawned unlimited innovation and entrepreneurship.

The history lesson is instructive for the impact investing community, which is attempting a similar redirection, of private capital to social and environmental benefit. Paradoxically, the growth of an impact marketplace may depend on the resilience and depth of the social data commons.


ImpactAlpha Inc., the parent of ImpactAlpha.com, also operates the ImpactSpace open impact database, which is a pioneer member of the SODA consortium. ImpactAlpha also is a media sponsor of SOCAP15, the social capital markets conference running this week in San Francisco.

David Banks David Bank is a journalist, entrepreneur and thought leader in social innovation, technology and finance. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he covered software, the Internet and venture capital.

This article originally appeared on ImpactAlpha.com.