How the education nonprofit City Year tackled “measurement drift” by reorienting its measurement activities around one simple premise: Data should support better decision-making.

In 2014, City Year—the well-known national education nonprofit that leverages young adults in national service to help students and schools succeed—was outgrowing the methods it used for collecting, managing, and using performance data. As the organization established its strategy for long-term impact, leaders identified a business problem: The current system for data collection and use would need to evolve to address the more-complex challenges the organization was undertaking. Staff throughout the organization were citing pain points one might expect, including onerous manual data collection, and long lag times to get much-needed data and reports on student attendance, grades, and academic and social-emotional assessments. After digging deeper, leaders realized they couldn’t fix the organization’s challenges with technology or improved methods without first addressing more fundamental issues. MORE ››

Funders want to create big change by using networks for social impact. But where to start?

When Jennifer Berman, executive director of the Maverick Lloyd Foundation in Vermont, wanted to re-orient her state’s approach to climate and energy challenges, she wondered whether launching a network of diverse stakeholders, working on different parts of the same problem, could be the right approach. “No effort had brought together a strategically chosen group of folks to think about where the state needed to go, mapped out how to get there, and created the capacity for that group to do work over time,” she said.

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Are traditional assumptions about how we “do” philanthropy preventing us from finding new and better ways of working? 

Success stories about social change rarely start with large guns. But, as it turns out, there’s a lot that philanthropy can learn from looking at the history of artillery—the cannons that would get drawn to the edge of a battlefield, first by horses and later by large trucks, to shell the enemy from a distance.

According to military folklore, shortly before World War II the US and British armies conducted a joint exercise and came to a strange realization: The American artillery team fired just a little bit faster than the British squad every time. They analyzed the process MORE ››