Category Archives: Fostering New Ideas
September 11, 2012, 9:07 am
An international aid charity is taking an unorthodox approach to helping people in Cambodia and Vietnam improve sanitation and hygiene: It asks beneficiaries to help pay for the construction of latrines and hand-washing stations, but then gives them cash rewards when they get results. The effort will now spread, thanks to a $10.9-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The East Meets West Foundation, in Oakland, Calif., works with local groups to provide hygiene education, train masons to build high-quality latrines, and broker low-cost loans that families can use to install latrines and hand-washing devices. Families receive a $10 rebate to help offset construction costs after an independent group has…
July 30, 2012, 4:57 pm
To tackle problems in a rapidly changing world, nonprofits need to adopt a new mind-set, one that emphasizes improvisation, ad hoc networks, and adaptation, says Andrew Zolli, executive director of PopTech, a New York charity focused on innovation, and co-author of a new book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.
Because the world has entered a period of “extraordinary volatility” and the problems society faces are increasingly complex, he argues, figuring out why some individuals, organizations, and systems are resilient in the aftermath of a crisis while others are not is paramount.
“We’re all ballroom dancing in the minefield,” says Mr. Zolli. “In an environment like that, we have to be able to prepare our companies, our communities, our organizations to be able to deal with those disruptions. And that is a different agenda that we have had, even in the recent…
June 21, 2012, 1:14 pm
Programmers in San Francisco and Berlin got together recently to attempt to build a system that would allow immigrants to tell their families they’ve arrived safely at their destination without anyone else finding out.
In Nairobi, a similar group worked on a system to report election results in real time, including incidents of election violence and accusations of voter fraud.
In Toronto, others worked on a system that could allow Nepali women to send ultrasound pictures via mobile devices.
All of them were volunteers, willing to lend their technological expertise to nonprofits and causes.
These projects and others were part of the “Random Hacks of Kindness” weekend, a twice-yearly, 36-hour work session for designers, programmers, and technology experts to solve problems facing nonprofits and other organizations interested in doing good. The most recent events, held this…
March 10, 2012, 1:56 pm
Open-source technology thrives by letting anybody know how it works and encouraging them to come up with new ideas and to tailor software to their own needs.
Could your nonprofit work the same way?
Any organization can, said Rebecca Suehle, a writer and editor at the open-source software company Red Hat, in a session Saturday at the South by Southwest Interactive conference.
“Just be open, that’s the lesson here, but it sounds scary,” she said, because many organizations are built to keep their work to themselves and out of the hands of competitors.
Nonprofits, though, may be the most qualified type of institution to adopt an open business style.
The principles of open business are community, transparency, meritocracy, rapid prototyping, and sharing, similar to the ideas that guide many nonprofits already.
Ms. Suehle said organizations that want to be more open should…
February 16, 2012, 4:55 pm
The Taproot Foundation is holding a free Webcast on innovation in the nonprofit world. Scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, the panel discussion will feature:
• Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries
• Pete York, chief research and learning officer at TCC Group
• Laura Weiss, vice president for service innovation at Taproot
Aaron Hurst, Taproot’s founder, promises it will be a thought-provoking, grounded discussion. He says of the speakers: “Unlike many innovation peddlers, they each bring a pragmatism and humility to their work that is refreshing.”
December 14, 2011, 12:11 pm
A New York nonprofit that helps arts organizations rethink how they operate and develop new ideas, has created a new site that it hopes will become a hub for arts and cultural groups to talk about innovation.
The site, ArtsFwd, was created by the group EmcArts. It features video profiles of arts groups that are experimenting with bold new approaches to their work. In one profile, officials from the Denver Center Theatre Company describe how they developed Off-Center @ The Jones, a nontraditional series designed to attract new and younger patrons with greater audience participation.
Before starting the series in earnest, the organization held three events to test some of its ideas. One of the events, a reading of a play called “An Extraordinary Demonstration of Nikola Tesla’s Most Recent Discoveries,” taught the organization the dangers of incorporating too many…
December 5, 2011, 3:45 pm
Nonprofits that are tackling big questions about their mission benefit greatly from seeking ideas from people outside their organization—including those who work in other fields, says Jeff Leitner. The former advertising executive has started a charity to help organizations do just that.
Insight Labs, in Chicago, brings business executives, scholars, government officials, and others together with a charity’s leaders for a three-hour strategy session to thrash out possible solutions to a tough issue the group faces.
“If you take a roomful of people who aren’t directly invested in the solution, that don’t have a connection to either the problem or the solution, you get pretty…