Accelerating the Speed of Social Change
How Social Change Really Happens
The best architects do more than construct buildings – they create an experience that provokes thinking and optimizes human interactions. The same is true for building a better world. At Social Impact Architects, we are a bridge between multiple disciplines with the goal of accelerating the speed of social change. Social Impact Architects is a social change agency that provides consulting and learning experiences to changemakers working alongside them to design creative and transformative solutions to social issues.
Current Social Sector Ideas & Trends
The best leaders have an integrated approach to personal mastery – in this blog, we share new thinking on 3Q – IQ, EQ and the newest one – SQ – and how it applies to the social sector.
Businesses are awakening to the value of “doing good.” In this blog, we share this new paradigm and how we all can partner together so people and planet can co-exist with proﬁts.
- Business Planning
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
- Education & Training
- Executive Coaching/CEO Leadership Development
- Growth & Scaling Strategies
- Impact Measurement & Culture
- Needs Assessments & Feasibility Studies
- Nonprofit Culture
- Retreat Facilitation & Teamwork
- Social Innovation, Social Enterprise & Social Entrepreneurship
- Strategic Planning
- System Change Through Collaborations, Movements & Policy Change
Every nonprofit has blind spots. One way to stay ahead of blind spots is to chart growth based on the nonprofit lifecycle. Much like phases of for-profit company growth, the nonprofit lifecycle features systemic benchmarks in organizational life from idea, start-up, growth, maturity, and decline and crisis. Each nonprofit is at some stage on the nonprofit lifecycle. The key is not to compare your organization with others, but to chart the right growth trajectory for your organization. By completing internal and external assessments, you can find out where you are relative to others and determine the best and most efficient methods to achieve growth and sustainability. At Social Impact Architects, we utilize both quantitative and qualitative tools and provide a customized report that we can share with your staff and Board. This process is most helpful before a strategic planning process, during a strategic refresh or during executive transitions.
Are business plans dead? Yes and no. A well-developed business plan creates a roadmap for your social sector or nonprofit venture and includes detailed analysis on your market, competitors, resource considerations, financials and risk mitigation plan. For the organization, it forces discipline around your venture story and reduces ambiguity. For the funder, it instills confidence that every detail has been considered. Yet not every business plan is equal. They can come in many formats depending on your needs and the audience – a pitch, a prospectus or a business model canvas. At Social Impact Architects, we have set a high standard building strong and sustainable business plans for social sector programs, organizations or social enterprises.
Top Questions on Business Planning
Are Nonprofit Business Plans Dead?
If You Can Write a Grant, You Can Write a Nonprofit Business Plan
How Are Nonprofit Business Plans Different from Strategic Plans?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Doing good is good business. In the 20th century, only a dozen Fortune 500 companies even issued a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. Now, the majority do, and more than 7,000 businesses around the world have signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship. According to Landor Associates, 77% of consumers say it is important for companies to be socially responsible. In addition, many companies are following the lead of strategy experts, such as Michael Porter, and embedding CSR into their organizational strategy and operations – calling it strategic CSR.
At Social Impact Architects, we work at the intersection of business, government and the social sector, and can help companies – large and small – create or refine a Corporate Social Responsibility plan to enhance your impact in the community, increase your recognition for exceptional corporate citizenship and community service, and impact your performance through enhanced employee and community engagement. We also conduct trainings for businesses on social sector shifts, such as social innovation and entrepreneurship, impact measurement and collaboration.
Education & Training
Time is our most valuable asset. If you are committing to training for yourself, your team or your grantees, it needs to be full of “aha moments.” Social Impact Architects works with clients in the United States and Canada to design training and education sessions that meet your organization’s needs and expands the capacity of your staff. We work with audiences ranging from 30 to 250 people, and our past clients include the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the National Juvenile Justice Network, Catholic Charities, the Social Enterprise Alliance and Social Venture Partners International. We have had the privilege of speaking in 38 states across the country. Our goal is to always engage participants in dialogue about important issues, trends and challenges in the social sector. Participants walk away with actionable ideas to implement in their organizations immediately.
Executive Coaching/CEO Leadership Development
We all get stuck. Sometimes you can forge a path forward alone and sometimes you need a trusted ally who has walked in your shoes and can serve as a guide, accountability partner and resource. At Social Impact Architects, we have seen that your effectiveness as an executive is inextricably tied to your ability to create a vision, and lead and motivate your team. We can help you develop your abilities and test your ideas before you share them with your organization. Often, we have found it isn’t what you say that creates tension, but it is how you convey it. We can work with you to assess your strengths, identify the capabilities or resources you need to take your organization to the next level, and develop an action plan to implement changes. Social Impact Architects can provide one-time coaching or ongoing services through a formal or informal leadership development plan.
Growth & Scaling Strategies
One of the biggest myths in the nonprofit space is that bigger is better. Scaling in the nonprofit space is different. It isn’t just about getting bigger; it is also about getting better. Influenced by leading researchers on scaling, Social Impact Architect’s scaling and growth process follows a path to uncover precisely what is innovative about your program or organization and how to best scale it to maximize social impact and financial returns.
Impact Measurement & Culture
Impact is the bottom line of the social sector. We help take the anxiety out of impact measurement and management and shift your culture to one that showcases impact and drives continuous improvement for your organization. While most consultants start with a logic model, at Social Impact Architects we start first with culture and the why behind impact measurement. Then, we move forward with refreshing approaches to logic models, evaluation planning, storytelling using data and market research. We provide a range of services in this area – from coaching and training to consultation on your own evaluation – always ensuring that your clients and community are at the center of our work.
Needs Assessments & Feasibility Studies
Fail early, fail cheaply. With only 20% of ideas being viable, needs/opportunity assessments and feasibility studies are good exercises to hedge your bets before diving into a new venture or program. Because we know the toughest part is often making the go/no-go decision, at Social Impact Architects we start with determining what is most important to the social sector organization (e.g., return-on-investment, impact, ease of operations). Once this step is completed, we conduct analysis at a high level of the market, competition and impact, and organizational fit. Based on the decision criteria, it is typically easy to determine whether the idea or venture is feasible.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Because culture is the foundation of so many of our professional behaviors, it often resides beneath the surface – like an iceberg. As a result, culture remains an underutilized tool for managing the performance of others. It is not your vision, mission statement or your core values on paper; it is how your vision, mission statement and values play out in your workplace. We provide a range of services in this area – from coaching and training to consultation on how to make culture a priority in your organization.
Retreat Facilitation & Teamwork
The goal of every meeting is to build rapport, create clarity and gain momentum. The same is true of a retreat – whether for your board, your executive team or your staff. A good retreat has a focused agenda. A great retreat builds your team and facilitates discussion that takes your organization to the next level. At Social Impact Architects, we work alongside your team to build a customized agenda with expert facilitation before, during and after to set the stage for results that matter – an engaged team, shared understanding and manageable next steps.
Social Innovation, Social Enterprise & Social Entrepreneurship
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves. This shift in thinking gave birth to social innovation, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. It has ushered in new approaches to social change. At Social Impact Architects, we not only use this thinking, but also pioneer new ways to bring this thinking into practice – both for entrepreneurs starting a nonprofit or socially-responsible company and for intrapreneurs working within the social sector to create large-scale social change. We provide a range of services in this area – from coaching and training to consultation on how to take your idea to the next level.
Why do strategic plans never get used? While there are numerous books and websites on strategic planning, the process of developing a plan can seem cookie-cutter and become overcomplicated very quickly. In addition, once the strategic plan is developed, consultants leave strategic planning projects without an action and change management plan to assist with turning the ideas into action. Social Impact Architects has a time-tested approach to developing strategic plans for the social sector that actively engages community partners, includes market analysis, reviews financials against best practices, maps the environment, provides customized solutions and develops future scenarios. We also pair the plan with a dashboard to track progress and ensure accountability.
Stories are the universal language among humans. The good news is that social sector organizations have great stories to share – if you learn how to tell them in the right way. Social Impact Architects works with social sector organizations to develop succinct, compelling messages that convey your results and speak to your stakeholders’ interests. We utilize a variety of tools to provide a holistic picture of the impact you have including anecdotes, internal/external data analysis and social return on investment analysis. We also use a variety of mediums to tell the story, including pitches and social marketing.
Change is hard, but it is made easier when you understand the rules of the game. Whether you call it collective impact, system change or a movement, it requires constructing a strategic framework built upon research, convening a diverse group of stakeholders, developing ground rules for managing relationships and shared decision-making, and generating ongoing, meaningful value for each stakeholder. Social Impact Architects bridges disciplines and uses a combination of concepts from business (systems thinking, competition), public policy (coalition building, collaboration), and public health and education sectors (socio-ecologic model, upstream strategies) to co-create systems focused on large-scale impact.