Archive for the ‘Social Innovation’ Category

News and Notes on Social Change

Weekly Round-up: vending machines for charity, champions of change, and Google+ for non-profits

Posted by ServeNext Staff on August 2, 2011

A Japanese vending machine that allows customers to make small donations to the Red Cross with their purchases

1. In the first good news we’ve heard regarding junk food and soda for quite some time, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that vending machines all over Japan are now raising money for the Red Cross of Japan by allowing customers to make small charitable donations along with their purchases.

2. The Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation’s blog highlighted this week’s Champions of Change, or Americans recognized for their hard work towards helping our country meet the challenges of the 21st century.  To learn about every week’s Champions of Change, go to

3. The Corporation for National and Community Service posted a story about Nancy Ryan, a woman who was so inspired by the help she received from RSVP volunteers in caring for her dying husband that after his death, she joined RSVP herself.  “I had other people help my family in times of need. I am giving back by helping others. It gives me a fellowship with other volunteers and gives me a purpose and something to look forward to,” said Ryan in the article.

4.  With the recent introduction of Google +, a new social network and competition for Facebook and Twitter, a lot of people in the nonprofit world have been wondering if this new networking tool is a worthy place to invest time.  Beth Kanter discusses her outlook on Google + and the role it will play in the nonprofit world.

5.  The New York Times published an article in its July 15, 2011 issue about how social innovation is currently attracting the country’s best and brightest.  One example of this trend given in the article cites the figure that the number of MBAs among Teach for America applicants has tripled between 2007 and 2011, and Business schools are adding electives in sustainability and education to respond to students’ interests.


Posted in Social Innovation, Social Media For Service, Stories Of Service, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Weekly Highlights: An iphone app for for advocacy, hacking for change, and the question of private donors in the nonprofit world.

Posted by ServeNext Staff on July 10, 2011

Here are some interesting highlights from across the social change spectrum this summer…

1. The Chronicle of Philanthropy blog shares with us a new App created for iphones, ipads, and some ipods that enables users to contact congressional representatives, connect with other advocates and organizers, and sign petitions anytime and anywhere! and sign petitions anytime and anywhere! If only everyone took all the hours they spend playing games and refreshing their facebook pages and talked to their congressional representatives about the importance of service in their communities instead!

2. In her blog on technology and social media in the nonprofit world, Amy Sample Ward gives us an insightful post about the principles of community organizing.

3. Hacking for a cause?  That is precisely what 50 pre-selected participants did in the event Hack for Change, organized by Founder Ben Rattray and covered by Mashable.  From the article:

“The smartest people in the world are focused on problems that don’t really matter,” says Ben Rattray, founder of “What we want to do is dedicate the time, effort and energy of those people to important issues.”

4. The Chronicle of Philanthropy blog included an article that focused on the subject of getting the wealthy to share their money to help those who need it more.

5. The Stanford Social Innovation Fund blog posted an article making the case for large private donors to contribute their funds to intermediaries, or organizations that receive government funds and then redirect these funds to direct service nonprofits.  The idea of this system is that these intermediaries are able to direct government funds to where they are most needed and where they will be used most efficiently and effectively, but private donors have not yet utilized these intermediaries in their non-profit investments.

Posted in Highlights, Philanthropy, Social Innovation | Leave a Comment »

The Week in Service Highlights

Posted by ServeNext Staff on March 4, 2011

The last few weeks have been busy for the national service community with HR-1 passing in the House and proposed cuts to funding to the Corporation for National and Community Service. In this week’s service update, we’ll touch a little on the budget issues, but for a full list of current information and press on the fight to save national service, click here.

Students Kate Leist, Sam Novey, Caleb Jonas, and Frank Marino work to spread the word about the Save AmeriCorps campaign. Photo Credit: Suzanne Kreiter, Boston Globe Staff

1.) In an effort to save AmeriCorps from elimination or drastic budget cuts, Harvard grad student and AmeriCorps alum Caleb Jonas began circulating an online petition through the online organizing platform Jonas hoped to reach 500 signatures, but the results far exceeded Jonas’ expectations: as of today he has over 100,000. Go here to read the Boston Globe article about the petition and here to read an article by Caleb, Kate Leist, and Mikia Manley in the Harvard Crimson.

2.) A new study conducted by the charity World Vision found that teenage girls are more likely than boys to support causes through social media. In fact, 51% of girls say that they have become more aware of the needs of others by “liking” the Facebook pages of different causes. These findings are important for the nonprofit community because they demonstrate the importance of using social media tools to reach out to the Millenial generation. For more information, visit Chronicle of Philanthropy blog post about this phenomenon or visit World Vision website which contains the complete results of the study.

TFA alumni and supporters at the 20th Annual Summit in DC

3.) A few weeks ago, Teach for America celebrated its 20th anniversary at its annual summit in DC with speakers such as Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a performance by John Legend. These speakers along with the energy of 11,000 TFA corps members, alumni, and supporters reinforced the idea that since its inception this program has made large strides in addressing the achievement gap. For a blog post about the event written by a TFA alum, visit the Corporation’s National Service Blog.

4.) Huffington Post blogger Kari Henley recently published an interesting post called “How to Start a Movement in 3 Minutes” about the sense of community behind mobilizing a group. She asserts that first there has be a leader, someone who isn’t afraid to make a fool of themselves standing up for what they believe in. Next comes what Henley terms “The Lone Follower” who validates the leader’s vision and thought process and then “The Second Follower” who “sells” the idea to others and helps convey the idea that the movement is an upcoming train. Finally, there is the “Lose-or-Snooze Follower” who joins in once it makes more sense to be a part of something than it does to watch a movement unfold. Henley asserts that each role is essential to growing a movement. Check out the full blog post here.

Posted in service, Social Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Pepsi Refresh Project Changes Favor Smaller Organizations

Posted by ServeNext Staff on February 9, 2011

In 2010, ServeNext was honored to receive a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant to help us kick off our Field Program in 10 communities across the nation. We worked hard to mobilize our supporters to vote for us and spread the word to their friends and families. We are grateful for all of the support we received and the positive impact the grant has had on field efforts, especially as we embark on the second year of the program which had a 50% increase in the number of applicants.

According to an article published last week in Philanthropy Today , Pepsi is restructuring this year’s competition to favor smaller nonprofits, specifically community and grassroots organizations. The company is eliminating the top award of $250,000 to create more $50,000 grants.  Pepsi hopes to make the voting process more democratic and encourage smaller organizations to participate.

As an organization that benefited immensely from this project, ServeNext hopes that this year’s Pepsi Refresh competition will be just as successful as last year and give members of smaller organizations the resources to expand their impact.

Posted in Pepsi Refresh Project, ServeNext, Social Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Links to think about

Posted by gennamcfarland on April 20, 2010

If there’s been one thing on my mind lately, it’s been human connectedness. A recent trip to Guatemala, which I’ve written about in previous posts, showed me just how much the developed, consumer-ridden world is tied to the developing manufacturing one. Coffee is a perfect example of this—as a crop, it is touched by human hands more than any other before it gets slurped down at Starbucks.

In the spirit of connectedness, here are some links to think about:

Post your thoughts on any one of these below.

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Bottom-up Leadership Series Part II

Posted by gennamcfarland on April 16, 2010

This is the second post in a series about views on organizational leadership philosophies to drive social impact, written from a Millenial’s perspective.

A couple months ago, I joined the ranks of more than 35,000 other soon-to-be college graduates and applied to Teach for America.  And while I could use this space to rant about my tough-as-nails phone interview and the 10% chance I have of actually getting in, I want to share something much more related to the discussion we are trying to have here.  It just so turns out that, if TFA throws me no other bone besides this (one of the required readings they made me and thousands of others download and discuss), they have thrown me a bone indeed.

In his article, Rick Stiggins writes about a commonly talked-about alternative teaching technique, Assessment for Learning, that is bottom-up in practice.  After giving his piece a first-read through, I am convinced that this “alternative learnstyle” makes some serious sense.  The premise of the article is that traditional assessment techniques can, if they generate negative results, be detrimental to student confidence. This probably hits home for most anyone who has had trouble mastering a subject at first, and who has, after performing poorly on enough exams, given up hope.  But, as the article points out, to students in high-need districts that are already achieving at rates lower than students in wealthier districts, this lack of confidence can be even more detrimental, and put them even further behind.

The solution?  Bottom-up classroom leadership.  Stiggins stresses the importance of placing kids on the path to success by giving them say in the classroom.  In an English classroom, students would be encouraged to develop assignment rubrics, give feedback on each other’s work, and submit work when they feel it is ready.  In a math classroom, students would be encouraged to go back over exams, identify the reasons behind missed problems, solicit help from other students with similar issues, and if need be, re-take exams that were bombed the first time around.  The teacher’s role, Stiggins says, is to facilitate this process by giving his or her students clear directions and desired outcomes.  The idea is that, once students become self-aware enough to identify the gaps in their comprehension of subject content, collaboration among students and between students and teachers can get struggling, uncertain students back on a winning streak.  Student ownership of the learning process is critical to this success.

The kind of leadership that Stiggins talks about so obviously seems like it would be good for student grades and student confidence.  But don’t take my word for it.  Here are two articles that also advocate for this technique:

And for good measure, here’s one on creating a culture of service. If you’d like to serve your community and teach, the deadline for TFA might have passed, but opportunities are out there. Good luck!

Posted in Social Innovation | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Interesting social change links to round out the week

Posted by gennamcfarland on April 15, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”ServeNext”]

Here are some interesting articles about citizen and community centered approaches to social change and progress.

  • Todd Heywood’s post, “Fighting HIV Stigma,” about how people are using t-shirts to fight and understand the stigma associated with HIV;
  • Bill Taylor’s HBR article, “How One Company’s Turnaround Came From the Heart,” about how a kidney dialysis company recovered from being on the verge of bankruptcy by adopting a “community first and company second” attitude;
  • Paul Gorski’s “The Myth of the ‘Culture of Poverty’,” which discusses the tragic effects of classism in America’s public schools and argues for change (helpful solutions for educators included).

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Important to All Non-Profits

Posted by Zach Maurin on March 30, 2010

I’m excited and honored to serve on the Host Committee for the V3 Campaign kick-off event Wednesday, March 31 in Washington, DC.  V3 is critical to the future of the nonprofit sector and, as such, to our communities as well.

The V3 Campaign will make the voice of the social enterprise and non-profit movement heard, its value realized, and its votes counted in EVERY election.

It’s goal is to develop a new generation of political leaders who understand the economic contributions of social service organizations, who recognize the potential of social enterprise and micro-credit to reinvigorate communities and who include the sector in their plans to rebuild the economy.

This week I spoke briefly to leader of the V3 Campaign, Robert Egger, who also founded and leads the incredible DC Central Kitchen.  Check out our chat below, come to the V3 Campaign event on Wednesday if you can, and definitely check out their website to get involved.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Social Innovation | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Welcoming a New Member to our Team!

Posted by Zach Maurin on March 23, 2010

I’m excited to introduce our newest team member, Mia, who will be working with ServeNext for the next month or so help us design our grassroots field program with 10 Community Organizers.  Here’s a brief intro from her:

Hey everyone!

I’m really excited to be joining the ServeNext team for the next few weeks. I had my first experience with national service three years ago, when I became a Corps Member for JumpStart in Washington, DC. Through JumpStart, I became friends with 3-year-old Juliana, who I mentored for a year. It was through getting to know Juliana and her mother that I realized what a powerful role national service programs can play in strengthening communities. I deeply believe in the work ServeNext is doing, and in the urgent need to educate communities and leaders on the importance of national service.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be helping to get the ServeNext Community Organizers program off the ground. The 10 Organizers we select will hit the ground running later this year, and will work to build networks of people in their communities who are passionate about the national service movement. Stay tuned for updates!

I’m looking forward to getting to know as many people in the ServeNext community as possible. You can shoot me an email at if you feel like introducing yourself, or if you have any questions about the Community Organizers program.


Posted in Social Innovation, Stories Of Service | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bottom-up Leadership Series

Posted by gennamcfarland on March 22, 2010

This is the first post in a series about views on organizational leadership, given from a Millennial’s perspective.

As a somewhat cynical college student, I can honestly say that for the longest time, hearing the word ‘leadership’ made me  think of all the labels that peers and I affix to ourselves in the interests of resumé building.  For the longest time, ‘building leadership skills’ was a phrase that made my eyeballs roll into the back of my head; a phrase that was repeated so often that is ceased to have meaning.

Recently, however, an experience as an—wait for it—Alternative Breaks Trip Leader through the Office of Student Programs at the University of Maryland has made me put my old feelings on the subject under review.  Mainly, because I realized that being a leader (whether you’re a student leader or a CEO) is hard, and it takes work.

On my  group’s trip to Guatemala, there were many moments when others on the trip were able to kick back and enjoy things, while I was writing down points to touch on in that night’s reflection activity.  Or, while I was talking logistics with our host at the farm where we stayed.  Or, while I was thinking about who to write ‘Thank You’ cards to.  Or, while I was just trying to pay attention and stay on top of things, in case there was anything else that needed doing.  Make no mistake: there was down time on the trip; I just didn’t get much of it.  By the end of ten days, I was exhausted.  Being in a position where people expect you to know the answers to the questions they ask is not easy.

But leadership, judging from my experiences, goes so far beyond providing answers to people and telling people what’s coming next.  In my case, it was about getting the students engaged with the subject matter (sustainability) and enhancing their experience.  I noticed that the way I led the trip really did impact their experience.  When my co-trip leader and I gave participants good questions to ponder in our nightly reflections, they piped in enthusiastically, questioned their assumptions, and exchanged ideas.  And, when we failed to clearly communicate something, they were confused and plugged into their iPods.  When we made the conscious effort to include everyone and make a space where even the more quiet students felt comfortable speaking, our group was cohesive.  And, when we forgot to pay attention to group dynamics, some students were left out.

The take-home point I got from all of this?  Though my body felt the stress and fatigue of leadership, my leader-y gig wasn’t about me—it was about my peers, and their needs, desires, and contributions.

Needless to say, my awakening to this subject made the following articles catch my attention:

  • Marshall Goldsmith’s HBR blog post, “Leadership Isn’t About You,” in which Goldsmith challenges conventional ideology that “exaggerates, even glamorizes” a leader’s role in heading an organization
  • Another post by Goldsmith, “The Mark of a Great Leader,” in which he discusses the importance of leaders having enough self-awareness and “emotional intelligence” to realize their own shortcomings and let employees rise up to fill in the gaps
  • Juana Bordas’ post in the Washington Post’s On Leadership blog, “Holdin’ Out for a Hero,” in which Bordas discusses how leadership is evolving from being hierarchical to being “collaborative, participatory, and people oriented”

When it comes to leadership, times seem to be a-changin’.  Inspired by my own leadership experience, in the coming posts, I am going to explore how this change is (or is not) seen in organizations all around us, how it’s viewed by fellow Millennials, and how bottom-up and networked structure  is driving social change.  Stay tuned.

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