In Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker offer this variation on an oft-quoted management bromide: “You are only as good as our people … and how you organize and lead them.” Social sector organizations today, the authors argue, must redouble their commitment not only to finding and retaining great people, but also to deploying them in ways that meet the dynamic needs of the Impact Era. An essential tool for doing so is an emerging model called “team of teams.”
In a recent article for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Meehan and Jonker explore the team-of-teams model at length and present a short case study of how Pratham, an education nonprofit in India, has adapted the model to conduct an ambitious, nationwide survey of children’s learning outcomes.
In addition, for their column on leadership for Forbes, Meehan and Jonker have written a new piece that summarizes the team-of-teams model and explains why it is becoming highly relevant to leaders in every sector. The model is as beneficial to employees as it is to the organizations that implement it. “[T]here are so many more opportunities for people’s career paths than were possible previously,” according Bill Drayton, who has pioneered the model at his organization, Ashoka.
You can find that piece, along with others written for the Forbes column, here.
Building on their recent Forbes article about two figures who helped shape their core principles as leaders, advisors, and researchers in the nonprofit sector, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker use their new piece for Forbes to outline those principles. In the article (“Our Core Principles: High Impact at Scale, Yes, but Serve Others Always”), they write:
Our primus inter pares core principle is “high impact at scale.” Even as we place this principle first among equals, we are always careful to point out that we find, and honor, deep human dignity in any authentic effort to support, serve or simply be present with another person in need. This life principle to “serve others” is an essential idea in virtually every faith and wisdom tradition. It represents our fundamental obligation to each other, the foundational element in any community—our only true hope in our increasingly borderless, diverse world.
In conjunction with the new article, Meehan and Jonker have also created a handy one-page summary of the seven elements of strategic leadership. As they explain in that piece, those elements are prerequisites for achieving high impact at scale.
In their latest column for Forbes—“How Two Figures Shaped Our Core Principles on Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership”—Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker each tell a story of engaging with a social sector leader who helped them define what it means to create a true “engine of impact.” Meehan discusses a chance meeting that he had many years ago with Bill Drayton (below left), who later founded Ashoka. Jonker, meanwhile, recalls encountering Roy Prosterman (below right), the founder of Landesa, while she was reviewing candidates for the inaugural Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. (In a follow-up column, Meehan and Jonker will discuss the core principles that they hold today—principles that emerged in part under the influence of those two men.)
From Drayton, Meehan and Jonker write, Meehan “learned that the McKinsey [& Company] approach to fact-based, analytical problem-solving was applicable not only to business problems but, with some adaptation, to the problems faced by the social sector.” As for Prosterman, they write, he “became the first Kravis Prize winner, and in subsequent years other winners—Pratham, BRAC, and Helen Keller International, to name just a few—reinforced the views about mission, strategy, and scaling (among other essential topics) that [Jonker] began to crystallize” when she first learned about Landesa and its founder.
You can read the full column here.
“For nonprofit organizations, the current moment should be the best of times—a time when they can tap into new sources of funding and when conditions are ripe to leverage that funding to maximum effect.”
So begins a new article by Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker that the Bridgespan Group has published at its website. The article, titled “Most Nonprofits Aren’t Ready for the Coming Impact Era,” draws on findings from the Stanford Survey of Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector to show that most organizations in the sector are falling short of their potential. To ensure that the current era will indeed be “the best of times” for nonprofits, these organizations must improve their performance in areas that range from board governance to strategy. Meehan and Jonker follow their note of warning with a note of optimism: “by working intentionally and proactively to master the essentials of strategic leadership, organizations can seize the tremendous opportunity presented by the Impact Era,” they write.
The article is available (in both web and PDF formats) here.
What do Helen Keller International, Landesa, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Positive Coaching Alliance have in common? These organization—and many others featured in Engine of Impact—are all exemplary nonprofits that show how people can come together in common purpose to deliver extraordinary social impact.
In the second post for their Forbes column, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker evoke that ideal to make the case for the renewal and transformation of the American nonprofit sector. Titled “Our Call to Action: Joining Together for Social Impact,” the article notes that an immense intergenerational transfer of wealth is now under way in the United States. For that reason among others, Meehan and Jonker contend, the time is ripe “to refocus our nonprofit sector on impact, not just activity.”
You can read the article here.
Scaling up the message of a book, much like scaling up the impact of a nonprofit organization, depends on having the right platform to expand its reach. To help spread the ideas set forth in Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker have agreed to write a regular column for the Leadership section of the Forbes website. Every two weeks, they will post a brief, to-the-point article that leverages content from the book to shed light on current events and to offer practical insight for leaders.
The first entry in the series is a post titled “Philanthropists, Nonprofit Executives, and Board Members Must Awaken to the Dawn of the Impact Era.” It draws on recent developments in and around the social sector—the response to Hurricane Harvey, the decision by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to change its admission pricing policy, a new study on race and mobility in the United States—to illustrate the quest by nonprofit leaders to sharpen their focus on impact.
Meehan and Jonker argue that we are entering a new era—the Impact Era—and that nonprofits must rise to the occasion:
[T]he world of charitable giving is rapidly transforming as high-net-worth individuals turn their attention from the challenge of creating wealth to that of creating social impact. … The scale, timing, and focus of the portion of global wealth that will go to philanthropy in this era remain to be determined and are very much subject to influence—which is why nonprofits and their leaders must prepare themselves for this moment by earning the right to receive and leverage philanthropic investment.
You can access all posts for the Forbes column here.
Not all nonprofits are created equal, and not all nonprofits are equally ready to scale up their impact. In the last chapter of Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker argue that there are different levels—and different kinds—of scale-readiness. They also present the Readiness to Scale Matrix, an analytical tool that enables users to evaluate whether an organization has reached a point where it not only has achieved an ability to scale its impact but also has earned the right to do so.
Now Stanford Social Innovation Review has published an article by Meehan and Jonker that encapsulates the core logic of the Readiness to Scale Matrix. Titled “Earning the Right to Scale,” the piece offers a brief overview of the seven essential elements of strategic leadership and then describes how an organization’s performance in those elements determines its placement on the matrix.
Although nonprofits remain unequal in their readiness to scale, all of them have a right—and, arguably, a duty—to optimize their performance in the context of how they are performing currently. To help nonprofit leaders gauge how ready their organization is to expand its impact, Meehan and Jonker created the Engine of Impact Diagnostic. This resource is, in effect, an interactive version of the Readiness to Scale Matrix, and it complements the SSIR article.
To read that article, click here.
Since its official release in November 2017, Engine of Impact has garnered attention from a broad array of media outlets. Posts on the News page of this site have highlighted numerous articles, reviews, and interviews that explore the book, its authors, and the authors’ ideas about the present state and future potential of the nonprofit sector. In addition, the book has been featured in several other print and online outlets. Here’s a roundup of such coverage.
Nonprofit organizations often recruit people who have been successful in the business sector to serve on their board of directors. It’s a practice that can work well, enabling a nonprofit to gain valuable perspective from smart professionals—but only if those professionals are equipped to engage actively and meaningfully both in board meetings and in the work of the organization. That’s a big “if,” and it raises lots of questions for board members whose experience lies mainly outside the nonprofit sector.
In fact, mastering the challenge of nonprofit board service starts with raising questions. In a new feature article for McKinsey Quarterly, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker present a brief guide to doing precisely that. They write:
If you know how to probe, nudge, and prod, you can help your board perform better. Doing so starts with courage. In our experience, nonprofit board members are often reluctant to contribute actively to discussions for fear that they will appear uninformed or cause an embarrassing ruckus. To be effective, you must overcome that fear. And then you must ask questions. Ask all your questions, even ones you fear might seem stupid, and keep asking them until you figure out what the smart questions are.
The article (“The Four Questions to Ask When Serving on a Nonprofit Board”) appears in the December 2017 issue of McKinsey Quarterly. You can read it here.
“Americans today are looking for some ‘common ground,’ …” Bill Meehan told Brook Manville in a recently published interview. “Our associative initiatives are a formal sector now. [That sector is] perfectly positioned to give us all a chance to do something meaningful without politics. It’s a perfect antidote for today’s dysfunction—because when people join in shared purpose, they see they have more in common than they first thought.”
Manville, a consultant and executive coach, spoke with Meehan in his role as a regular contributor to Forbes.com. The interview ranges widely but also delves deeply into “what it takes” for social sector leaders both to achieve real impact in the world and to achieve personal meaning in their work. Meehan doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges that come with making this career choice: “Nonprofit leaders have to get good at keeping things going, while sacrificing for years,” he says. “Because success can be so elusive to define, the hill can be even steeper.” But he highlights the rewards as well: “[P]ersonal meaning drives our spirit. So why not help make a better world?”
You can read Manville’s piece here.
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