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Good Reads: Forces of Good

Kevin “I like to read” Kovaleski here with a literature review. If I could make a diorama on this blog, I would.

There is an ongoing debate in the nonprofit sector on what makes an organization a social entrepreneur. Forces for Good, a recent voice on the subject, provides a fresh approach to this topic.

To make the distinction between social entrepreneurs and traditional nonprofits, authors Crutchfield and McLeod-Grant spent four years researching the management techniques of hundreds of nonprofits.  Their findings target the management techniques of twelve nonprofits that they conclude are examples of high-impact, socially entrepreneurial change agents.  In their analysis of these organizations, Crutchfield and McLeod-Grant posit that these groups do not measure success through revenue increases, brand recognition or organizational chart sophistication.  Instead these twelve social trailblazers measure success by the change they are affecting in the piece of the world that they are attempting to improve. 

While old-school nonprofit management looks to governance, organizational structure, fundraising and other internally facing strategies to build a strong organization, social entrepreneurs focus their energy externally through six creative techniques.  These techniques (such as one that advises nonprofit groups to cross sectors and include for-profit partners into the execution of the mission) challenge traditional nonprofits to rethink goals and strategies in the execution of their mission. By exposing limitations and even flaws in traditional thinking, Forces for Good identifies commonly held myths about nonprofit management that are indicative of an outdated system of thought.

The authors conclude that the twelve nonprofits in study focus on the end-goals of creating impact and improving society rather than focusing on building a secure, fiscally sound organization, as their traditional counterparts so often obsess.  The authors offer well researched and thought out examples of innovative approaches to management employed by these groups. The case for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking is also supported by the authors’ warning against reckless management based on wild idealism.  The success of the organizations featured in Forces for Good is instead a product of an unwavering management philosophy that postures mission above tradition.

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