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Survey Reveals Characteristics of Continuously Innovative Nonprofits

Aug 14, 2017
Colorado Nonprofit Association_Innovation

Aug. 1, 2017; Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Bridgespan Group, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, surveyed 145 nonprofit leaders to understand the commonalities and characteristics of truly innovative organizations. The survey revealed six elements for building innovation capacity that nonprofits can apply to their own organizations.

Nonprofits are constantly challenged with finding new ideas, programs and services for solving critical community issues, but fail to focus on innovation as a tool to solve these issues.

Mike Walsh_Disruption & Transformation EventColorado Nonprofit Association recognized this challenge in the nonprofit sector and sought to address it by hosting the event Disruption and Transformation. During the event, nonprofit leaders learned the importance of breaking away from the day-to-day routine to reimagine the way we approach issues by focusing on innovation, human-centered design and rapid prototyping.   

While the event provided several revelations and applicable tools, the findings from the survey provide additional starting points for nonprofits.

The survey findings indicate six elements for building sustained innovation – catalytic leadership, a curious culture, diverse teams, porous boundaries, idea pathways and ready resources.

Several takeaways from within each element include:

  • Develop leaders from all levels of management who empower staff to think about the what-ifs and why-nots within clearly defined areas where innovation can flourish.
  • Create a curious culture within organizations by encouraging all staff to ask questions, collaborate on ideas and think critically.
  • Build diverse teams that result in greater discussions, perspectives and flow of ideas that lead to innovative, successful outcomes.
  • Welcome and encourage the exchange of ideas and knowledge from not only staff, but also those outside your organization.
  • Manage innovation by developing clear processes and criteria for generating, vetting, testing and implementing ideas.
  • Invest in innovation by providing flexible funding, staff time and tools that allow for your organization to focus on innovation while still providing existing programs and services.

Read the full article from Stanford Social Innovation Review to learn more about the six elements.

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