Giving Compass' Take:

• Stanford Social Innovation Review explores in-depth the obstacles to scaling philanthropic answers to the toughest challenges we face. It covers three areas: lack of funding, a fragmented ecosystem and the talent gap.

• This makes a strong case for pursuing a more careful, impactful approach to philanthropy (rather than expecting quick results), and includes plenty of common sense advice for funders still new to the field. Among the takeaways: Invest in teams, build cross-sector relationships and take calculated risks.

• Read about three "gotta-have" attributes for boards seeking impact and scale.

Record-breaking heat and hurricanes. Refugees with no place to go. Increasing income inequality in some of the world’s wealthiest countries. At the roots of these tremendous problems are a tangle of causes that demand massive, coordinated action from a multitude of actors — they demand social innovation at scale.

Given the urgency and intensity of today’s social problems, funders are eager to discover proven solutions that can be quickly implemented and scaled up. Inspired by the technological tools and rapid-fire timelines of our era, many funders are looking for the Airbnb or Facebook of social innovation.

Unfortunately, there’s a tremendous gap between the expectations of funders and the reality that innovators and changemakers face each day. The resources, ecosystems, and prospects for growth at a company like Facebook are vastly different than those available for those who work on social innovations like microfinance and emissions trading.

Our goal was to understand the patterns that enable social innovations to scale up. We drew from research and practices over the past decade at Stanford University’s Center for Social Innovation; at SI-Drive, a European Union-based initiative to advance social innovation on a global scale; and at Tides, a philanthropic partner and nonprofit accelerator that works with funders and changemakers across the world ...

This article is a call for deeper analysis, understanding, and action to overcome the barriers that stunt proven social innovations from reaching maximum impact.
Three barriers in particular repeatedly block social innovations from reaching their broadest impact: inadequate funds for growth, the fragmented nature of the social innovation ecosystem, and talent gaps. If we are serious about propelling proven social innovations to achieve widespread impact, we must find solutions that overcome each of these barriers.

To strengthen the financial landscape for scaling social innovations funders should consider doing the following four things:

  • Increase funding amounts to support growth and diffusion.
  • Act as a partner, not just a funder.
  • Provide funding for overhead expenses.
  • Take informed risks when deciding who and how much to fund.

Understanding the barriers to this tier of funding, learning from social innovations that have successfully mobilized growth capital, and applauding the leadership of forward-thinking funders will help deploy resources so that proven innovations are able to scale up their impact.

Read the full article about the difficulties in scaling philanthropic solutions by Kriss Deiglmeier and Amanda Greco at Stanford Social Innovation Review.