The Root Cause Blog
23 Aug

How Can We Restore the American Dream:
Q & A with Ira Silver

1. What was your inspiration behind the book? 

My interest in writing Giving Hope emerged several years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. One aspect of this disaster that particularly caught my eye was how people came out of the woodwork to support the relief effort. As a sociologist interested in inequality, I was curious why greater generosity hadn’t been shown toward Americans experiencing hardship before the storm. I became interested in how I might inspire others to help people desperately in need who are not seen suffering on television. My book, consequently, highlights ways we as private individuals can give to mitigate everyday inequalities in the United States. 

2. How did you choose the organizations that you feature? What are the qualities that you look for in effective nonprofits?

I wanted to identify nonprofits around the U.S. that share two characteristics: they efficiently use their donations and they have track records of enabling people experiencing hard times to embark on a path toward success. Meeting these qualifications ensures that an organization is worthy of supporting, and therefore deserves the publicity my book gives it. 

3. Why did you choose to feature Root Cause Social Innovators, what distinguishes them from other organizations?

When I met Susan Musinsky in 2010 and she offered to introduce me to past Root Cause Social Innovators, it quickly became obvious that I had found exactly what I was looking for. Since the Social Innovation Forum vets nonprofits, I knew I could be assured that any of these innovators would be worthy organizations for me to endorse. I began to connect with those organizations that were making a significant impact in creating access to housing, employment, and educational opportunities. I interviewed key staff members as well as several of the individuals whom these organizations had helped. 
My aim was to write a book relevant to anyone who is interested in helping Americans in need yet doesn’t have the time to learn about charities worth supporting. Therefore, my next step was to identify worthy nonprofits across the U.S. I did so by seeking out groups of donors that do similar screening as the Social Innovation Forum. The nonprofits I write about outside the Boston area have been vetted by Social Venture Partners, Roberts Enterprise Development Fund, Venture Philanthropy Partners, and A Better Chicago.

To learn more about Ira and his new book, Giving Hope: How You Can Restore the American Dream, check out his website.