The Root Cause Blog
04 May

What Root Cause is Reading - May 2016

By: Louisa Jacquinto, Business Development Manager

What actually works in improving lives? Here at Root Cause, we keep an eye out for the most interesting articles on strategy, assessments, data, evidence, and high performance. We use the articles to spark discussions among our teams, build a culture of continuous improvement,and inform our work with clients. Here are some highlights from this spring.

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    • How A New Generation of Business Leaders Views Philanthropy (Harvard Business Review) – The traditional divide between nonprofits and business is changing. Paula Goodman of Omidyar Network condenses the wisdom of business leaders around applying business-minded thinking to the social sector.

    • Unearthing Data to Unleash Impact: Using Unique Data Sources to Drive Change (Markets for Good) – Nonprofits know the importance of data and evidence in decision-making. But do you feel like you might not have enough data, or are you uninspired when it comes to the data you’re collecting? Check out these stories of organizations thinking outside the box on how to solve social issues through data.

    • For Life Expectancy, Money Matters (Harvard Gazette) – Researchers at Harvard have made data publically available tying life expectancy to income. Their dual-mission paper aims to both share findings and offer a data set that can be leveraged by policymakers and researchers in their own work. 

    • Debt, and the Racial Wealth Gap (NYTimes) – For those with less savings, unexpected monetary challenges can spiral into far more dire consequences. The disproportionately low levels of savings of black Americans combined with discrimination within the legal system can have devastating effects. Read on for an example of how analyzing an array of survey data in the context of policies, court cases, and income trends can bring into focus the systemic barriers to income equality.  

    • What Data Can do to Fight Poverty (NYTimes) Annie Duflo and Dean Karlan tackle two antipoverty strategies where rigorous evaluation demonstrates promise for achieving social impact. But as they explain, there’s a long way to go in creating social change, including foregoing intuition and anecdotal evidence in favor of data and evaluationn. 

    • 4 Steps to Overcoming the Data Gap (Government Technology) Using data in innovative ways has proved challenging at the city level, but new programs, such as What Works Cities, are encouraging metro areas to embrace data as a potential method to improving problems in their city. Stephen Goldsmith gives some guidelines to keep in mind, including a focus on outcomes. 

    • Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever) (SSIR) – SSIR points out that despite the promise of data-driven solutions to social problems, they run the risk of failing without the active involvement of the community leaders and beneficiaries these solutions intend to impact. Read this to learn the six essential factors to building community engagement.  


Finally, is your organization located in one of the top cities for social innovation in America? Check out the Classy blog to see why we’re proud to be a part of the Boston social impact community, which they claim is a frontrunner for innovation.