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Summer Reading! J.P. Morgan Picks Engine of Impact for Its Annual Book List

This article originally appeared on J.P. Morgan

The book Engine of Impact, Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, which features Ashoka, is among the titles honored by placement on financial services giant J.P. Morgan's list of the 10 books it recommends to its clients for 2018.

Every summer, out of the thousands of nonfiction books published in the preceding year, J.P. Morgan selects ten nonfiction titles that entertained, challenged and above all inspired client advisors across its organization because they look to the past, present, and future to deepen our engagement with the world.

"We were honored to feature Ashoka in our book," said Engine of Impact co-authors Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker. "It’s gratifying to see a book about nonprofit leadership included on a respected corporate reading list."

To create its 19th annual Reading List Collection, J.P. Morgan drew on nominations from its client advisors, who suggested hundreds of books for consideration. In its description of Engine of Impact, the firm observes that the book “provides actionable guidance for donors who seek to maximize the effectiveness of their giving, and nonprofit board members and executives who want to help their organizations achieve greater impact.”

Here is a brief excerpt from the book:

Great nonprofits invariably start with a profound single insight, that is a distinct and compelling viewpoint about how social change can come about, including a sense of one's personal role in that change. Often, there is a creation story that includes a founder's epiphany as to how a nonprofit might attack the root cause of a challenge or take advantage of an opportunity to maximum effect. Bill Drayton, for example, borrowed the concept of entrepreneurship from business and asked how it could be applied to the social sector. Then, in 1980, he launched Ashoka, an organization that helped spawn the groundbreaking social movements we know as social entrepreneurship.

Drayton's enduring insight was that society had reached a point at which "social entrepreneurs" with deep commitment to an idea could be identified and then enabled -- with relatively small infusions of funding--to generate massive social change. "We could see it," Drayton recalled. "The system was beginning to change. It was like hearing the ice breaking up at the end of winter in a lake. Creak, creak, groan, crash! The need was so big, the gap so huge, the opportunity to learn right before the people's eyes. When do systems begin to change? When entrepreneurs decide it’s time."

In many ways, the reconnection of business leaders and civil society dates to 1980, when Bill Drayton launched Ashoka, and with it the pervasive global movement known as "social entrepreneurship"-- the first major effort to apply the principles of entrepreneurship to social change.

Drayton posits three different levels of impact that leaders must consider when deciding what to measure: direct service, pattern change, and framework change. "At the first level, direct service, one can consider, for example, a teacher in a classroom," Drayton explained. "In that case, key metrics will focus on questions such as "How many kids did you teach?" and "How well did they test?" The essential insight for the second level, pattern change, emerged from the doctoral work of Diana Wells, who is now president of Ashoka. Drayton explained:

"We measure what proportion of social entrepreneurs have changed national policy after five years and discovered that the answer was over 50 percent . . . What proportions have changed the pattern in their field at the national level within five years? Three-quarters. And then a more indirect measure: what proportion have seen independent institutions copy the idea of the innovation in five years? More than 90 percent."

"The third level, framework change, differs yet again and requires different measures. In our early years," Drayton explained, "20 percent of Ashoka's effort was focused on framework change, which [involved] introducing the concept of social entrepreneurship very consciously . . . To propagate the concept of social entrepreneurship, we worked with a small number at the universities and built up case examples, we made the example clear, and we were insistent about the language."

Starting in the 1980s, businesses experimented with a matrix structure. The matrix structure was an attempt to have each function report to two bosses, one for a business unit and another for a function such as sales. Then, as technology provided the architecture to support greater organizational flexibility, many businesses adopted a network structure. Behind this shift lay the observation that any important role or decision required multiple inputs from parts of an organization that extended beyond on function or one business unit.

Ashoka, which played a critical role in defining, growing, and proselytizing the social entrepreneurship movement, recently adopted an organizational model--the team of teams model--that takes the network structure in a promising new direction. In our view, the principles that underlie this model are so strong that more and more high-performing organizations will begin to follow it. Ashoka's transition to this model reflects its shift to a strategy that it calls "Everyone a Changemaker": according to Ashoka, we are entering a world in which all individuals, and not just pathbreaking social entrepreneurs, will become agents of change.

Within a decade. we believe, this model will become the new standard for nonprofits, foundations, and even for-profit global businesses. Many organizations of various types are already migrating to a team-of-teams model . . .

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Ashoka insight

Engine of Impact “provides actionable guidance for donors who seek to maximize the effectiveness of their giving, and nonprofit board members and executives who want to help their organizations achieve greater impact.”