Pokey the penguin reads!

pokey the penguin!

Today’s blog post is all about the NON-NONPROFIT.

The Non-Nonprofit is written by Steve Rothschild, a titan of industry. The yogurt industry. Yoplait. That’s him.

Okay, what qualifies him to tell nonprofits what to do? He founded Twin Cities RISE! Twin Cities RISE! is a program for unemployed or under-employed adults living in generational poverty, that trains them for jobs and connects them with employers who pay a living wage.

Then he founded Invest in Outcomes, creating a “new financial instrument” to invest in nonprofits, called “The Human Capital Performance Bond.”

Okay, what does it say on the inside?
The Principles of the Non-nonprofit are:

  1. Have a clear and appropriate purpose. So, far, so good, nonprofits all have missions. I am sure that is what they would call “A clear and appropriate purpose.”       He talks about his experience with his nonprofit, and says they had success with their programs so they decided to create an education product around what they did, and help more people in colleges stay in school, and reduce recidivism in prisons. So, that’s nice if that lends itself to your mission, but that doesn’t work for everyone.
  2. Measure what counts: Well, no, here’s where it falls apart. This is a bit trickier. Measurement of much social change is nigh impossible. because how can you measure a child’s smile? A woman’s empowerment as she starts her business? The ripple effect that will go on for years after that? No, I don’t think you can really measure what counts. Not everything that can be measured counts, and not everything that counts can be measured.
  3. Be Market Driven.  (You’ll have to read the book for these)
  4. Create Mutual Accountability.
  5. Support Personal Empowerment: Well, it’s hard to argue with that, really. This, according to Mr. Rothschild, is based on a personal empowerment program that teaches people that they are loveable, valuable and important. It doesn’t work on everyone but it does help people in their programs value themselves more and do better at work.
  6. Create Economic Value from Social Benefit: It would be nice if we could all do that, if we could be thinking about earned income streams all of the time, but let’s face it. Little puppies and kittens just want to be adopted into loving families. They are not going to create economic value for you. Streams and Mountains that you preserve or clean up are not going to create economic value. Helping disabled people is probably not going to create economic value. Not everyone can make education around their nonprofit best practices, and even if they could, why would you want to force them to create more STUFF when the point is the counseling they receive, or the living assistance they get?
  7. Be Learning Driven: I actually liked this section because it encouraged people to try new approaches, even if they fail. He writes, “Experimentation is seen as an essential way to learn.”  this is similar to what Dan Pallotta says in his book, and what I say in mine, when I say that we should adopt lean manufacturing principles and encourage a culture of continuous improvement, and celebrating mistakes instead of punishing them.

What I mainly got from this book is that there is no “paint-by-the-numbers” in social change.

It’s nice that he wrote about his basic principles but if you’re not a human services organization this may not be relevant to you.

If you are interested in learning how the RISE! program works, how they help people hold down jobs and escape generational poverty, by all means, buy the book.

Have YOU read the book? What did you think of it, if so?