Targeting and Replicating Success from the Social Innovation Community
What is NICE’s primary focus? The nation is not only experiencing unprecedented economic times, the nonprofit community is reeling as well. More than ever, nonprofit start-ups need direction to help them gain visibility and seek out new revenue support in order to become less dependent on government and foundation grants. NICE Network can connect NGO start-ups with seasoned mentors who have built sustainable missions in their communities and who want to leave a legacy to the nonprofit community. It can also help them gain visibility through nonprofit video production and social media training.
Why NICE and why now? As the American public faces a sobering economic reality, mounting federal and state deficits are threatening cuts in social spending. Unless the escalating debt is curtailed, cuts in services to the disadvantaged and poor are imminent. While we can lament such a scenario, there is a positive solution. The successful growing trend of grassroots social innovation, inspired by everyday citizens, can soften or eliminate the impact of this funding gap for communities. The key is information and awareness of their existence!
What is this trend and is it growing? Since the early eighties, the number of nonprofit start-ups in the U.S. has grown dramatically; clocking over 55,000 new 501c3’s in 2011. Human service nonprofit numbers have increased proportionally. Typically, this trend isn’t covered in the media yet social causes launched over the past twenty years are gaining momentum by “civic-franchising” into dozens of cities.
Why aren’t we more knowledgeable about these initiatives? Primarily, it’s because the federal government hasn’t prioritized broad-based funding to research them. Academia has little incentive to perform research without grants. This catch-22 scenario hides what could be the non-governmental solution to cuts in social services and greater self-reliance for the poor and disadvantaged.
Why are grassroots solutions better? Nonprofits are more cost-effective than government social programs, which tend to operate at 50-70% overhead. Yet, some may question how grassroots solutions can succeed to any degree when they lack large-scale sophistication or the assurance of funding. Despite perceived obstacles and a down economy, these initiatives are succeeding and replicating with support by communities across the nation.
Where’s the proof that citizen-inspired solutions can work? Debra Berg, an independent researcher and author, conducted interviews during the late nineties and early 2000's in 30 cities to chronicle the grassroots growth in human service initiatives. She found many who far surpassed government program results. (Her findings are published in The Power of One: The Unsung Everyday Heroes Rescuing America's Cities.) In her research and follow-up interviews since, Debra’s findings have revealed eye-opening successes such as:
· Jobs for Life – Reports a 1-year, 85% job retention rate of the previously homeless. JFL,now a 15-year old program,has replicated into 212 cities on just 12% overhead.
· House of Hope (Chicago) – Boasts a 90% job retention rate of previously drug-addicted/ homeless women and mothers. Women gain independence thanks to the 9-month resident-rehabilitation program from which over 10,000 have graduated.
· Rebuilding Together – Annually engages 250,000 volunteers to repair the homes of the elderly and disadvantaged. It currently has more than 200 affiliates in the U.S.
Why would NICE facilitate expansion of effective solutions such as these? NICE believes it’s important to seek out, promote, and encourage the development of flagship initiatives and foster their replication into more communities. A current hot topic in the philanthropic community is “nonprofit duplication of effort”. Debra learned that nonprofit start-ups were reinventing the wheel because they didn’t know others had already “blazed the trail”. Reinventing existing solutions means slower response time for the needy and hurting. It also adds to the cost of solving social problems across America.
Why should NICE connect social innovators, citizens, and donors? In 2007, Debra hosted a VoiceAmerica.com radio show introducing dozens of social entrepreneurs to one another and to the public. The results were that innovators were enthusiastic to meet like-minded peers and sought further contact to fine-tune their solutions.
In summary, NICE Network:
(1) Researches, chronicles, recognizes, and promotesproven human service initiatives through an online knowledge base designed to bring visibility to successful human service nonprofits. (2) Connects social/civic entrepreneurs, citizens, and donors to each other and to the information about “what’s working” and best practices in order to foster the replication of successful initiatives into more communities across America. (3)Trains the next generation of human service leaders, in response to the projected retirement of some 600,000 nonprofit executives over the next decade (Chronicle of Philanthropy), by tapping the experience and insights of successful human service nonprofit founders and mentors.
About the NICE Network
NICE is a social enterprise mission that researches human service initiatives across America. Our mission is to learn from nonprofit founders and promote their ideas and possible replication of their successful causes into more communities. NICE is funded by the sale of services and publications in the form of consulting, training, social video production, and books. The National Institute for Civic Enterprise, LLC is registered with the state of Florida and the IRS.