About this blog

Welcome to The Social Impact Blog!

With all of the government, nonprofit, and business efforts to address issues like environmental degradation, the spread of global infectious disease, or improving educational outcomes for opportunity youth, why don’t we see real, sustainable progress? Do we spend too little money on these problems? Do we lack the essential knowledge to solve them? Or, perhaps, are the solutions available here and now, but we need to transform the ways that organizations work together, share knowledge, and implement evidence-based solutions?

These are the essential questions we seek to address in the Social Impact blog. We are the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact at Northwestern University, a research lab dedicated to understanding how organizations can work together to move the needle on social issues. We conduct large-scale research that has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Army Research Office into these questions. We work with hundreds of nonprofits and social impact organizations every year, and we want to bring that experience and knowledge to bear on these and other questions.

In this blog, we’ll bridge the gap between what research teaches us about these questions, and what we see every day in our work with nonprofit organizations. We envision three kinds of posts:

  1. Easy-to-read summaries of nonprofit research. We will translate NNSI research and other related research on nonprofit organizations into brief summaries or infographics for easy reference. We hope that this will make academic research, based in rigorous scientific methods and peer reviewed by top researchers, as accessible and relevant as the consulting material and best practices currently available to nonprofit leaders.
  2. Broad reviews of nonprofit topics and trends. In these posts, we focus on what we know and what we don’t yet know about how organizations work together in the social sector. These posts are designed to help practitioners make connections between the new, hot trend that everyone’s talking about – such as collective impact or social impact bonds – and research on previous social impact interventions that incorporates similar principles or practices.
  3. Insights from researchers and practitioners. We invite respected guests with unique perspectives to weigh in on questions relevant to nonprofit organizations. In these interviews and “Ask a Researcher” posts, we’ll introduce some of the academic researchers who have spent their career trying to understand social impact.

We hope that this blog will find its way into executive directors’ offices, nonprofit board rooms, policy makers’ staff briefings, and student clubs as they work towards social change. Maybe we already have most of the knowledge and solutions we need to address the biggest social problems of our day. Perhaps, we just need to scale up these solutions across networks of nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses.

Do you have a question for NNSI researchers that you would like to see addressed in the Social Impact blog? If so, e-mail nnsi@northwestern.edu.