Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant
The authors spent two years studying twelve successful nonprofits, including Teach For America (TFA), to discover "what enabled them to have such high levels of impact." They came away with six lessons, which build off the central tenet that "the secret to success lies in how great organizations mobilize every sector of society--government, business, nonprofits, and the public--to be a force for good." The golden six: Advocate and serve; make markets work; inspire evangelists; nurture nonprofit networks; master the art of adaptation; and share leadership. In the case of TFA, a couple of these are particularly relevant. Many critics have bemoaned the tendency of TFA teachers to quit the classroom after their two-year stints. But in the last several years TFA veterans have popped up in important roles across the education landscape: D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, teacher of the year Jason Kamras, and KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin are alumni. (The spinning-off of KIPP also falls under the "nurture networks" category.) TFA has also "mastered the art of adaptation." They "collect data as if their lives depended on it" and experiment with research techniques. The authors mention one case in which TFA hired a psychologist to identify the key traits that distinguish great teachers. The findings led them to focus more on leadership skills and less on education training when recruiting applicants. There's a lot more here, of course, on TFA and the other eleven organizations. It's a must-read for established nonprofits, and especially so for young social entrepreneurs hoping to make a big difference. Order it here.