By Cori Zarek

In the field of social impact, there is no shortage of problems to solve. At the Beeck Center, since our launch in 2014, we have explored a wide variety of issue areas spanning the public, private, and social sectors, in fields ranging from safety net benefits to pay for performance. We’ve also experimented with different levers for the solutions we bring ranging from policy to process to convening. One constant among these variables has been our goal to achieve the impact we seek at a scale that can truly help people everywhere.

That’s more true today than…

Why public interest technology must rethink the talent pipeline

By Jenn Noinaj, Beeck Center Fellow

Right now, in response to the systemic vulnerabilities uncovered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the movement to apply technology for the greater good is gaining more momentum both in terms of investment and interest from talent in tech and government alike. But it raises an important question: are the right people showing up to build this movement?

Public interest technology, as this field is increasingly referred to, leverages data, design and technology to create better systems that work for all by centering equity, inclusion, impact, and…

Three models for shifting decision-making to communities and entrepreneurs

This is the third in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 2

By Ben Wrobel and Meg Massey

Getting to a 100% mission-aligned portfolio is the holy grail for most impact investors. The Heron Foundation set that ambitious goal in 1996, and spent twenty years getting there. But when the foundation reached that magical number in 2016 with their nearly-$300 million endowment, then-vice president Dana Bezerra couldn’t help but think of it as anti-climactic.

“It felt like a boom-splat,” she told Impact Alpha. “That felt like such a low bar.”

This spring Bezerra — now Heron’s president — announced…

Imagining a world where 10% of grant dollars are allocated by people outside foundations, not paid staff

By Ben Wrobel and Meg Massey

This is the second in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 3

This July, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott posted a widely-analyzed Medium article sharing her plan to give away more than a billion dollars.

What made her gift remarkable wasn’t the dollar amount; billion-dollar gifts are the new normal in an age of billionaire philanthropy. Rather, it was how she planned to give it away: instead of staffing up a private foundation, she chose to give the money directly to nonprofits and a number of small grassroots grantmakers. …

This is the first of a series. Read Part 2 and Part 3

September 16, 2020 — By Andrea McGrath, Saumya Shruti, Shaily Acharya

When Diana Samarasan set out to create the Disability Rights Fund in 2008, she had limited experience in grantmaking and funding. As an activist for the disability community, Diana had spent years putting the community at the forefront of her advocacy efforts. …

As our nation is reckoning with a poorly managed pandemic, we’re also grappling with 16 million people unemployed, estimates as high as 54 million people facing hunger, and another 40 million at risk of being evicted. The systems that were supposed to help people when they need it are overwhelmed and unable to provide services at the speed of need. This is the time to reimagine systems to ensure they actually work for people, are designed equitably, and can deliver in a timely manner using modern technology.

At the Beeck Center, we believe that we can use data to better…

By Katya Abazajian

A pandemic may seem like the worst time to fix slow-changing, infrastructural data challenges, but there is no better time to begin correcting systems that just aren’t working.

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) manage critical data infrastructure that helps states innovate and make data-driven policy decisions. Earlier this month, we published Leveraging Data for Economic Recovery, a report showing how CDOs can focus their work to guide states to equitable economic recoveries. But within state governments, CDOs often struggle to make the case for sustainable data reforms when there are more pressing demands on frontline workers.

Data is…

By Sonal Shah + Hollie Russon Gilman

To achieve greater equity, we first need to build trust between people and institutions, both public and private. Trust is low. While growing inequity (not just inequality) contributes to the lack of trust, shifting that requires new mechanisms to communicate, collaborate and make structural change. Building and maintaining trust must be intentional, we can not go back to business as usual. It will not be easy. This will require power shifts. Each group will need to give up some power to achieve impact. Over the next few weeks, we will write about various…

November 27, 2017 | By Christopher Wilson

I recently joined a convening of chief data officers from across different parts of the US government (federal; state; and local). The event brought together an an earnest group of like minded data evangelists, all dedicated to making their own institution more data-driven and output focused. Conversations that evening showed that they knew how to draw support from one another, but also revealed a number of consistent challenges and strategic constraints across government contexts. Many of these obstacles to data-driven government are deeply rooted, and can seem intractable. But there is clearly a…

November 13, 2017 | By Hollie Russon Gilman

The following three-part series reflects initial conversations with data experts including Chief Data Officers across varying levels of government to discuss the next steps and opportunities on how data can improve government performance, drive effective policy, and deliver results. Through these conversations, we hope to identity key themes, best use cases, current challenges to implementation, and tools, which would be instructive towards building a stronger, and more cohesive open data network and community. …

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Developing new solutions to old problems.

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