After the Leap

For several months, we’ve included at the bottom of these updates a too-brief reference to a conference we and our friends at PerformWell have been working hard to develop and launch. We’re now ready to roll out all the details.

After the Leap: Building a Performance Culture” will not be just another “same old, same old” conference. We’ve put together a fantastic lineup of speakers and sessions to supercharge social and public sector leaders eager to achieve higher performance.

We’re not going to waste a lot of time with throat-clearing on why performance matters. The leaders who are signing up for the conference are well aware of the seismic economic and social shifts that are requiring them to do more good at lower cost. They want actionable insights on how to drive this kind of change. And that’s exactly what this conference will deliver.

Not only will we hear from top national thought leaders like Melody Barnes, John Bridgeland, and Nancy Roob. We’ll also meet rock-star executive directors and CEOs who have built performance cultures, including Dan Cardinali (Communities in Schools), Mindy Tarlow (Center for Employment Opportunities), and Thomas Jenkins(Nurse-Family Partnership).

We highly encourage you to check out the low-carb, high-protein conference schedule. It’s tasty brain food for leaders who want to keep learning and improving for the benefit of those they serve.

And now for brief updates from around the Leap of Reason community:

  • Peter Orszag and John Bridgeland’s July Atlantic Monthly article “Can Government Play Moneyball?” has generated significant buzz. The article sparked more than five million impressions on Twitter, including supportive messages from notables such as Senator Mark Warner (chair of the Senate’s Government Performance Task Force), media entrepreneur Tim O’Reilly, entrepreneur/philanthropist Steve Case, and bestselling author Dan Pink. Peter and Bridge were interviewed by Kai Ryssdal on “Marketplace” and are likely to appear on NBC News in the coming weeks. Results for America is hoping the article will lead to Senate hearings in the fall.
  • Doe Fund EVP Harriet McDonald offers an equally compelling case for evidence-based funding in “Too Many Nonprofit Government Contractors Fail to Produce Strong Results” (subscription required), a June 16 column in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Among her many strong data points: “An unusual study by Pennsylvania officials produced startling results: It found that offenders who spent time in private halfway houses were more likely to go back to committing crimes after their release than inmates who didn’t get any help adjusting to life on the outside…. Bottom line: The system was costing money, not saving it.”
  • USAID has launched a promising initiative called Development Innovation Ventures(DIV). According to Jon Baron, the encyclopedically knowledgeable president of theCoalition for Evidence-Based Policy, “Uniquely, DIV is open to funding and rigorously testing virtually any idea/intervention that has the potential to be a breakthrough in improving people’s lives and DIV recently awarded its first scale-up grant for an intervention that, based on our impartial review, is backed by credible evidence of a sizable impact.” Our hats are off to Raj Shah, USAID’s dynamic administrator (and Lowell’s former Gates Foundation colleague) for his efforts to replace tradition-bound practices with evidence-based ones.
  • We commend the aforementioned Dan Cardinali for “The Nonprofit Imperative: Following the Evidence, but Leading the Charge,” his latest column in The Huffington Post. “Good intentions aren’t enough,” Dan writes. “Only great outcomes scaled to meet huge national needs will change the lives of the people we serve…. As nonprofit leaders, we have to take the primary responsibility for adopting this new definition of ’success’ [and] hold ourselves accountable to objective measures and quantifiable outcomes.” Nicely said, Dan!
  • Our dear friend Bill Shore, too, offers a much-needed tough-love message in his column “We Just Don’t Have the Money and Other Fibs We Tell Ourselves,” in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Leading for Social Good blog. “Whenever I hear nonprofit executives say they cannot build capacity or make investments necessary for long-term sustainability because they ’just don’t have the money,’ I know they are not really telling the truth, even though they think they are,” he writes. “What they are really saying is, ’We don’t want to use the money that we do have’ to make that investment because it is already allocated for important program costs.’”
  • In the UK, New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) and the Oak Foundation have delivered a big win for nonprofits working to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society. “Charities and social enterprises are being asked to demonstrate the impact of their work as part of the new payment-by-results contracts,” reports NPC’s Ellen Harries. As a result, charities have a great need for up-to-date information on whether their clients reoffend. And that’s why NPC and Oak worked with the British Ministry of Justice to launch the Justice Data Lab. “Should this model prove successful,” concludes Harries, “other government departments could open their databases, heralding a new era of impact reporting for the charity sector.”
  • Sheri Chaney Jones, president of Columbus, OH–based Measurement Resources, shared a nice anecdote sent to her by one of her clients: “This morning when I got up, realizing it is the last day of the program cycle for many of our funded programs, I asked myself, ’What did we accomplish?’ Beside my bed was Leap of Reason…. It was as if [Morino] was speaking to me. Out of this experience, I knew that our pursuit of focusing in on outcome measures is an absolute necessity.”

Upcoming Events for Raising Performance:

Here’s wishing you some relaxing (low-performance!) time off during the Dog Days.

Our best,
Mario and Lowell

Mario Morino is Chairman of the Morino Institute and Venture Philanthropy Partners and author of the lead essay in Leap of Reason. Lowell Weiss is president of Cascade Philanthropy Advisors, co-editor of Leap of Reason, and advisor to the Leap of Reason initiative.

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