For the last year or so, my business partners and I have been working to uncover the core characteristics of successful nonprofits, with a focus on those organizations making truly meaningful systemic change. During this time, we’ve been drawing on insights from forward thinking visionaries and decades of experience working with and evaluating world-class organizations in both the for-profit and nonprofit world.

To that end, we’ve come up with our baseline, what we’ve been calling our Impakt Checklist, and will be revealing 4 steps to systemic change over the next few weeks.

But, before we dig in, I think it’s important to note that we are not naive enough to think we’ve got it all figured out. We’ve merely taken our best shot with everything we know right now. So, please, stick with us over the next few weeks and let us know what you think about our checklist.

Because in the end this is not about us. And though a checklist may make it seem simple or oversimplify the solution, this is really about starting a dialogue and making the world a better place, ensuring the work you are doing day-in and day-out will make a truly meaningful impact.

So, where do we believe systemic social change starts?

Step 1. Core Issue Identification & Ownership

We believe world-class nonprofit organizations listen first, leveraging methodologies like human and community centered design which started with companies like IDEO decades ago, and apply those same principles to the pressing social issues of our time.

I’ve already written a post on human-centered design, so I won’t dig into the detail too much here, but the reality is that without direct insight and involvement from the community you are hoping to serve, it’s nearly impossible to solve the societal issues we face today.

We also believe another integral part of this step to success is community-led solution development and ownership. Who better to solve the problem than the ones facing it? Without upfront buy-in and accountability, think about any project you’ve ever tackled at home or at work. How did it go? Something tells me not as well as you’d hoped.

What I will also add here about great organizations, is that their feedback loop never closes. Because, change is inevitable and iteration is imperative to tackling the concerns and challenges you couldn’t possibly plan for upfront.

In summary, we believe great nonprofit organizations do the groundwork upfront to identify root cause issues with the community in need, co-developing solutions to solve those problems, all the while keeping the door open for feedback as things change. It may sound easy, but we believe success is in the details and this is where the foundation is laid.

Checklist: Step 1. Core Issue Identification & Ownership

  • Root cause identification using human-centered design (Link)
  • Community-led solution development and ownership (Link)
  • Iteration based on continuous feedback and community engagement (Link)

So, how does your organization stack-up? It’s never too late to incorporate feedback and insight directly from the community. Let us know how it’s going as you leverage these methods to drive meaningful change in your community. And, as always, please let us know if we can be of help and be on the lookout for Step 2 in the next week or so.