Nonprofit Innovation Summit

May 3, 2019


A kid in Atlanta has less than a 4% chance to escape poverty. This is how Jay Bailey, President and CEO of the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, kicked off TechBridge’s Nonprofit Innovation Summit. TechBridge brought together the Atlanta nonprofit and foundation community members that are working hard every day to move Atlanta from worst to first in economic mobility.

Tene Traylor, Fund Advisor for the Kendeda Fund, reminded us all of our great responsibility: “The work of racial equity is everybody’s work.” TechBridge knows that in order to effectively break the cycle of generational poverty, communities must better coordinate services and use data to fund the combination of programs and services most effective in moving residents from survival to stability to success.  When TechBridge looks at the sectors of focus for our nonprofit community, it’s not surprising that there aren’t predictable pathways out of poverty. If you address a community resident’s needs, you start with the basic needs of survival: food, shelter, and healthcare. 39% of nonprofits served by TechBridge fall in this category. Then you focus on stability with education, case management, and supportive services. 60% of our nonprofit partners focus here. But when you get to the third category, success: living wages that make housing affordable, financial literacy and asset building so that a family never falls back into poverty, that’s where our community has not invested enough resources. Only 1% of TechBridge nonprofits are focused on success.

Breaking The Cycle of Poverty Through Collective Action

The Nonprofit Innovation Summit Collective Action Panelists focused on the systems change their collaboratives are driving in order to improve community outcomes in education, income and health.

Michele Jacobs, United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Youth Director, and her Opportunity Youth Collaborative partners are coming together to improve education and employment pathways for the 90,000 opportunity youth in the 15 county metro Atlanta region.

Cindy Simpson, COO of Chris 180, and The Westside Connect partners are focused on building a safe and resilient community with no wrong doors. Partners are helping community residents to obtain health, education, employment and financial services. Westside Connect wants to learn what the mixture of services and dosage of interventions that are producing the best outcomes and wants to share their learnings with other communities.

Ken Zeff, Executive Director for Learn4Life, is bringing together what once was a very fragmented education scene. All the metro Atlanta superintendents are coming together to improve kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, middle school math proficiency, high school graduation, and post-secondary enrollment and completion. Through their Bright Spot initiatives, Learn4Life is lifting up the things that are working and scaling them out to serve more schools and students.

Jenny Taylor, Vice President of Career Services of Goodwill of North Georgia, is also focused on data sharing and service coordination to improve what once was a fractured, siloed workforce development system. The system is working on developing career pathways where community residents can obtain the skills to move from first jobs, to living wage sustainable jobs, to thriving careers.

Each nonprofit is a building block in collective action.

From our 19 years of experience, TechBridge knows that our nonprofits focused on poverty alleviation have invested the least in their own capacity. Each of these nonprofits is a critical building block in building pathways out of poverty. To enable our nonprofits to collaborate to develop seamless coordination of care for our community residents, we have our work cut out for us. 23% of TechBridge nonprofits are only progressing towards sustaining their programming. 69% are merely sustaining their programming and don’t have a growth trajectory. Only 8% are in a growth stage where they are working on scaling or replicating their model. None of our current nonprofits are in an innovation stage where they have all of the three critical elements to fully participate in collective action data sharing and service coordination: a data strategy that maps to the community change the nonprofit and its partners are driving, robust data management systems capable of sharing data with the community, and financial sustainability. TechBridge will continue to build each nonprofit’s capacity so that they can scale and replicate their program model and fully participate in collective action data sharing and service coordination.

At the summit, the panelists talked about the importance of performance measurement and data management in transforming nonprofits to prepare them for collective action.

Michael Lucas, Deputy Director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation encouraged us to discover: “What data do we need to answer the big question – how do we move the needle?” Michael Lucas shared how Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation is using data to show their impact. Preventing evictions and requiring landlords to do mold remediation is improving health outcomes and academic outcomes for students. Their success in their first community is now being replicated in additional communities.

Tene Traylor from The Kendeda Foundation let us know that nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid to learn what things are not working. It’s okay for nonprofits to pivot. Nonprofits should let their funders know what they learned in the process. Tene encouraged nonprofits to be transparent with foundations and to answer these questions:

  • What change are we driving?
  • What didn’t work?
  • How can foundations help nonprofits overcome obstacles?
  • How can nonprofits learn from foundation partners?

Dr. Hefner, Vice President of Strategy and Institutional Effectiveness, shared Morehouse School of Medicine’s journey in striving for health equity. At MSM, every area, every goal, every strategy has a metric with a target measure and progress is evaluated regularly.

Curley Dossman, President of the Georgia Pacific Foundation, implored us to “Don’t just express a passion/love for the work alone. What’s the impact you wish to drive?” Great for funders to know how NPs are partnering with each other, this helps the investments lead to greater impact.

Ilham Askia , Executive Director of Gideon’s Promise, and her team at Gideon’s promise are changing the way legal representation was being provided for poor communities. They are changing the culture of public defender offices to be client centered.

Gloria Cox, Giving Leader for the Chick-fil-A Foundation, share how even foundations are on a journey with data management to be transparent to their customers about the impact they are driving in a community. Chick-fil-A now has better data at their fingertips to share the outcomes their nonprofit partners are achieving and the impact we collectively are driving as a community.

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, CEO of the Future Foundation, talked about the journey Future Foundation has been on as they are focused on their students keeping up the 100% high school graduation rate. They are using the knowledge gleaned from their data to be able to scale up, to be innovative, and ultimately to disrupt poverty.

Finally, while as a community we have our work cut out for us to go from worst to first in economic mobility, as Jay Bailey inspired us with the words of Nelson Anderson, let us continue to plant seeds that will grow trees whose shade we may never sit under.

For a photo recap, click here >>

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