Kindergarten Readiness in Coastal Oregon

In 2017, the Northwest Oregon Kinder Ready Collaborative asked the Sorenson Impact Center to examine eight school districts' education data to inform their journey of developing a preschool program, aiming to increase Kindergarten readiness. Data scientist Gwendolyn Reynolds traveled to Oregon with her team, gathered mounds of data from hundreds of spreadsheets, and created a visualization to help explain the relationships found among different factors that influence early childhood learning.

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Catalyzing Impact and Empowering Early Childhood Education Leaders

The first big project in which I participated as a Policy Innovation Fellow was the Early Childhood Innovation Lab (ECIL). The inaugural lab was a collaboration between the National Head Start Association, the Sorenson Impact Center, and the David Eccles School of Business that aims to enable early childhood service providers to create sustainable solutions to the most pressing issues they face at work.

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Gabe Morenostudent, impact fellow
Evidence-based Policy in a Bipartisan Congress (Yes, It’s a Real Thing)

Our work in evidence-based policy at the Center began with a federal grant initiated by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under something called the Social Innovation Fund (“SIF”). Designed to be a “catalyst for impact,” the SIF provided funding and support for direct services in evidence-based programs as well as enabled entities such as ours to explore whether a new approach to public-private partnerships, called Pay for Success (“PFS”), could help move the needle on difficult-to-solve social problems like persistent homelessness, school readiness, and breaking the cycle for justice-involved youth and adults. Catalyzing systems-level change came without a federal mandate that this is how it (whatever it was) ought to be done. Instead, the SIF empowered local governments and nonprofits to implement evidence-based approaches to problems defined and informed by local knowledge.  

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Lisa Cox
Bringing an Entrepreneurial Perspective to Impact

It’s a sad fact that entrepreneurship has taken a sharp decline over the past decade. This waning economic dynamism has left communities across the country in distress and has closed the doors of economic opportunity to millions. One of my objectives in endowing the Sorenson Impact Center and other endeavors is to help build the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in this country.

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Lisa Cox
On the Ground in Jakarta

Since joining Sorenson Impact nearly two years ago, I am frequently reminded of the nascent state of social impact investing.  Earlier this fall, I attended Sankalp’s third annual Southeast Asia Summit hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia. While there, I met with dozens of social entrepreneurs, on-the-ground investors, and local incubators. As the field is maturing, many conferences I attend debate the same three questions: What is social impact investing? How can we help others get more involved in this space? and finally, What is the future of impact investing?

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Behind the Scenes at the Winter Innovation Summit

The Winter Innovation Summit is the convening that busts the conventional conference mold and brings together leaders in government, non-profits, social enterprises, venture capital, private foundations, family offices, data and evaluation experts, philanthropists, and the private markets to discuss innovation and impact for social good (and did we mention skiing?). With over 700 people in attendance this past January, the third iteration of the Summit has set high expectations for the upcoming 2018 Summit. As the project managers for the 2017 and 2018 Winter Innovation Summits, we thought we’d give you a behind-the-scenes look at how it all comes together.

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Lisa Cox
Clearing the Path to Educational Empowerment for Refugees

As a recent graduate from the University of Utah, I’ve experienced firsthand how empowering receiving a diploma is. A small, 11x14” piece of paper represents four years of learning about topics you didn’t know existed, building lasting connections with professors and peers, and an unbelievable amount of hard work. The same small piece of paper also represents overcoming the hurdles that come hand-in-hand with higher education: rising tuition costs, student debt, and an increasingly competitive environment.

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Who Gets Out and Stays Out? The Data on Recidivism.

People cycling in and out of the justice system is one of our country's most persistent problems. The term “recidivism” is a common term we hear in our work with governments and providers, and many Pay for Success projects attempt to lower the recidivism rate for groups of people, including Massachusetts’ pioneering collaboration with Roca. I was surprised, therefore, when I was explaining to my in-laws at a family dinner what I was doing at work and received only blank stares: “what is recidivism?”

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Impact Investing: A Focus for Higher Ed

We all tend to be in self-reinforcing circles of information these days. But, the idea of impact investing entering the mainstream seems to be a uniting vision among various stakeholders. As a Harvard Business School alum and because of my work at Sorenson Impact, I have recently joined an alumni impact investing group at HBS. HBS hired Margaret Busse, a fellow 2001 alum, to lead its launch. Mark Kahn (HBS ’06) of Omnivore Partners, Margaret and I have formed the executive committee for this new endeavor, which has a larger steering committee and a mission to help better connect and expand the field of impact investing. 

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Lisa Cox