How Lean Are You?

by | Nov 5, 2013

Lean Impact is a community dedicated to raising awareness of the theory of Lean Startup
as a way to improve nonprofit effectiveness and change for social good. It’s an online learning community that is bringing resources to bridge the huge gaps that exist between what nonprofits hope to do and their actual impact. Lean Impact also educates nonprofits on the approaches that yield success and the use of technology for social good.

In 2011, Eric Ries published The Lean Startup, which challenged startup founders to build and run their companies in a new way, maximizing customer value while minimizing wasted effort. While creating social change is different than running a startup business, Lean Impact is about nonprofits using this method to:LEAN

  • Figure out what creates real impact (outcomes) and discarding what doesn’t;
  • Shorten the time in the “create – measure – learn” cycle (lessons are learned more quickly, less time and resources are wasted, seeking feedback and making continuous improvements);
  • Measure the things that matter instead of focusing on vanity metrics that seem to provide a favorable picture of an organization’s performance, but don’t accurately reflect key metrics of growth or impact;
  • Operate with fewer wasted resources;
  • Leverage forward-thinking technologies to achieve goals and adapt funding sources to foster innovation;
  • Eliminate mission creep, which is the random accumulation of new goals and tasks as the organization follows funding (rather than its mission);
  • Create a culture that sees failure as a learning that brings us closer to a solution

Lean Impact also allows nonprofits to operate in new and unexpected ways, and provide value in ways that are different from traditional methods. For example, First Book is an organization dedicated to ending knowledge poverty for children in low-income neighborhoods by supplying their classrooms and community programs with brand-new, high-quality books and creating a culture of reading among children and low-income families. Traditionally, schools have small budgets to purchase books and, as a result, they have little leverage to negotiate pricing with book publishers. First Book borrowed the group purchasing model, which leveraged 50,000 local schools and programs, turning their tiny, individual book-buying budgets into a market force that commands attention from the publishing industry.

To share information on how non-profits are using these new approaches, the first-ever Lean for Social Good Summits are on December 5th in New York and January 23 in San Francisco. You can get 25% off tickets with the code “LEANNONPROFIT”.

Lean Startup is one way to improve these issues, but it’s just a starting point. Transform Consulting Group can help your organization develop a cycle of continuous improvement to have greater impact.


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