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David Geilhufe's Blog
Operational Challenges of Scoial Enterpreneurs
I'm hosting an online discussion over at Social Edge about the operational challenges faced by social entrepreneurs. With a big focus on finding practical solutions.

If you have a story about an operational challenge you faced or ideas on how social entrepreenurs can think about their operations and business process to maximize social impact, please drop by and leave a comment.
January 14th, 2009 @ 9:01AM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

Keep Evaluation Simple, Stupid

So I served on the advisory board of the TechImpact project done by NTEN and NPower. That project confronted a key problem faced by Nonprofit Technology Assitance Providers (NTAP):
It’s common to hear examples of how technology has helped nonprofits achieve their missions. However there are few studies that demonstrate this impact in a measurable way.
The project got off to a great start but never quite got to the point of generating performance metrics for NTAPs. Well, over the past year I've been developing the performance metrics for We are basically an NTAP, so I very much looked at all the research and evaluation data on NTAPs out there.

I got a headache.

Lots of data, lots of academic mumbo jumbo (which is fine unless all you are trying to do is measure outcomes), lots of ideas and no overall simple solution for building a measurement system.

So what did I end up with?

(1) Second order social impact ( the social impact of a charity attributable to an NTAP) is hard, so
  1. Don't bother with it
  2. Allow the charity to self report on a question like "What social impact was most enabled by working with us".
  3. Collect narrative data on the project and, if your can afford it, do a content analysis.
I personally use #3 becuase I suspect we'll be able to do the content analysis in the future.

(2) Use a simple proxy.
  1. I like the Net Promoter score. Adjust the question a little to "How likely would you be to recomend XYZ to somone that needs to use technology to expand their social impact" That will generate a simple metric you can manage to (read the details, linked below) 
Net Promoter

TechImpact Project

Content Analysis
December 16th, 2008 @ 12:12PM | 0 Comments | Post a Comment

So my job is to give away fairly complex and powerful software. The downside of this is that it can be virtually impossible to serve small charities-- they have enough complexity in their lives as it is.

My company just did a press release and a podcast on nonprofits switching from Microsoft Great Plains to NetSuite. This was part of a broader story of folks from different industries making the switch from Great Plains to NetSuite.

As I read our press release and listened to the podcast I was struck by how similar yet different charities are from "regular" businesses. And how the differences are really hard for a standard commercial company like us to wrap our head around.

Take for example Imagine!, a human services agency that is part of the announcement. Buried in the press release is that fact that they turned to NetSuite first for Case Management. Case Management! Then they found out the system they bought for case management could replace Great Plains and their time tracking ap and their payroll and more.

As anyone in the charity world knows, case management is a really hard problem and there are a bunch of software solutions already out in the world. The key to their sucess was probably that they were a larger organization operating a social enterprise... a social business in their nonprofit. That meant there was less of a gap between how they look at the world and how the NetSuite software wants you to look at the world.

But I wonder is the really compelling story them choosing NetSuite for case management rather than the non-sexy back office financial applications. I wonder which resonates with your average charity more. 

November 20th, 2008 @ 7:11AM | 2 Comments | Post a Comment

Financial Crisis, America and Ideology
In a diversion from my normal topics, the US financial crisis has my attention at the moment.

First context... a bunch of financial institutions got greedy and bought a bunch of assets (mostly mortgage-backed securities) that no one wants to buy. Since no one wants to buy this stuff and no one can figure out how much they are worth, the government is going to spend up to $700B to buy this stuff.

So the financial institutions made decisions that should make them bankrupt, the government doesn't want them to go bankrupt and here is where it gets interesting.

If I'm a corporation and one of my rivals is going bankrupt, I don't buy the assets that made them bankrupt... I buy a stake in the company. This is what the government did with AIG... they bought 80% of the company (actually slightly less because 80% is a magic number in corporate land).

If, in the future that company does well, my stake in the company goes up and I potentially get a big financial benefit.

Now, instead of this Schumpeter-ian creative destruction, the government is going to buy all the bad assets. This is the key issue... the owners of the firms that made bad decisions get a free pass-- they are not dilluted by government ownership.... which is pretty much the only punishment capitalists understand.

Now, in the ideal world, the government would actually take a stake + buy the bad assets off the balance sheet, since both actions are necessary... buying the bad assets to resolve the crisis and taking a stake to punish the owners of these firms/

(oh wait, I don't want to punish main street since that might cause shareholder activism that might crimp those multi-million dollar executive pay packages)

I suspect if any of the rich people that understand investment and such actually paid any significant taxes, they would be hollaring for the government to use *their* money wisely by buying the assets only on the condition of getting an equity stake.

But since the money comes from a bunch of middle income folks that don't really realize they are partially responsible for this mess by holding Bear Sterns in their retirement portfolios, its OK to just buy the bad assets.

And this is where the ideology comes in. God Forbid the taxpayers own a significant percentage of the financial system they are bailing out. That would be socialism and that would be bad-- not that we know what socialism really is, not that the government acting like an astute investor is good.... since capitalism is only good if you are a private citizen or corporation.

And tying this up into a nice little bow... this just shows the contempt that Americans have for government. Carly Fiorina says that the a person qualified to be president of the United States... in charge of an organization with revenues of $2.5 trillion and 1.7 million employees.... isn't qualified to run Hewlett Packard ($113B revenue and 172K employees).

We say our government isn't qualified to own equity stakes in our financial companies.

We'll probably unload all those bad assets to early to make a decent profit (like we did with the Resolution Trust Corporation) becuase of the contempt Americans havce for their own government.

Its my money darn it, I want it invested well. I want a government that is run well, and just like when my airline does a crappy job, I'm going to switch vendors.

Wait we have an election in a few weeks.... mmmm.
September 22nd, 2008 @ 12:09PM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment

How amusing is it that platform is the dominate meme for this blog?

August 26th, 2008 @ 7:08AM | 1 Comments | Post a Comment

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