This week, a reflective round-up of reading recommendations that you won’t want to miss!

The holiday season, and the New Year, always bring a healthy dose of reflection and change. We look back on our past year and make resolutions for the year to come. Whether that means an overhaul of your Facebook page, or a commitment to volunteer more in 2016, reflection and learning have become an important part of this passage of time.

At Living Cities, we believe that periodic reflection and learning is also key to achieving dramatically better results for low-income people, faster. And, that it’s important for organizations and institutions across sectors to engage in this type of behavior. That’s why I’m excited to share this week’s selection of reading recommendations from our staff. We’ve pulled out a few exciting examples of end-of-year reflection that have the potential to accelerate change within institutions and across sectors. Happy Reading!

CEO Suggestion

Closing the Racial Gap in Small Business Lending - Next City

Recommended by Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities

If we are going to close the wealth divide, we have to help people of color build businesses. This article from Oscar Perry Abello at Next City captures the challenge of the current systems.


A Sensible Makeover for the Ford Foundation - The New York Times

Recommended by Nadia Owusu, Assistant Director, Strategic Communications and Storytelling

The Ford Foundation building at 320 East 43rd Street in Manhattan is getting a makeover. The renovation is in part about code compliance, but Darren Walker, Ford’s president, says that it is also about considering how the landmark building can be a vibrant part of the foundation’s mission: “We’re using it as an opportunity to re-imagine the building as a public service facility,” Mr. Walker said. Changes will include the addition of an art gallery, a visitors’ center and assembly spaces. Two floors will be rented to nonprofit organizations. This article caused me to contemplate how a social change organization’s vision can be advanced by assets beyond programs.

Ford Foundation Building View, from the New York Times, December 2015

The Ford Foundation Building in Manhattan. Credit: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times.

Public Sector Innovation

6 Myths About Innovation That Hold You Back - Fast Company

Recommended by Steven Bosacker, Director, Public Sector Innovation

As we work on public sector innovation across the country, you’ll still occasionally hear the old refrain, “Government just needs to work more like a business.” I’m personally not a subscriber to this theory, but try to remain open to the lessons that are applicable across the public-private-nonprofit realms.

There are a number of important and applicable points in this piece titled “6 Myths About Innovation That Hold You Back” from Fast Company magazine. The ones that particularly caught my attention include: even in big organizations, “anyone can change the culture to one of innovation;” “innovative thinking is teachable,” and not something you have to go find elsewhere; the recognition that innovation most often “comes from the bottom up” of an organization; and one of our values at Living Cities to learn from users and “release things… that are substantially less than perfect.”

Do these myths resonate with you?

In 1950 Alternate Side Parking was Just an Experiment - WNYC

Recommended by Owen Stone, Senior Associate, Public Sector Innovation

WNYC recently featured some audio from their archives that looks at a New York City before Alternate Side Parking. Today, New Yorkers take for granted is that once or twice a week they will have to get up in the morning and move their car so that street sweepers can clean the streets. That wasn’t the case in 1950 when this innovation represented a major culture change for its citizens. To address this challenge, and in order to meet people where they were, the city produced a radio docu-drama that told the story of how and why the city was taking measures to get streets clean, as told through the events and experiences of a subway station agent on his day off from his night job. Take a listen to the full audio if you get the chance–it includes public sector innovation, early examples of capital innovation and collective impact, and great storytelling that provides many lessons for the innovators of today lo’ these 65 years later.

Image Credit: Reflection by Skip, Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0