A round-up of the month’s best articles and resources on the topics you care about!

The first month of 2015 went by in a flash. If you’ve been as busy as our staff, you’ll appreciate our list of #GoodReads from January. We put our heads together and came up with 10 of the best blogs, articles, resources and toolkits released since the new year. No changemaker will want to miss these!


Wealth and Inequality

The American Dream Shatters in Prince George County - By Michael Fletcher, The Washington Post

Fletcher exposes the devastating impact the recession has had on black wealth in Prince George’s County VA, and uses amazing illustrations to highlight the effect. One sentence in the article is most telling of the urgency of Living Cities’ #newurbanpractice mission to catalyze dramatically better results for low income people, especially those of color - “Not only is African-American wealth down, but the chances of a quick comeback seem bleak.”

Recommended by Ben Hecht, President and CEO

You’re probably richer than you think you are: How inequality screws with our perspective - By Jeff Spross, The Week

The Week uses the recent controversy over the proposed changes to 529 savings accounts to illustrate how perceptions of our own wealth are often skewed to the middle class. This flaw in our thinking makes it difficult to tackle issues of inequality through public policy.

Recommended by Jeff Raderstrong, Program Associate, The Integration Initiative


Reducing Our Obscene Level of Child Poverty - By Charles M. Blow, The New York Times

Citing a recent report from the Children’s Defense Fund, New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Charles M. Blow makes a strong social and economic case for focusing on ending child poverty. Living Cities’ #newurbanpractice rallying call is about working with other leaders and institutions to create a vision and collective action movement for the social change sector that is unsatisfied with incremental change. We want to instead align cross-sector efforts and funding towards achieving dramatically better results for low-income people. Given this aspiration, I was struck by the results achieved in Britain by taking steps that are similar to those outlined in the report, such as the creation of subsidized jobs, a raise of the minimum wage, and an expansion of child care subsidies and housing subsidies. Britain “managed to reduce child poverty by more than half over 10 years, and reductions persisted during the Great Recession.”

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

Impact Investing

How to Leave a Mark - David Brooks, The New York Times

If you want to leave your mark on the world, but don’t know how, the New York Times’ David Brooks suggests you get into Impact Investing! After some early backlash against the idea of delivering both financial and social returns on investment, a new generation of investors is looking for innovative ways to blend their “business minds” and “charity minds” to do just that. And big banks, like Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse, have entered the playing field, shaping impact investing into what Brooks calls the “most promising tool to use the market to solve social problems”.

Recommended by Brian Nagendra, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation

Pay for Success

Denver Homeless Initiative Would be Latest to Tap Social Impact Bonds - By Jon Murray, The Denver Post

Across the country, Government officials, nonprofit leaders and for-profit organizations are investing in “Pay for Success” deals that tackle some of our society’s most challenging problems – from reducing recidivism to expanding preschool access for at-risk children. And, these deals have the potential to “save taxpayers over the long haul.” The Denver Post examines the newest deal, which will leverage promising housing practices to reduce the city’s homeless population, and the landscape of Pay for Success transactions in the U.S. to date.

Recommended by Ellen Ward, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation

Collective Impact

Begin With The End in Mind - StriveTogether Blog

The Big Goal Collaborative in Northeast Indiana, one of the communities in our Prepare Learning Circle, talks about what they’re using as the “north star” for their collective impact efforts. And how focusing on a big, long-term goal has helped the initiative drive towards results.

Recommended by Juan Sebastian Arias, Program Associate, Collective Impact

Municipal Innovation

Internet to Go: The Chicago Public Library Officially Details its WiFi Lending Program - By Will Flanagan, ChicagoInno

The Chicago Public Library system is taking up a promising approach for mitigating at least one of the barriers that low-income people face on a daily basis: Internet Access. In our current society, internet access is absolutely essential for children to keep up in school, for parents looking for jobs, for more effective personal finance management and so many other basic day to day functions that impact people’s lives. I am hopeful that the city is able to continue to expand this program and ensure that those that need it most are aware of it and able to take advantage of the opportunity.

Recommended by Brittany Ramos, Collective Impact Field Builder


10 Things Foundations Can Do to Increase Capital Absorption - Kresge Foundation

To realize the promise of community investment, the capacity of specific places to absorb available capital needs to grow. Building on efforts begun at Living Cities, Robin Hacke, a senior fellow at the Kresge Foundation and David Wood, director of the Initiative for Responsible Investment at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University have authored a paper on what philanthropy can do to create and strengthen community-investment systems, using their own array of resources to channel public and private capital toward socially important outcomes. By helping make the communities they care about “investable” for projects, programs and transactions that generate social value beyond what happens in conventional markets, foundations can amplify the effect of their own grants and investments.

Recommended by Eileen Neely, Director of Capital Innovation

MoneyBall for Governments

The Moneyball for Government initiative, which encourages data-driven decision making within government agencies. Their big push is for elected representatives to make decisions about public funding based on results, not anecdotes. The book includes writing from people like Peter Orzag, John Bridgeland, Senator Ayotte, Senator Warner and more!

Recommended by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, Director of Collective Impact

Making Sense of Nonprofit Collaborations - Bridgespan Group

There’s a proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” To dig into the issue for nonprofits, Bridgespan recently released “Making sense of Nonprofit Collaborations” Research insights from nonprofits and funders explain the performance of current collaborations and barriers to more. Bridgespan finds a “merger” is rare, but many nonprofits are engaged in other types of collaboration including associations, joint programs and shared admin. To advance collaborations, more matchmaking is one avenue for more nonprofits to find potential partnership opportunities.

Recommended by Brian Nagendra, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation

Valuing All Our Families - The Center for American Progress

The Center for American Progress released a report this month, Valuing All Our Families, that proposes a useful framework based on three tenets: Stability, Structure, and Strength. The report helps move the policy debate beyond binary terms of married vs. non-married headed households to realize the nuance in family structures and offers both economic and social policy recommendations that support stable, healthy families.

Recommended by Ellen Ward, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation