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Janice Epstein's blog

Resources for Connected Nonprofit Leadership: A Collection of Research

For the past five months, Impact Brokers-a cooperative of nonprofits, investors, consultants and community partners coming together to improve our collective capacity to tackle complex social challenges-has had a presense here on the Leadership Learning Community blog. We've thoroughly enjoyed using this space as a means of reflecting on our work and related issues like the value of networks for nonprofits and their constituents, the meaning of shared leadership and leadership as a process, and the pros and cons of nonprofit culture. We hope these blog posts have had some value for others interested in the same topics. As a more tangible offerring, Impact Brokers is sharing the attached document for your reading pleasure. It is a collection of more than 20 research items and readings that make up the basis for Impact Brokers activities. It includes links and abstracts of titles in three main sections: read more »

Network for Change


I once worked for a nonprofit designing treatment programs for inmates in correctional facilities. My mentors there taught me that a good leader surrounds herself with people who have strengths she does not so that the leader’s team is ready to deal with as many potentialities as possible. I believe this is the same thinking behind the advice to be mission focused, not focused on the organization. What good does it do the organizations in Impact Brokers to be stable, salient, long standing, etc, if that doesn’t translate into: less homeless women and children; more volunteers for local non profits; healthier youth? read more »

A New Culture for the Non Profit Sector: The Culture of Impact Brokers

Janice Epstein

In an online article titled “ Are Nonprofits Terrible Tech Clients?,” Holly Ross responds to the complaint that non profits are hard for technology providers (read: for-profits) to work with because they demand more and want it for less:
"Most funders won't pay admin costs. Donors expect increasingly large percentages of every dollar to go straight to program. We're not supposed to spend money on rent, phones, or, god forbid, computers. We're not supposed to hire the staff that keep our nonprofits humming -- the bookkeepers and admin folks. And we're not supposed to pay very much to anyone. That's the culture we live in. I don't like it. I wish our culture believed that nonprofits should be well-staffed and have adequate infrastructures. But that's not where we're at right now." read more »

The Lab-Social Capital: What’s Leadership Got To Do With It?

Janice Epstein

Over the 100 plus years of its use, the term social capital has acquired different meanings depending on the context of its usage-economics, politics, sociology. At the risk of oversimplifying the concept, I like Wikipedia’s succinct definition of social capital: “the advantages available to a person or group of people through their position in a network of relationships.” Impact Brokers (IB) is very interested in the social capital of both its members and its members’ constituents. read more »

The Lab: The Impact Brokers Virtual Learning Laboratory

Janice Epstein

Welcome to the Impact Brokers virtual learning laboratory where your thoughtful input is seriously welcome! What is Impact Brokers (IB), you ask? In a nutshell, IB is a radically different way of ‘doing’ social change. We are a group of nonprofit organizations, funders, consultants, and community members who have been meeting since January 2008 to solve complex social problems together by identifying common issues, discovering root causes and strengthening our collaborative capacity for change. We meet quarterly for Learning Community Meetings to, among other things, review individual and shared capacity building projects and otherwise strengthen our relationships for the benefit of the whole.

LLC awarded IB’s Boston Member Circle a Community Seed grant to support an online learning lab to explore the themes of social capital and networks within the framework of adaptive and collective leadership. If you are choking on that sentence like I am, here’s a Heimlich: we’re going to deepen our understanding of what we do and how we do it so that we can capitalize on our relationships for the benefit of all involved.

So, to christen this learning laboratory, we want to talk a bit about leadership and, specifically leadership that is not carried out by one person. For in the IB Boston Member Circle, there purposely is no one leader. In A New Look at Leadership in Collaborative Networks: Process Catalysts, Mandell and Keast write that leadership in collaborative networks is “the process of getting all members to interact in new ways that tap into their strengths” and that “leadership…is about focusing on the processes of building a new whole rather than primarily focusing on more efficient ways to deliver services.” read more »

Impact Brokers Boston: Member and Partner Biographies

Janice Epstein

Who we are: Consultants, Nonprofits & Investors

Our Consultants read more »

An Introduction to Impact Brokers

Janice Epstein

Impact Brokers Summary

Impact Brokers is a cooperative of nonprofits, investors, consultants and community partners that is coming together to improve our collective capacity to tackle complex social challenges. Our Boston member circle has been engaged in individual and shared capacity building activities, leadership development and peer learning since the beginning of 2008.

Our Boston circle members are a diverse group of people who share a common passion for bridging differences and a deep commitment to making the world a better place for our children and families, starting in our own community. We all live, work, and/or volunteer in Greater Boston and represent diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, linguistic, gender and sexual orientation backgrounds. The organizations and practices span many sectors, fields and constituencies and vary in age, organizational stage and geography. In many ways we represent a “network of networks.”

Our goals include:

  • Building leadership capability to maximize mission sustainability and adapt to rapid change.
  • Enhancing our effectiveness by developing tangible skills in organizational and community development.
  • Leveraging cross-sector networks to create innovative approaches with increasing returns to scale.
  • Catalyzing our community to identify common problems, discover root causes, strengthen collaborative capacity, and contribute to a financially vibrant, innovative, and sustainable sector.

We are accomplishing these goals with four complementary strategies:

 read more »

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