Lean Startups for Social Change

The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact

Michel Gelobter (Author)

Publication date: 11/02/2015

Lean Startups for Social Change

“There’s a new way to change the world,” writes social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter. It's called the lean startup—but it’s not just for new ventures. It’s been revolutionizing businesses of all ages for years, and Gelobter shows it can have the same transformative impact on the social sector.

Traditionally, entrepreneurs develop a detailed plan, find money to fund it, and then pursue it to its conclusion. But conditions can change drastically at any point—you can end up locked into a process based on now-obsolete assumptions. The lean startup is all about agility and flexibility. Its mantra is “build, measure, learn”: create small experimental initiatives, get real-world feedback on them quickly, and use that data to identify what works and discard what doesn’t. And then test some more.

Gelobter explains exactly how nonprofits and advocacy organizations can adapt lean startup concepts to their unique circumstances. He offers dozens of real-world examples: an established homelessness group whose data analysis showed that reducing a single overlooked metric could get many more people off the street; a technology-based literacy startup that used lean techniques to reach 2 million children in two years, when a more traditional program took fifteen; and many others. The standard approach wastes time and money—the lean startup promises to help social sector organizations vastly increase the good they do.

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Overview

“There’s a new way to change the world,” writes social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter. It's called the lean startup—but it’s not just for new ventures. It’s been revolutionizing businesses of all ages for years, and Gelobter shows it can have the same transformative impact on the social sector.

Traditionally, entrepreneurs develop a detailed plan, find money to fund it, and then pursue it to its conclusion. But conditions can change drastically at any point—you can end up locked into a process based on now-obsolete assumptions. The lean startup is all about agility and flexibility. Its mantra is “build, measure, learn”: create small experimental initiatives, get real-world feedback on them quickly, and use that data to identify what works and discard what doesn’t. And then test some more.

Gelobter explains exactly how nonprofits and advocacy organizations can adapt lean startup concepts to their unique circumstances. He offers dozens of real-world examples: an established homelessness group whose data analysis showed that reducing a single overlooked metric could get many more people off the street; a technology-based literacy startup that used lean techniques to reach 2 million children in two years, when a more traditional program took fifteen; and many others. The standard approach wastes time and money—the lean startup promises to help social sector organizations vastly increase the good they do.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Michel Gelobter

Michel Gelobter is one of the country’s leading climate strategists, having worked for more than 25 years as a regulator, policy-maker, researcher, and thought leader on environmental and social policy. Michel co-founded BuildingEnergy.com, designing the world’s largest platform for building energy data and applications . Prior, Michel was Chief Green Officer of Hara Software, a Kleiner-Perkins portfolio company and the leading enterprise energy and environmental management startup.

Until founding Cooler in early 2007, Michel was President/CEO of Redefining Progress, the U.S.’s leading domestic sustainability policy institute. During Michel’s tenure, Redefining Progress helped design the world’s most aggressive climate legislation which was signed into California law in August of 2006, formed the Climate Justice Corps to train thousands of U.S. youth in climate activism, became the worldwide home of the Ecological Footprint (the world’s best known measure of sustainability), and created MyFootprint.org, a website serving over 2 million unique visitors a month.

Michel also founded and directed the Environmental Policy Program at Columbia University and the Environment and Energy Track at Singularity University. He worked as a Congressional Black Caucus Fellow and for the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, was Director of Environmental Quality for the City of New York, and served as an Assistant Commissioner for its Department of Environmental Protection (with over 6,000 employees and a combined budget of over $2 billion/year).

Michel earned his B.S., M.S. and a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in Energy and Resources. He has served as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Advisory Board of Vice-President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, and is presently on the Boards of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment, and CERES, among others.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Steve Blank
Introduction by Christie George

1 Making Change the 21st-Century Way
2 Lean Principles and Process
3 The Difference a Sector Makes: Lean Startups for Profit versus for Social Change
4 Discovery I: The Nine Guesses
5 Discovery II: Get Ready, Get Set...
6 Discovery III: Get Out of the Building
7 Discovery IV: Pivot, Proceed, or Quit
8 Validation I: Get Ready to Get Big
9 Validation II: Priming the Pump
10 Validation III: Keep + Grow = Scale
11 Creation: Scaling Impact
12 Institutionalization: Building the Lean Organization

Conclusion: Lean Change and the Choices Ahead
Resources: Sample Lean Change Canvases
Reference
Index
Acknowledgments
About the Author

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Endorsements

“Whether you’re developing a new campaign or trying to innovate within a large organization, this book delivers the goods for how to make change at an unprecedented scale.”
—Mike Brune Executive Director, Sierra Club

“Gelobter shows how to bring the cutting edge of Silicon Valley to some of the wicked problems facing the social sector. A must-read for all funders and change makers.”
—Barry Gold, Environment Program Director, Walton Family Foundation

“Social change requires not just good ideas but also effective ways to implement them. In this excellent book Michel Gelobter lays out his revolutionary and practical methodology. An immensely valuable contribution.”
—Adam Kahane, Director, Reos Partners, and author of Power and Love

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