Building Networks and Movements for Social Change

Stanford Innovation Review

By Heather McLeod Grant

he social sector is at a critical inflection point, a moment when external and internal forces are challenging many of its old ways of working. The sector is undergoing an intergenerational transfer of power, as the leadership of legacy nonprofits shifts from baby boomers to diverse Generation Xers and millennials who have new perspectives on how to lead.

Simultaneously, new technologies such as social media are disrupting "analog" approaches, and threatening to break down traditional silos within and between organizations. And as more nonprofits experiment with approaches like collective impact, collaboration is becoming the new normal rather than the rare exception. Consequently, there's a growing recognition that we need new strategies and tactics for social change.

In 2010, recognizing these shifts and eager to experiment with new approaches to philanthropy, the San Francisco-based Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) launched a program called Pioneers in Justice, offering intense support to a cohort of Bay Area Gen X leaders who had recently become executive directors of legacy social justice organizations. Over the past few years, the program has helped these nonprofits build social media skills, transform their aging organizations, and mobilize larger networks and movements to drive greater social change. In short, it has helped them cross the chasm from old ways of working to new.

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