Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS

We have covered the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) website, the blog, a webinar, articles, and an event of Stanford PACS on Innov8Social. So it was a special experience to sit down with Kim Meredith, the Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS)–the research center dedicated to studying social innovation and which publishes the SSIR.

PACS is an remarkable ecosystem supporting academic research in philanthropy & social innovation. It produces and crowdsources ideas and experience through the SSIR online and print publications, conducts webinars, hosts free live workshops, and supports emerging research in this evolving field.

Its leader, Kim Meredith, is in an instant warm, knowledgeable, and engaged in the nuances of the field as well as the overarching high-level topics surrounding social innovation, philanthropy, and community engagement. She shared her broad vision for PACS and SSIR, what drives her work, and how the broader community can stay connected with the important social impact work being done there.

You can hear Kim explain the mission and work of PACS in this brief video:

Q&A with Kim Meredith, Executive Director of Stanford PACS

What is PACS?

[Kim Meredith, PACS]: PACS is a research center for scholars, practitioners, leaders, and publisher of the SSIR, focusing on topics of business, law, education in civil society. It emphasizes cross-sector collaboration, forming cross-disciplinary discussions and relationships, to be a center of knowledge-creation and sharing. It has 3 full-time faculty co-directors with backgrounds spanning organizational behavior, Political Science, and Law.
Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS

How has PACS grown since its start?

[Kim Meredith]: PACS has seen remarkable growth in the past few years—both in size of the center and its reach. PACS started out employing one full-time faculty member and now employees nine employees, and has scaled six times in two and-a-half years.

What goals have guided your work at PACS?

[Kim Meredith]: I learned about the position opening through my daughter, who was attending Stanford at the time. The vision and goals put forth regarding PACS fit well with my executive experience at Planned Parenthood and I was enthusiastic about pursuing the growth potential of PACS.
The goals that have guided me have been simple:
  • Acquire SSIR, which was originally housed in the Stanford business school.  The addition of SSIR has facilitated a deeper degree of knowledge-sharing, and has brought that publication into the same building as other impact-related research initiatives.
  • Fund valuable research. I outlined this as a priority so as to establish PACS as a center of learning and knowledge creation. It has been remarkable to see the level of engagement and sharing that PACS represents today—through publications, curriculum, and events.
  • Go global.  Our team has been working closely with Peking University in China to create a research center for Stanford faculty, students, and field practitioners to research philanthropy and civil society in China. The efforts resulted in Stanford PACS Peking (note: read an interesting interview with Kim Meredith re: the Peking campus)

What kinds of events does PACS host?

[Kim Meredith]: Recent PACS events have included:
Philanthropy Educators Symposium: The largest-ever convening of philanthropy educators, hosted by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) in partnership with the Learning by Giving Foundation and Giving 2.0.
10 Years of SSIR: 10 year anniversary celebration with remarks by Paul Brest, PACS faculty co-director,and others
Donors Choose + charity: water: Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Stanford PACS Founder and Board Chairman, leads a conversation with Charles Best, Founder and CEO of, and Scott Harrison, Founder and CEO of charity:water.
GoodJobs event: A challenge focused on open data, jobs, and the social sector. GoodJobs invites Stanford students to create mobile and web tools that will help young people access social impact jobs.

Who are the current faculty directors?

[Kim Meredith]: Stanford PACS is guided by three thought leaders in the impact space.
  • Woody Powell, Professor of Education and by courtesy Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication;
  • Rob Reich, Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty Director of the Program on Ethics in Society and, by courtesy, of Philosophy and the School of Education; and
  • Paul Brest, Professor of Law, Emeritus and Former Dean of the School of Law, and formerPresident of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

What is “civil society”?

[Kim Meredith]: It refers to what is popularly called the “third sector”, independent of government and business.

What is the role of foundations in philanthropic giving?

Interview with Kim Meredith, Stanford PACS
continued reading: Giving 2.0,
SSIR 10th Anniversary edition,
upcoming event flier…thanks Kim!
[Kim Meredith]: Foundations only account for about 14% of philanthropic giving. Individuals give the lion’s share, i.e. over 80%, of giving. Beyond monetary contributions, foundations are drivers of change, they raise awareness about key issues, and work strategically to achieve outcome-oriented action.

What is the “new social economy”?

[Kim Meredith]: It encompasses the space between public, philanthropic, and private sector. The new social economy often involves nonprofit, as well as hybrid structures, and has opened up a new kind of discussion about mission-based ventures.

Do you see funding institutions that embrace this venture philanthropy mindset?

[Kim Meredith]: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (sv2) and Full Circle Fund are two funds that are actively engaged in this space.

What role do you think bloggers and entrants to the social innovation space can have? 

[Kim Meredith]: Bloggers and newcomers to this field can play a vital role in identifying, sourcing, and analyzing relevant, big data. There is an increasing need for qualified data, and writers and researchers in the field may be well-poised to address this need.
Answering these questions such as who is collecting data, how is it being collected, and where is it stored, creates an informed discussion about giving, philanthropy, and impact

Do you have any book recommendations?

[Kim Meredith]: Giving 2.0
and The Dragonfly Effect
are books that frame the social innovation and philanthropy issues and provide insight into emerging trends.

Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) hosted a thoughtful discussion last week on funding avenues social entrepreneurs can pursue to support and grow their ventures.A panel of five speakers representing unique sectors shared perspectives on non-profit grants, impact investing, venture capitalist investing, program-related investments, and perspectives from being a social entrepreneur in the field.

The panel discussion was followed by a brief Q&A and then breakout groups to further discuss nuances of various funding models. Below are a few key points made by each speaker.
Stanford PACS Panel

Kim Meredith, Executive Director of PACS (moderator)

Kim welcomed guests and outlined four initiatives related to social innovation that the Center supports.  These include:
Stanford PACS program


4 Initiatives by PACS for Social Innovation:
Kim then introduced the panel made of diverse players and perspectives in the social impact field.

Jenny Shilling Stein, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.

Jenny provided insight on how her organization selects social innovators to receive funding from the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, which focuses on funding early-stage high-impact nonprofit organizations. She emphasized that her organization believes that great people make great change and that much of the evaluation has to do with the leader. Her team pays close attention to characteristics of the leader, past experience in leadership and management, and the ability to maintain great judgment, especially in challenging situations.
The Foundation also takes into account the impact of the model and how the social initiative will address deep needs.

Susan Phinney Silver, Program-Related Investment Officer at the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.

Susan provided a unique perspective on program-related investment—a funding model that enables foundations to invest in philanthropic projects where the return on investment is not the primary outcome sought. She highlighted that although the space of social entrepreneur investment may feel fairly new,  foundations such as the Packard Foundation have been engaging in PRI’s for the past 15 years.
She emphasized that it is key for a social innovator to study the areas of focus of various foundations. However compelling a new social venture may be, if it is not aligned with the goals and mission of the foundation, it could be a hard sell.
A few areas of focus of the Packard Foundation include land conservation, kids and education, climate change, and reproductive rights. She said her organization looks for a strong programmatic focus with on impact-related outcomes. She also mentioned that part of the assessment in granting a PRI is what the funding will mean for the venture and whether it has the potential of attracting other forms of funding as well.Innov8Social addressed program-related investment last year, in connection with the L3C legal structure aimed at streamlining the process of granting PRI’s.

Liz Rockett, Vice President of Imprint Capital.

Liz’s area of focus at Imprint Capital–an impact investment firm–is health practice and improvement of domestic healthcare.  She mentioned that she has noticed a trend in the five years the firm has been in existence. Namely, she has seen a rise in the number of private wealth looking to enter the impact investment market.
Also dubbed “patient capital” impact investment is a funding model that anticipates a modest rate of return as a social venture focuses on impact and scalability.

Michael Dorsey, Managing Partner at the Westley Group.

The Westley Group is a venture capital firm that specializes in investment in cleantech companies. Prior to his role at Westley, Dorsey was co-led the Bay Area Equity Fund that successfully funded cleantech ventures including Tesla, PowerLight, and SolarCity.
Michael reassured the audience that there is money available for driven, focused social innovators. He cited universities such as Stanford and Duke that have campaigned to raise billions of dollars on funding that can support interdisciplinary approaches to technology, impact, and innovation.
In answering how social innovators can raise funds, Michael emphasized the importance of matching the donor with the need—if there’s a real need—and an excellent team.

Sunita Mohanty, Business Development at Lumosity.

Sunita provided a perspective from the field. She shared her experience of being part of a social impact startup that did not proceed forward. She has since parlayed her skill set in finance, strategy, and education into a business development and strategic partnerships role at Lumosity—an online platform and app that leverages neuroscience to create games and exercises that improve core cognitive abilities.She noted that for a social venture, early stage funding can be a mixed blessing. While providing capital and stability it can also lead a startup to pursuing more angles of their venture instead of focusing on perfecting a main strategy. 

If you find yourself at a roundtable discussion about law, policy, and social innovation there is a good chance you will hear buzzwords like fiduciary duty, Dodge v. Ford, Revlon, maximizing shareholder wealth, legal structures, benefit corporations, flexible purpose corporations, and business judgment rule.Key in all of that will be an account of some of the historical happenings in corporate law and how they hammered out our understanding about the way corporations, as distinct legal entities, relate to the individuals who own them (i.e. shareholders).And somewhere in the narrative, there’s a good chance that the story of the sale of Ben and Jerry’s will come up.

SSIR Article about the Sale of Ben and Jerry’s

In the Fall 2012 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Indiana University Law professors Antony Page and Robert A. Katz address the story of Ben and Jerry’s in an eloquent article titled, “The Truth About Ben and Jerry’s” that recalls the history of the company and context of its eventual sale to Unilever, and the impact of the sale to the social entrepreneurial vibe of the ice cream company.

Related Innov8Social Posts

As you read the article you may be searching for further background on some of the topics raised and buzzwords mentioned. Here are a few Innov8Social articles that may help.


Is There Still a Role for New Legal Structures for Social Innovation?

The SSIR article leaves it to the reader to decide on whether new legal structures are necessary, and if so, to what extent such structures should strive to create a presence in each state. In an earlier post, I suggested that these new legal structures may serve to formalize a way of measuring double and triple bottom lines.

Whether you are an avid supporter of new legal structures for social innovation, or are on the side of using existing legal constructs to support social entrepreneurship, the article provides a valuable history of the sale and its context.  And, above all, it keeps the discussion alive. It is through discussion, debate, and action that we can impact law and policy, that impact social entrepreneurs, who are steadfast on changing the way business is done.

There’s nothing quite like being in a room of 1000+ individuals interested, curious, and passionate about of exploring ways of connecting social media with social innovation. Unless, you can do it in the comfort of your own computer, from anywhere in the world.Stanford Social Innovation Review has been producing and hosting compelling content in the social innovation and social entrepreneurship realm for years. But earlier today they tried something new. Partnering with Living Cities, SSIR hosted a free webinar and invited Q&A via online, live submission.


The Webinar 411: Leadership & Innovation with Digital Media (#hyperconnect)

Leading in a Hyperconnected World: Driving Innovation & Impact with Digital Media
Wednesday, May 30th 2012. 11AM PST.
Ben Hecht, President & CEO of Living Cities (Moderator, SSIR blogger)
Stephen J. Downs, CTO & Information Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Claire Diaz Ortiz, Head of Social Innovation at Twitter
Watch the recording here. Official Twitter hashtag #hyperconnect

Below are some key takeaways from the panelists.

Ben Hecht (@benhecht) Shares His Top 3 Lists

Ben Hecht of Living Cities handily kicked off the webinar with some helpful, organized insight. Namely in the form of three easy-to-digest top 3 lists.

3 Reasons to use Social Media:

  1. To share intelligence and ideas
  2. To get realtime feedback
  3. To broadcast knowledge with a broader network

3 Principles that Living Cities Follows:

  1. Mine. This including mining at all stages of development (i.e. early ideation, emerging idea development, and for refining ideas).
  2. Engage. Ben underscored the goal of his organization to engage continuously, rather than transacting. He said that information flow should be two-way.
  3. Let go. Once the information is out there, he suggested stepping away, letting go, and decentralizing the information so it can move on its own.

3 Things that Living Cities Has Learned:

  1. Ideas really can go viral. Ben highlighted one instance when a single blog post was read by over 170K individuals, through simple sharing and re-posting through various social media platforms.
  2. Social media can make the adjacent possible. Innovation comes when innovations from different sectors collide and intersect. Social media, positioned Ben, enables those collisions and intersections, thus furthering and enabling new innovation.
  3. Social media networks can strengthen problem-solving resources. Perhaps couched on the idea of losing what you don’t share, Ben mentioned that his organization has benefited in trouble-shooting and strategizing longer-term solutions through tapping their social media networks for tips and best practices.


Steve Downs (@stephenjdowns) Connects Leadership with Social Media

Steve Downs of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explained his organization’s mission and overall usage of social media and refocused the discussion on social media to one about how to utilize digital platforms to further leadership, especially in the mission-driven world.

He outlined his organization’s multi-faceted approach to social media as involving openness, participation, and decentralization. Steve underscored the importance of participating in the social media stream rather than using it only to push content.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz (@ClaireD) Shows Us How It Works

Claire Diaz-Ortiz of Twitter illustrated the power of social media through the story of photojournalist James Bock, his initial reluctance in using Twitter, and how it literally saved him from jail time while covering protests in Egypt in 2008. Read the story on CNN here.

She also provided an evolved look at the slacktivism, highlighting the statistic that 40% of those using social media platforms are consuming content rather than producing it. Taking the edge off of passive use of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other—she emphasized the importance of an engaged audience, and how those individual touch points could lead to further involvement and leadership in the future.

Questions to Ponder

There were a number of great user-generated questions. Ones that were not only useful to hear the panelists discuss, but would also be equally useful for social entrepreneurs and innovators to ask of themselves and their own efforts.

  • Is it important to adapt to the paradigm shift?
  • How can you take online dialogues offline?
  • How will you measure ROI with social media?
The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley. And it shows. While SSIR has traditionally been associated with the quarterly print magazine, the institution has been forging into 2.0 mode by adding depth and breadth to the website. One feature of the website to explore is the SSIR blog.

(You can take the “Newbie Tour” of the SSIR website that we compiled earlier, here)

SSIR logo website
Get to Know the SSIR Blog: 5 Things

1. Over 800 posts

With its inaugural post published in January 2004, the SSIR blog started out as a way to talk about social innovation news. With posts of just a paragraph or so, it was the thoughtful, thorough comments to the initial posts that brought unique value to the blog then. Fast forward nearly 8 years and over 800 posts and you see an 2.0 SSIR blog.

Here the articles and authors tell engaging stories. Personal and revealing or abstract and questioning—the posts present well-articulated views of issues, developments, and experiences in the social innovation space.

2. Who Writes

There is no single profile of the SSIR blog authors. They come from academia, research, practice, fieldwork, entrepreneurship, non-profit, consulting, foundations, organizational leadership, and government…among others. Social innovation cannot exist in a vacuum, and the broad range of authors contributing to the blog shows that SSIR recognizes the blog as a unique tool to engage, draw in, and create community.

3. Who Reads

Just as there is no “cookie-cutter” profile of a contributor, neither is there one for an SSIR blog reader. And whether you are a student debating whether to pursue a path in social innovation, a practitioner looking learn from other vantage points, or a policy-maker looking to glean from the experience of others—the SSIR blog is an easy way to tap into to the theory of the field and the experiences of those knee-deep in it.

4. Posts to Read

Here is a sampling of a few posts of interest:

5. Taking Submissions

The SSIR blog is not a one-way street, where you can only go to read posts. They take submissions too. The SSIR blog looks for content that is interesting, original, and expresses important concepts and insights in social innovation.

For me, SSIR has always presented a high bar of commitment, knowledge, and expertise in social innovation. And it is an honor to have a guest post published on the SSIR blog this week.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is the premier publication for the study of social innovation. And that’s key to know if you are exploring the field as a career or social innovation hobbyist.SSIR magazine covers

SSIR is Breadth and Depth

SSIR features stories on a broad range of issues ranging from education, socially responsible investment, social entrepreneurship, social media movements, foundation perspectives, non-profit management, to global issues such as poverty, education, and human rights. And it delves into issues—through various media platforms, interviews with thought leaders, and community engagement.If you are a social innovation newbie, you may want to take a tour of what’s available before you commit to becoming an SSIR member receiving glossy quarterly magazines and premium access to SSIR’s robust website.

Below are a few suggestions on how to traverse your way through the online treasure trove that is the SSIR website. According to SSIR, only 20% of the website is accessible to non-subscribers. So this is an effort to ensure that you know what is available to the public and where to find it.

6 Things A Non-Subscriber Can Do on

1. Tune in to Podcasts

Select the Podcasts tab and you will be taken to the index page listing podcasts available for listening. The podcasts are ordered by date and indicate cost in brackets. Notably, the vast majority of the podcasts listed are free to the public for viewing.
Here are a few podcast titles of interest:

2. Read Book Reviews

Whether you bookworm the old-fashioned way—with pages—or have adopted a tablet for reading, SSIR book reviews may provide inspiration for your next book club pick. The listings include links to buy the book and the reviews are available for public perusal.
Here are a few interesting reads and excerpts of the SSIR reviews:

(review by Chip Pitts): “Its main contribution may be that it highlights the vital need for greater and more ethical generosity—and for continuous improvement of the effectiveness of the “new philanthropy.

(review by Joel Fleishman): “The short of it is, I plan to make this book required reading for students in my 2009 spring term course on philanthropy, voluntarism, and nonprofit law and management at Duke University.

(review by Diana Wells): “His book is well written, accessible to nonacademic readers, and datarich— Light balances substantial literature review (500 studies) with the presentation and analysis of his own multiple research endeavors.”

3. Engage in the Community

Just like Prince promises you don’t have to be rich to be his girl, SSIR assures that you don’t need to be a subscriber to start engaging in its robust community. For articles accessible to the general public, you can comment and discuss using the comment boxes. If you are new to the field and trying to build understanding and awareness, these comment fields can very useful in connecting and engaging.

4. Sign Up for the Free Weekly eNewsletter

Go to the SSIR homepage and in the right navigation bar you will see your a space to easily and painlessly sign up for the weekly Stanford Social Innovation Review enewsletter. It’s a quick add and can plug you into SSIR’s upcoming events and publications.

5. Peruse Accessible Articles

If you find yourself to be more of kinesthetic learner, you may be eager to get out to live events and engage with a community by shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and asking questions using your vocal chords rather than your keyboard. The SSIR Events page lists upcoming happenings with links to registration or more information.
Here is a snapshot of events listed for the coming months:

(Sept 6-9, San Francisco)

(Oct 27-30)

(Oct 28-29, Portland)

(Oct 31-Nov 2, Chicago)

6. Follow SSIR

And one of the easiest ways to connect with SSIR website content is simply to follow SSIR on Facebook, on Twitter, or via LinkedIn. It’s a way to let the content come to meet you.

And if you like what you see as a new user, you can always consider ‘investing’ in change by signing up to be an SSIR member and gaining access to much more of the site including digital archives of past magazine issues, webinars, and other podcasts and content.

Intrigued? I definitely was when I read a recent blog post from the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled “Monk, Architect, Diplomat” by Mark Albion.Don’t hold your breath for a punchlineAnd it turns out the post didn’t just have a witty title to pull readers in, well, unwittingly (on that note I will admit that I do give a hearty mental ‘bravo’ to witting, insightful, or just plain well-put titles). The article was a well-reasoned piece on how social entrepreneurs can successful scale-up as their organizations grow. Rather than lack of finances, Albion argues that the underlying reason social entrepreneurs have difficulty scaling to a larger version of themselves is due to challenges in leadership.Albion focuses his leadership advice into three simple statements:

1. Be a monk, not a father.

2. Be an architect, not a captain.

3. Be a diplomat, not a dictator.

Through these metaphors he describes the successful expanding social entrepreneur as one who is socially engaged in her work, and mindful of her impact on others. For the greater goal of the mission and vision, she is willing and capable of distributing leadership and building a strong team. And she’ll spot the forest from the trees by not hesitating to be collaborative and compassionate.

It’s a great read. And inspiring. Sometimes being in a hierarchical framework such as a corporation, non-profit, or social enterprise it may seem like you are on a ladder with the options being continuing up, falling back, or holding still. This article and metaphors of leadership, allow us to be makers of a delicate yet resilient web of work—far reaching, three dimensional, and progressing in more than one direction. I like it, and I like the possibility and scope of thinking of meaningful leadership in this way.

If I had to add a #4 to Albion’s list, it would be:

4. Be a sherpa, not a ranger.

While I have not been in a position to scale-up a social enterprise as Albion describes, I have been part of the active leadership of social organizations that have changed hands. And I have seen first-hand the importance of sherpa-ness. While sherpas (Wikipedia) supply the necessary support and guidance on a demanding trek, it is not their hike. They serve as support for those who have chosen to undertake a challenging journey.

In the same way, “alumni” or subsequent generations of an organization or cause don’t necessarily need to hide under a rock so as not to influence the path of successive leadership. But I think they can benefit from seeing themselves and their accumulated expertise as support. Perhaps the support that would have helped them when they were actively leading or the support to help traverse a particularly tricky pass. Most of all they should form the support that is asked for by the noveau leaders.

While rangers no doubt save lives, prevent forest fires, and maintain pristine surroundings—in a social entrepreneurship venture ‘naysaying’ by organization alums may create confusion and uncertainty that can handicap a growing organization.

Read on: