Social Innovation Institute

The goal of the Social Innovation Institute is to identify and support bold, emerging leaders in the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector. Through the power of peer support, cutting-edge skills and action-oriented research, this Institute provides participants with a place to foster greater engagement and innovation—both within their organization and for the region more generally.

The Social Innovation Institute focuses on three major components:
Data and Technology (Policy Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Community Resources), Narrative Change (Framing, Messaging, Storytelling), and Action (Civic Engagement, Advocacy, and Social Enterprise). These three components move the discussion from traditional capacity building approaches to transformative tools and strategies for the nonprofit sector.

Our inaugural cohort showed us the power of civic transformation. Not only was the selection process competitive (over 40 applicants applied for 20 slots), they represented nonprofit leaders at various stages in their careers, and included a wide variety of nonprofits in the Inland Empire: from location (High Desert, Coachella Valley, Temecula, Riverside and San Bernardino metro), to services provided (foster youth advocacy, housing, immigrant services, health services, and more), and organizational size. While the cohort is diverse in size, scope, and scale, they all are committed to innovating and elevating the contributions of nonprofits the Inland Empire.

The cohort met for 2 two-day sessions in July and August 2018 at UC Riverside where they learned from nonprofit leaders and other social innovators in the region, and engaged with each other on how to cultivate and sustain their work in the IE’s nonprofit sector. During the first session, the cohort learned about key concepts and research on Data and Technology, Narrative Change, and Action (Civic Engagement, Advocacy, and Social Enterprise) through presentations, panel discussions with regional leaders, and group discussions.

Following the first session, participants were given the task to explore these concepts and experiment on how these may be applied to their work as nonprofit professionals and in their organization’s work. These assignments including developing blog posts, calls to action, and policy memos on behalf of their organizations. The cohort reconvened in August to share and present their work, and to deepen the ongoing dialogue about the program’s key concepts and objectives.

Overall, participants noted that they had gained new skills and perspectives that went beyond what they had gained in prior courses and workshops on capacity building. The cohort was also united in its desire to shift the narrative of the region from a needs- and deficit-driven narrative to one focused on innovation, collaboration, and new leadership. We hope to continue engaging with our alumni from the institute, and to find ways to connect, support, and inspire the next generation of leaders in the region.

Click here for bios and photos from our inaugural Social Innovation Institute cohort.


The Social Innovation Institute was made possible by generous support from The Weingart Foundation and James Irvine Foundation.