Cover of Innovation and Scaling for Impact by Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair
Innovation and Scaling for Impact
How Effective Social Enterprises Do It
Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair


256 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804797344
Paperback ISBN: 9781503611610
Ebook ISBN: 9781503600997

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Winner of the 2017 Terry McAdam Nonprofit Book Award, sponsored by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.

Winner of the 2018 ONE Book Award, sponsored by the Academy of Management (AOM) - Organizations and the Natural Environment Division.

Winner of the 2019 Virginia A. Hodgkinson Research Book Prize, awarded jointly by ARNOVA and Independent Sector.

Innovation and Scaling for Impact forces us to reassess how social sector organizations create value. Drawing on a decade of research, Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair transcend widely held misconceptions, getting to the core of what a sound impact strategy entails in the nonprofit world. They reveal an overlooked nexus between investments that might not pan out (innovation) and expansion based on existing strengths (scaling). In the process, it becomes clear that managing this tension is a difficult balancing act that fundamentally defines an organization and its impact.

The authors examine innovation pathologies that can derail organizations by thwarting their efforts to juggle these imperatives. Then, through four rich case studies, they detail innovation archetypes that effectively sidestep these pathologies and blend innovation with scaling. Readers will come away with conceptual models to drive progress in the social sector and tools for defining the future of their organizations.

About the authors

Christian Seelos is a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and the Leo Tindemans Chair of Business Model Innovation at the University of Leuven.

Johanna Mair is Professor of Management, Organization, and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance and Hewlett Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. She serves as Academic Editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

"Social innovation and scaling are the engines for a prosperous and inclusive economy. We need many more models as described in this book by Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair."

—Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, World Economic Forum

"With precise thinking and compelling examples, Seelos and Mair analyze how social sector organizations create value. They reveal that success hinges on balancing innovation and scaling in a way that makes sense for each enterprise. Anyone working on important social challenges will benefit from their perspectives and practical advice."

—Zia Khan, Vice President of Initiatives and Strategy, The Rockefeller Foundation

"Based on a decade of research, this compelling book is a must-read for anyone interested in how social enterprises are organized. Academics will appreciate the precision with which Seelos and Mair tackle their topic, and practitioners will value the refreshing practical advice offered by these authors. A timely corrective to some of the commonly held myths in the social sector, this book has potential to save entrepreneurs much heartache and confusion."

—Sarah Soule, Stanford University

"No one understands the delicate balance between innovation and scale better than Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair. Their new book is equally rigorous and dynamic, illuminating the way forward for all of us on the frontlines of social change."

—Darren Walker, President, the Ford Foundation

"With four cases incorporating the voices of social entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and India, Seelos and Mair develop a practical framework that challenges conventional wisdom about how to create social impact. Stirring reading for any practitioner or scholar who cares about solving social problems!"

—Julie Battilana, Harvard Business School

"Seelos and Mair illuminate how two of the most important ideas—innovation and scale—create impact in the social sector. Through careful observation of four high-impact, global nonprofits, this book goes beyond hype to explore how organizations actually evolve their capabilities over time. The authors' focus on impact as the measure of success and organizational building blocks as the means to achievement is a refreshing alternative to the 'silver bullet' solutions often peddled to leaders."

—Jeffrey L. Bradach, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, The Bridgespan Group

"Drawing on over fifteen years of research with diverse social enterprises in Bangladesh and India, Seelos and Mair provide practical frameworks and tools for innovation and scaling. Not all innovation creates value; this book will help social entrepreneurs make smart choices and maximize their positive impact."

—Jerry Davis, University of Michigan, Ross School of Business and author of The Vanishing American Corporation

"Seelos and Mair have written an insightful, seminal work that deals with how social sector organizations create value. Value creation is framed through the lens of innovation; that innovation is then scaled for maximal impact. The authors replace 'innovation logic with an impact-creation logic.' They develop a theoretical approach and four extensive case studies and apply the theoretical approach to those four cases so readers come away with a clear conceptual model...This illuminating read is for anybody interested in organizational management/behavior with important contributions to the world of social business and beyond...Essential"

—S. A. Schulman, Choice