Fairmount InSights

Let’s face it: the social sector is not for the faint of heart. It tackles some of humanity’s most unremitting challenges. While the work can be fulfilling, it can at times seem too great. But within the sector there are (hundreds of) thousands of inspiring individuals who refuse to endorse the conventional thinking that suggests “it’s not possible to end [insert issue here] in one’s lifetime.”

Here are two organizations that have captured my attention for their creativity, audacity and determination to prove that standard mantra false by aggressively pursuing scale:

The Spark Program

The Challenge: The national drop-out crisis

Points of Leverage: Bull’s-eye focus on the problem, mentor-protégé relationships and public-private-sector partnerships.

Theory of Change: A youth that connects with a professional who does what that youth dreams of one day doing will experience the school-to-career connection and be more determined to graduate.

Growth path: Founded in San Francisco, 2004 –> expanded to Los Angeles, 2010 –> piloted in Chicago, 2011–> preparing for launch in Philadelphia in collaboration with the Wharton Social Impact Project, 2013.


The Challenge: The global shortfall of 1.8 billion formal jobs resulting in unemployment for 60% of the 3 billion people seeking formal work.

Points of Leverage: Innovative technology, public-private-sector partnerships and 21st-century job skills to bring poverty alleviation into the 21st Century.

Theory of Change: Give people jobs and they can feed and educate themselves.

Growth Path: Founded in San Francisco, 2008 –>16 field partners throughout Africa, India and the Caribbean, 2012.

What organizations have captured your attention for their dogged commitment to addressing problems of seemingly insurmountable scale?