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The Integration of Innovation, Markets, and Impact: The Next Big Thing?

Efforts to improve the world and increase one’s wealth have long been characterized as opposing forces. If Mother Teresa and Ebenezer Scrooge walked into a bar, it would make a great premise for a joke. Today, it might also be the origin story of a social enterprise or a meetup for impact investors. Tomorrow, many argue, it will be the dominant trend. In this talk, Dr. John Gargani will critically examine this trend, which he defines as the integration of market practices and mindsets with efforts to promote social, environmental, health and other impacts. Gargani suggests that doing so forces organizations and institutions to redefine three fundamental concepts—impact, innovation, and the greater good—and develop new evaluation and research methods to advance them. Gargani provides examples of some new methods and conclude by asking whether this trend is democratizing social impact or restricting it further.


John Gargani, PhD

President and Founder, Gargani + Company

John Gargani is the President and Founder of Gargani + Company, Inc., a program design and evaluation firm located in Berkeley, California. John and his staff design and implement evaluations to help non-profit organizations, foundations, corporations, and government agencies achieve their social missions and measure their social impacts. John served as the 2016 President of the American Evaluation Association, the largest professional association for evaluators in the world.

John is committed to training the next generation of evaluators, and teaches graduate courses on social entrepreneurship and program design. He conducts workshops on social return on investment, program design, and evaluation methods for professionals around the world. John also directs a graduate research group that studies and develops methods for valuing program impacts in economic terms.

Over the past 20 years, John’s work has taken him to diverse settings, including public housing projects, museums, countries adopting free market economies, and 19th century sailing ships. He has designed innovative social enterprises, directed large-scale randomized trials, and created novel technologies that measure how people think. John’s areas of expertise include integration of service delivery, evaluation, and technology; the development of sophisticated assessments and surveys; analyzing social return on investment; and the design and management of rigorous experimental trials of program effectiveness.

John holds three graduate degrees—a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied measurement and evaluation; an M.S. in Statistics from the New York University Stern School of Business; and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.