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July 1, 2016

This week, six San Diego nonprofit teams — Kitchens for Good, Mission Edge/Impact Without Borders, the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Foundation and San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) — convened for two and a half days to tackle some of their most pressing problems and explore some promising ideas. San Diego Foundation sponsored the Moves the Needle Nonprofit/Social Impact Innovation Boot Camp in San Diego. The intensive program uses a proven lean innovation framework to teach nonprofit leaders to learn before executing, optimizing results and sustainability and maximizing impact.

Throughout the process, each team dug into a particular problem or idea, conducting research, challenging assumptions, determining feasibility and creating prototypes of their data-driven solutions. In just 48 hours, each team had tackled a problem long talked about by their organization. Kitchens for Good, for example, researched putting their craft beer-infused products into farmer’s markets — finding that after sharing their recipes, as well as their story, most markets were eager to make room for their unique brand.

SDWP’s team tackled its invoicing process, which is known to be a pain point among internal staff and external partners. The team drew great inspiration from one interview in particular, during which a partner shared she spends 16 hours a month on the invoicing process, often skipping lunch breaks and never taking vacations the first two weeks of the month to get it done. In just two days, they had a prototype for a new invoicing process to replace the 15-year-old solution currently in use. SDWP expects a 20–50 percent time savings when the prototype is finalized, freeing up hundreds hours to increase workforce development impact across the region.

“The space where innovation seems toughest, is often where it’s needed most,” said Andy Hall, SDWP Vice President and Chief Program Officer. “If we ask the right questions, to the right people, we’ll get to the right solutions.” This gained insight helped earn the group the “excellence in customer insights” award along with being honored for best project overall during final presentations.

Each team left the boot camp with encouragement to find data-driven solutions, challenge assumptions, follow the evidence and involve the customer all along the way. By implementing these methods, we can create a greater impact in our region.

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