The RISE Framework for Social Change

July 09, 2020

Rebecca Riccio, Khaled & Olfat Juffali Director, Social Impact Lab, Northeastern University

The RISE Framework organizes the characteristics that position a nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission effectively, efficiently, and ethically into the categories of: Relevance, Impact, Sustainability, Excellence in Management and Operations. The framework can be used by nonprofit leaders as a dashboard for assessing and building their organizational capacity and by donors seeking to support the work of high-performing organizations. The RISE Framework is aspirational and adaptable, not definitive or rigid. 

Assessing an organization’s RELEVANCE:

Relevance determines if the organization is meaningfully connected to the people and community it works with; the need or problem it is addressing; and the other people and entities that have a stake in it. The org should strive to: 

  • Authentically and meaningfully connect to and engage with the individuals and community it serves and engages them as part of the solution.  
  • Understand the ecosystem it inhabits; the forces that converge to generate the need or problem it addresses; and the various levers of change that can be pushed to address it.  
  • Know what other actors or stakeholders are affected by or engaged with this need or problem and works collaboratively with them when appropriate. 
  • Clearly articulate the nature and scope of the unmet or insufficiently addressed need using data, evidence, and community input. 
  • Understand what is known about “what works” (and what doesn’t) in relation to the need or problem and has identified a real opportunity to effect change. 

Practical Questions when examining RELEVANCE:

Consider asking these questions when to determine an organization’s relevance; remember, relevance looks different for each organization. 

  • How has the organization brought members of the community it serves to the decision-making table? 
  • Are community members serving on the board? 
  • What is a meaningful way for the organization to gather information from the community it serves? 
  • How and when does the organization leverage partnerships with other stakeholders to better serve the community? 
  • Does the mission statement articulate the issue it is addressing? 
  • Is there evidence and data provided that underscores their work?

Done viewing the material? Start your case studies here