The Johnson Center for Learning and Impact

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”             

 – Albert Einstein

Community-based organizations face a variety of entrenched social and environmental challenges that limit their ability to significantly and sustainably impact the physical, mental and financial well-being of families and communities. To strengthen the capacity of community organizations  to face these complex, longstanding challenges and the novel forms they take, we must change the way that we think and act. 

This requires us to ask better questions, gather better data, learn from the lived experience of community members and strive to understand root causes of societal challenges. Effective organizations will devise and test new solutions and disseminate them with others. Those solutions will be cost effective, achieving economies of scale – and scope.

This year, Isles moves into a 5th decade of fostering family self-reliance and community health in challenged and disinvested places. We believe:

  • community-based organizations need better data, knowledge and tools to address the root causes or “upstream” factors that negatively impact the health and well-being of families and their communities.
  • new ways of thinking and testing approaches to long-standing challenges require consistent and patient financial support.
  • effective social entrepreneurs and innovators can be taught and supported, but they must be guided by those impacted by the challenges they seek to address.
  • public policies should be driven by community-informed experiences, knowledge, and perspectives, as well as data.
  • we have an opportunity and responsibility to create and share innovative and effective solutions for communities in similar settings.

The Solution

What if we could….

  • provide a dedicated place, team and partnerships for researching and developing new approaches to community challenges
  • share what we find to help nonprofits and others learn and grow their impact
  • strengthen public policy and bring community-based solutions to policy influencers
  • train future generations to think critically and entrepreneurially with public good and social impact in mind
  • educate the public on the advantages of entrepreneurial approaches, and
  • build these practices and knowledge under one integrated roof?

The Johnson Center will scale Isles’ impact through research, data and mapping, public policy change, public education, training future leaders and supporting others working in challenged communities. It will help other organizations shift their focus upstream to the source of the challenges and the “systems” that propagate them. 

Finally, the Center will partner with others that share and benefit from our learning – colleges and universities, community-based organizations, policy think tanks and public opinion leaders.