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New Taylor Center Publication From The Research & Scholarship Team Brings Complexity Thinking To Sports-based Youth Development Organizations Aiming For System Change

New Taylor Center publication from the Research & Scholarship team brings complexity thinking to sports-based youth development organizations aiming for system change

In an article for the Journal of Strategic Innovation & Sustainability titled  “The Value of an Ecosystem-Based Approach to Organizational Sustainability: The Case of a Hybrid Sports-Based Youth Development Social Venture in the US South”, Dr. Anna Monhartova and Dr. Laura Murphy explore new thinking in social innovation drawing from complexity-thinking, bringing non-linear models for non-profit entities aiming to create system change.  Their article applies an ‘enriched, ecosystems approach’ that accounts for non-linearity in relationships between inputs and outputs, potential tipping points, dynamic contexts, and accounts for a range of human, institutional and even non-human actors, capturing the various relationships and their multi-directional characteristics. It introduces additional factors, such as feedback loops and emergent changes, that can allow an organization to find new strategies towards sustainability and social impact.  The authors apply this ecosystem model to social entrepreneurial organizations operating in the field of sports-based youth development (SBYD) via the case of A’s & Aces, a New Orleans-based organization that aims to make sports (specifically tennis) accessible to diverse youth.  The article and its findings utilize first-hand experience and organizational data from A’s & Aces programs.

Key findings from this case study offer ways to think about system resilience in a context of great uncertainty, and a system perspective, rather than isolated, organizational growth or profit. What has emerged from this ecosystems framework is novel and relevant, and offers insights that the linear theory of change and logic model do not reveal: real ‘sustainability’ will not come from a steady source of revenue, but from the resilience of the system to overall sets of threats, challenges, and unexpected dampening effects. Therefore, touching on other popular themes in social entrepreneurship, scale is not about organizational size nor enterprise impact, but the focus is on system-wide impact, strengthening networks, and building the community that comprises the system. Understanding these complexities and non-linear, dynamic changes can help guide organizational strategy towards more sustainability and long-term social impact. This framework can be applied to other organizations that are working towards social change while navigating complex environments effecting their sustainability.

The article was published in the Journal of Strategic Innovation & Sustainability (Volume 16 No. 1), a journal that applies a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing various challenges of managing innovation and sustainability, encouraging interaction between academics and practitioners.  This journal uses open source publishing system.

This article is one recent output from the research and scholarship team at Taylor, who have been publishing and disseminating various works on social innovation. See more at

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