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Since its inception in 2004, Root Cause has been exploring how financial and human resources can improve more people’s lives.

Underlying each chapter of our 15 year journey is a relentless focus on continuous learning and improvement. Since 2004, we have worked with more than 400 partners throughout the United States.

Chapter 1 Root Cause Icon

A Learning Lab for Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation


Root Cause launches a new type of non profit consulting service that provides business planning for nonprofits and incubates innovative models for social impact.

In 2004, we launched the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) to connect funders, investors, and volunteers to non-profit and social business leaders in order to grow promising programs and serve more people and families. From 2004 through 2018, SIF worked with 106 nonprofits, connected with over 2,600 supporters, and directed $31 million of cash and in-kind services to its Innovators and Entrepreneurs. On average, non-profit innovators more than double their revenue four years after engaging with SIF. In 2015, SIF spun off from Root Cause to become an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

We organized a cohort of small business owners and designed and delivered a curriculum to strengthen their knowledge and skills. The program was originally called Inner City Entrepreneurs. In 2009, the program spun off to become an independent organization called InteRise, a national network of thriving small businesses, community development organizations, and government agencies.

We applied what we learned in our first five years in publishing Business Planning for Enduring Social Impact: A How-To Guide. The book has been called “the gold standard in business planning for organizations addressing social problems” by Edward B. Roberts at the MIT Sloan School of Management.


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Chapter 2 Root Cause Icon

Performance Measurement & Learning


Root Cause begins its focus on performance measurement and the use of data for learning and improvement.

Root Cause published Building a Performance Measurement System: Using Data to Accelerate Impact in order to help leaders build effective organizations and programs. Methods codified in this guide form the foundation of our team’s core competency for Measurement, Learning, and Improvement.

Root Cause launched its Social Impact Research division to help foundations learn about specific social issues affecting at-risk populations and identify high-performing organizations that are addressing those issues.

We applied what we were learning about measurement, learning, and improvement to create and launch the Peer Performance Exchange.  The Exchange provided nonprofit organizations with independent analysis, benchmarking against the field, and a community of learning and practice. Two cohorts of organizations participated in the Peer Performance Exchange, one focusing on youth career development and the second on college access and success.


Chapter 3 Root Cause Icon

From Organization to Coordination


Recognizing the complexity of change and that no one organization can solve a social issue, Root Cause begins working with, starting and implementing projects with a mix of business, foundation, nonprofit, and government partners.

Root Cause partnered with the State Street Foundation to launch and facilitate the Youth Violence Learning Collaborative.  The Collaborative was a network of businesses, foundations, government agency funders, and key experts formed to share knowledge, identify funding gaps, and promote dialogue to help funders and businesses coordinate and strategically align their efforts and increase their impact on youth violence in Boston.

Root Cause helped Open Society Foundations create and spin off the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a national membership network that seeks to ensure the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations committed to improving the life outcomes of Black men and boys.



Chapter 4 Root Cause Icon

To What End? A Pathway to Lifelong Success


In the spirit of continuous learning and improvement, Root Cause refocused its work around Principles of Engagement, centered on improving people’s lives on a population level and reducing disparities caused by factors such as class, race, and gender. 

A young girl looks at a balloon with an apple and A+ on it, hoping to successfully achieve her goal.

Root Cause renewed its mission and vision with a focus on enabling more people and families to achieve lifelong success, from a healthy birth, to a quality education, a well-paying job, and healthy & sustainable aging.

Root Cause joined a partnership between The Duke Endowment and Ready for School, Ready for Life to build a culture of continuous quality improvement among early childhood programs in Guilford County. 

Two hands painting a pathway to a successful life.

Andrew Wolk, CEO & Founder of Root Cause, launches new blog, Finding Common Purpose, about building a 21st Century Social Contract so that more people are born healthy, gain a quality education, secure a well-paying job, and live a healthy and secure life.

Root Cause spun off part of its consulting practice into an independent organization, Impact Catalysts, under the leadership of Steve Pratt.



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