On Future-Shaping and Funding Impact – A Conversation with Social Solutions’ Darryl Byrd

Social Solutions Blog

On Future-Shaping and Funding Impact – A Conversation with Social Solutions’ Darryl Byrd

We recently shared that seasoned community transformer and social impact strategist Darryl Byrd joined Social Solutions to lead our Funder Impact Program. But our announcement just scratched the surface of Darryl’s story and all the experience and vision he brings to our program which enables change-seekers to fund nonprofits’ access to real-time data and technology. Read on to get to know more about Darryl and his passion for helping people realize their dreams.

Q1. Let’s start with a deep question. Who is Darryl Byrd?

DB: Starting right at the heart of the story – I love it. The core of my background, what I have always been interested in, is the concept of creating a different kind of future. Even before I knew what to call it, I was certain that my path would focus on being a part of what tomorrow looks like. Throughout my career, I have poured my energy into creating things that didn’t exist before and transforming things to reveal a world with more promise for others.

This approach to my life and career has led me to build a unique skill set and take on many roles in service of creating better outcomes. Depending on the challenges I’m looking to solve or the people I’m looking to help, I may be a human whiteboard, supporting the building of ideas; a barrel man sitting atop a figurative pirate ship, looking toward the future to see what’s possible on the horizon; a priest, offering guidance and unwavering belief in our collective ability to effect change; or a bartender, acting as a sounding board and listening to people’s stories. But no matter which ‘hat’ I’m wearing, I’ll always be a future-shaper at my core.

Q2. When we said we only scratched the surface on sharing about you and your story, we weren’t kidding! How did you start on this path career-wise?

DB: I began my career as a city planner, and was deeply invested in the work of transforming neighborhoods and cities and helping people see promise in their future.

The mid-nineties brought me to San Antonio, where I had the opportunity to be part of a truly extraordinary redevelopment project. In 2001, I joined a public-private partnership effort as development director and then as managing director and CEO to help transform a dormant industrial brewery facility in a disinvested part of the city into a thriving place to live, work, and play. Our work catalyzed billions of dollars in additional investments to redevelop the area, including housing, business and retail – and in many ways, we created something out of nothing. Driven by vision and in large part by philanthropy, the creation of the Pearl Brewery defied the odds and catalyzed major revitalization across San Antonio’s core.

After seven years at Pearl, former mayor of San Antonio Julian Castro approached me to co-lead a task force to develop a process to help the city think about the future. We spent months engaging thousands of San Antonians in sharing their greatest dreams for the future of the city. We took all the “what does the ideal future look like?” ideas and blended them into a set of powerful vision statements for the future. For example, we were talking about orchestrating the greatest education turnround in America, to going from having dangerously high obesity and diabetes rates to be one of the healthiest cities in the country. We were making bold declarations about how we believed in turning everyone’s “imagine-no-barriers” dreams into reality.

Q3. We’re definitely seeing the theme of taking things from dream to reality. How did you enter the nonprofit world?

DB: Once we had set out the vision for the future of San Antonio, we put our attention on data and measurement. It became clear that we needed to create an independent nonprofit organization to manage all the data around progress and be the convener of the nonprofit sector, public sector, and private sector in order to drive collaboration and results. The mayor asked me to be the first leader of the SA2020 nonprofit, and I took the opportunity. I had never run a nonprofit before, but I took the leap of faith and over several years, was able to build SA2020 into an effective nonprofit.

Q4. It sounds like running the SA2020 nonprofit was another chance for you to build something new to shape the future. When you described creating the nonprofit, you also mentioned data and measurement. Of course, data is the heart and soul of Social Solutions, and we believe that when nonprofits have access to the right data and technology, they are best positioned to maximize their impact. What was your approach to tracking and using data at SA2020? 

DB: In order to show progress, we’d need to understand where we were starting out across our areas of focus. If we as a city wanted these big changes to happen, we had to ask ourselves, “How do we strategically get there, and how can we measure our effectiveness over time?” Back then, we built a data engine that mapped to our 11 core areas of focus and approximately 60 key indicators of success one layer down. While the data engine wasn’t real-time as it is with our Social Solutions technology, it was open so that any citizen could connect and see progress against the areas they cared about most.

The other side of this was using data to match nonprofits, philanthropic giving and volunteerism with the focus areas as thoughtfully as possible. We wanted to make it as simple as we could for people to connect with their passions to organizations and activities positioned to have the greatest impact.

Q5. You’ve had an inspiring and productive career so far, with so many examples of life-changing creativity and transformation. How did your path bring you to Social Solutions and our Funder Impact Program?

DB: After my time leading SA2020, I spent several years running my own advisory practice, which is when I got to know the Social Solutions team.

Around this time, the company had entered a strategic partnership with Ballmer Group, the philanthropic organization co-founded by Connie and Steve Ballmer. This partnership was so compelling to me because it represented a new kind of matchmaking model to build a more promising future. The strategic partnership exists to get Social Solutions’ technology into the hands of the people driving change at nonprofits aligned with Ballmer Group’s mission. I believe that access to technology can be a game-changer, so this new approach to connect philanthropy and nonprofits through purpose-built software got my attention.

When I got a call about collaborating with Social Solutions and was then asked to lead the Funder Impact Program, this became my latest opportunity to create something new.

Q6. If you put on your barrel man ‘hat’ for a moment, what do you see ahead for yourself and the Funder Impact Program?

DB: I see so much opportunity ahead. We know that when nonprofits have access to simple-to-use yet powerful technology, they can operate more efficiently, track and measure progress more effectively, and guide impactful decision-making more strategically. With the Funder Impact Program, we are enabling funders, investors and philanthropists to invest directly in nonprofits’ capacity and ability to deliver results by funding their access to real-time data and technology.

If I look ahead, I see us leveraging technology to empower change-making organizations to accelerate their missions and generate tangible, measurable impact in the people’s lives they serve. It’s another opportunity to help shape the future, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish with our partners along the way.

To learn more about Social Solutions’ Funder Impact Program, drop us a note at funderimpact@socialsolutions.com.

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