Case Foundation CEO Jean Case Discusses Innovation in the Social Sector

Social sector organizations need bold new approaches to address today's "overwhelming global challenges," Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, told students at the Yale School of Management on April 17. Case spoke as part of the Leaders Forum lecture series, which brings business leaders to campus to speak with students.

The nonprofit Case Foundation, launched by Case with her husband, America Online founder Steve Case, fosters initiatives that leverage new technologies and approaches to drive innovation in the social sector. Case was previously an executive at America Online, where she directed the marketing effort that launched the AOL service. She also held positions at General Electric and at The Source, one of the nation's first online services.

In a question-and-answer session with students, Case discussed social sector innovation, technological innovation as a source of societal good, and investing for social impact. The philanthropy sector, she said, is too risk-averse today. "We have serious, daunting challenges facing the globe that have been with us a really long time," Case said. "We need to find new ways to solve old problems. We have to take risks."

Case discussed her Foundation's "Be Fearless" campaign, which seeks to promote innovation. The campaign speaks to two audiences: nonprofit organizations and the groups and individuals who fund them, Case said. But the primary audience, she said, is funders: "They need to give permission to the causes and the organizations that they fund and direct, to say that some degree of risk is going to be okay and, in fact, not just okay, but really necessary, if we're going to innovate and find our way forward."

Watch the talk: