Skip to Content

Announcing Impact Labs: Innovate With Us!

By October 23, 2019

Innovation takes collaboration
By Amy Guterman, Director, Impact Labs and Tyler Woebkenberg, Senior Technical Architect, Impact Labs

Community-Driven Social Innovation

Community-Driven Social InnovationThe challenges facing our communities can be complex. Change doesn’t happen easily. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And it doesn’t happen without bringing together coalitions of people and institutions to share their expertise and drive a movement. At, we want to help organizations like yours navigate this complexity and collaborate with peers to drive social change. To that end, we set out to understand how we can further support our community in amplifying their impact.

What we heard from our community is a desire for partnership in both technology and philanthropy. We heard that it’s hard to turn visions into reality – budgets are tight, risks are hard to take, and programmatic work comes first and foremost. We heard that while funding will always be appreciated and needed, access to sustainable resources, technology expertise, and relationships built through a partnership is tantamount.

Despite these challenges, we’ve been blown away by the tremendous amount of innovation our customers have undertaken on the Salesforce platform. We’ve witnessed incredible technology solutions like TaroWorks by the Grameen Foundation, CoPilot by College Forward, and Homekeeper by Grounded Solutions Network, just to name a few. These organizations created innovative solutions to address significant social sector issues which extended even beyond their own missions. We are inspired by the potential for impact that these organizations and many others have created through their technology solutions.

So inspired in fact, that we’re launching a new program to provide a platform for innovation that combines the expertise of our community and the ecosystem. This new program is called Impact Labs.

We created Impact labs to help our community bring their most visionary ideas to life. We recognize that it takes a village to make lasting change happen and that social innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We heard our community’s need for partnership and we want to support our nonprofits and educators in taking the risks necessary to innovate and create scalable, exponential impact in the world.

Mapping of U.S. customers to the SDGs. Source: 2019 Social Impact Report.
Mapping of U.S. customers to the SDGs. Source: 2019 Social Impact Report.

What is Impact Labs? Impact Labs is a collaborative program to co-design innovative technology solutions that address the toughest social issues facing us today. We combine the expertise of our community with the power of the Salesforce platform to take risks, find new solutions, and address complex social issues together. We will start by hosting 3 to 4 Impact Labs next year on different social issues that are surfaced from the community. The goal is to co-create technology solutions that can accelerate sector-wide change.

We are looking to address questions like, “how might we ensure sustainable access to nutritious food for children where they live and learn?” and “How might we improve healthcare delivery to mothers in rural populations?” All the challenges we take on will align to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 goals designed to transform our world, in an effort to help create a lasting, positive impact on society and the planet.

How will Impact Labs work?

We will start each Impact Lab by listening and surfacing social issues from our community through an open call for challenges. This will be open to anyone! We will refine this broad list of challenges by evaluating the potential for impact, mission alignment, viability, and feasibility. This ensures we are focused on the most impactful work at the onset. With our challenge laid out before us, we will identify and invite community members to participate in a fellowship program to ideate and co-create a solution. Community fellows will represent a diverse group of subject matter experts, nonprofits, educational institutions, social enterprises, philanthropies, and more. Together, in a human-centered design sprint, we will immerse ourselves in the challenge, identify areas where technology can support, and brainstorm ideas that accelerate social change. Taking a “fail-forward” and iterative approach, ideas will be tested with our community and end-users, ensuring only those with the highest potential for adoption and impact remain.

Collaborating together on a prototype.

With the top ideas in hand, we will leverage the talent within Salesforce to make these ideas into a reality. Salesforce Pro Bono talent will code, develop, and launch those very ideas on Salesforce technologies, while continuing to partner with community fellows to ensure that solutions created are useful and impactful.

In summary, the three parts of an Impact Lab are:

    1. Surfacing challenges: anyone can submit a social issue to work on through an open call for challenges. We will select a challenge area to explore with the most potential for scalable impact for each Impact Lab.

    2. Collaborating in a design sprint: we will convene a diverse set of experts and organizations to participate in an in-person, three-day sprint to co-design solutions.

    3. Developing technology solutions: With ongoing input from the community, we will leverage pro bono Salesforce employees to develop the solutions on the Salesforce platform.

In the Lodge at Dreamforce

This sounds amazing – where do I sign up?

The fun will kick off at Dreamforce this year! Stop by our booth in the Lodge at the Westin St. Francis to submit your challenges and brainstorm with us. We’ll also be running 3 mini design sprints that will provide a glimpse into what an Impact Lab will look like (participants will also leave with some shiny new design thinking tools!) – check out agenda builder to sign up.

Not going to Dreamforce? No problem! Submit a social challenge to work on. We will be launching an online call for challenges open to anyone to participate in November.

We can’t wait to work with you and accelerate social change in the world around SDG number 17: Partnerships for the Goals!