Whew! I’d guess that the 54 comments generated from the Bill Schambra debate is a record for a philanthropy blog conversation. A big thank you goes to Phil Cubeta and Albert Ruesga for their many heated posts, which really drove the debate. I’d also like to thank Holden Karnofsky for joining me in my naive belief that Schambra’s arguments were interesting and worthy of discussion. By the way, since we never got around to discussing the points that Bill made in the podcast, I’d like to make it clear that I disagree with Bill’s idea that Root Cause philanthropy is a fool’s errand. However, I find his argument compelling and would have liked to see his thesis deconstructed.
Due to the 4th of July holiday I’m releasing two podcasts back to back. On Wednesday, we’ll hear from Jim Canales, CEO of the James Irvine Foundation. Jim was one of the panelists at the Demonstrating Impact session at the Council on Foundations conference in Seattle this year (you can read my write-ups here and here). The Irvine Foundation recently released a report called Midcourse Corrections (I wrote about it briefly here) that engages in exactly the sort of “second thoughts” that Schambra laments doesn’t happen enough. After committing to a $60 million initiative, the biggest in their history, the Irvine Foundation realized that all was not going as planned. They released the Midcourse Corrections report to help other foundations avoid the mistakes they made. This is exactly the sort of knowledge sharing that I’ve been advocating.
Irvine must have a bit of a masochistic streak, or else they just really care deeply about their mission and refuse to let their egos get in the way. Right now, the front page of their website features links to anonymous feedback they’ve received from their grantees. Although the feedback was mostly positive, they point out the power imbalance between them and their grantees and focused on relative feedback scores to try to dig out any lessons they could learn. They’re now considering a number of changes to how they interact with grantees and have committed to implement any agreed upon changes by the end of 2007.
Jim will be fielding questions and comments following the podcast release.