On Thursday, I had the great pleasure of attending an all day workshop on the future of philanthropy hosted by the Monitor Institute. The session was so stimulating that I have page after page of potential blog post concepts I scribbled down over the course of the day. I know that I’ll never get around to doing justice to every concept raised with a full blog post, so I thought I’d offer a sort of concept summary post with a promise to explore some of these topics in more detail later.
For background, I highly recommend reading Monitor’s new, still in draft format, report titled Cultivating Change in Philanthropy.
Ideas that came out of the meeting, either from Monitor or workshop participants:
In thinking about predicting the future, Monitor Institute’s Katherine Fulton reminded us of Paul Saffo’s quote: “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”
It was observed that many new forms of social impact activity, such as crisis information crowdsourcing group Ushahidi, were simply unimaginable ten years ago.
Philanthropy needs to get comfortable with “creative tensions”. It is not “innovation or effectiveness”, it is how can we balance the internal tension between these two goals and many other competing priorities.
“Guerilla Philanthropy” was suggested as a way to think of the many new social impact efforts operating outside of institutional philanthropy. It was observed that the emergence of guerilla warfare dramatically upended thinking within established armies and that something similar may be happening in philanthropy.
One of Monitor’s recommendations to increase impact was to “act bigger” by “understanding your ecosystem”. The concept of Ambient Intimacy, which I wrote about here, was proposed as one key to understanding your ecosystem.
In examining the role of sharing failure within the field as a way to increase knowledge and therefore impact, it was proposed that “It is a failure of compassion to not share failure.”
While much of the field is struggling with assessing impact, maybe we should be more focused on assuring impact. Whereas the first is a passive observing activity, the latter is an active, interventionist activity.
The phrase “punching above your weight”, which means for a boxer to fight successfully against larger opponents, was used to describe the value of funders using non-monetary tools to enhance their impact (watch for my next Chronicle of Philanthropy column on the importance of these types of strategies).
In another conversation about knowledge sharing within the sector, it was suggested that projects like Glasspockets.org could create a culture of “competitive sharing”.
The afternoon consisted of a rapid prototyping of philanthropic programs that could help address some of the issues raised during the workshop. My group ended up winning the group’s vote for best prototype, which I’ll tell you about tomorrow.
Thanks very much Sean for this ….
What you end up synthesizing will be helpful to so many as always.
My particular favorite:
“While much of the field is struggling with assessing impact, maybe we should be more focused on assuring impact. Whereas the first is a passive observing activity, the latter is an active, interventionist activity.”
Can’t wait to see how this play out in your writing.
Echoing Margaret’s thanks ~ really appreciate these take-aways and look forward to future posts that build on what’s the Monitor Institute has drawn attention to here. Exciting stuff 🙂