Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bridgespan’

A century ago, the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission, the precursor to the Rockefeller Foundation, helped eradicate hookworm in the American South. Today, the ClimateWorks Foundation, financed by a funding collaborative, is helping to catalyze measurable reductions in carbon emissions.

What these efforts have in common, according to venture philanthropist Mario Morino, is a focus on outcomes-based practices that produce “meaningful, measurable, sustainable benefit for those served.” Morino argues in a four-part series of online essays that too many in the sector focus on the how of measurement without enough thought as to what they are measuring and why. Keeping the end goal in sight is key: to help inform efforts  to achieve real social impact, using the right information to guide action.

The Aspen Philanthropy Group (APG), 25 leaders in philanthropy, has come to a similar conclusion. Having identified a lack of alignment around approaches to measurement and evaluation (M&E) among grant-makers and between grant-makers and grant-seekers, the group charged the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation with conducting a year long review. The Program found that grant-makers and their grantees tend to gather as much data as possible in search of evidence of impact. This approach has often resulted in expensive evaluations that are onerous for grantees and have often failed to yield the data needed in the time required for informed decision-making. As a result, the data have gone unused. The Aspen program recommended instead a “decision-based” approach to M&E, characterized by:

  • A shared purpose of informing decision-making and enabling continuous learning;
  • A shared expectation that data will be gathered in a timely fashion and in a manner that does not place an undue burden on grantees; and
  • A shared commitment to placing data gathered in the public domain so as to advance field-wide learning.

The Program plans to publish an edited e-volume on the topic, with chapters written by many of the foundation presidents who are Aspen Philanthropy Group members. It will list open source tools for grant-makers developed by expert organizations ranging from McKinsey & Company to Grant-makers for Effective Organizations (GEO), the Foundation Center to FSG Social Impact Advisors and Donor Edge. Most importantly, it will partner with likeminded organizations, donor advisors and donor educators who have relationships of trust with philanthropists who wish to apply M&E principles to their grant-making strategies. The purpose of this consensus-building effort is to move away from evaluations as audits to evaluations as sources of usable knowledge, thus enhancing the efficacy of the sector as a whole.

Morino, of Venture Philanthropy Partners, shares the goal of advancing a norm. His purpose: to take outcomes measurement “from being the nonprofit world’s most anxiety-provoking topic to one of its most powerful forces.” Large, private foundations are natural catalysts, he says. He’s also encouraged by the creation and work of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

His proposal is to create a high-profile, cross-sector coalition to offer the philanthropic equivalent of the technology industry’s “missionary sell” to push for change – “ferreting out, supporting and sharing the results of … early adopters.” He goes so far as to name names, recommending people like Rajat Gupta, formerly of McKinsey & Company; Bridgespan’s Tom Tierney; Michael Bailin, formerly of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation; author/consultant Jim Collins; and the Corporation for National Service’s Steven Goldsmith. He would likely find many other leaders and converts including remarkable grass-roots collaboratives of grantees and their funders in various issue domains, such as Strive or the Cultural Data Project. Each has been successful in setting standards for their field and would add to any consensus building effort. Morino’s purposes, and those of the APG, will be well served by the combination of a bottom-up as well as a top-down effort.

Marino calls on this “Dream Team” to lead a “Doing Good Better” initiative to, among other things, build knowledge about managing to outcomes through an open-source repository of tools, best practices, profiles and the like; provide strategic and tactical help through better recruitment and identification of qualified consultants; and generate greater support from funders of general operating costs, which are needed to develop the necessary technology systems and human processes.

There is a remarkable array of open source tools for strategic philanthropist seeking to measure outcomes, for which a roadmap would be handy. And a normative shift is in the making. A long-time missionary for measuring outcomes, Marino’s voice is essential and his recommendations wise.

–Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

Baby boomers are hanging on, and next generation leaders are waiting—and waiting—their turn.

According to Trading Power, produced in partnership with the Council on Foundations, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies’ 21/64, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and Resource Generation, this is the first time in history that society is experiencing a delay in leadership transition, as people live longer and retire later. The economic recession has further delayed retirement plans, leaving baby boomers in positions that even they expected to have left by now. And some seasoned leaders are turning to a model of “leadership expansion” rather than “leadership transfer,” sharing leadership duties with younger employees. Some retain an executive emeritus role. Others take a sabbatical while potential successors serve in “acting” capacities.

In each instance the elder leader needs to respect new ideas coming from his or her younger partner, according to the report. If the philanthropic sector fails to tap the next generation’s skills and knowledge, the emerging leaders will simply move on to sectors that will.

But would younger workers stay put, even if they had a clear path toward a leadership position? The Pew Research Center’s ongoing study, The Millennials, contrasts the attitudes of Generation Xers and Millennials with that of aging Boomers. Pew finds that expectations about career advancement differ between younger and older workers; Millennials in particular are accustomed to the idea that they will – indeed, must – find their own path of career advancement. In other words, they may jump among organizations, and sectors, in any case.

And it turns out that the same demographic trends that are driving later retirement within the nonprofit sector are affecting movement of Boomers across sectors. On Friday, The New York Times ran a story that explores what boomers are doing with the “bonus decade or three added to the average life span.” The article quotes Stanford professor Laura Carstensen: “The culture hasn’t had time to catch up. All the added years of life have been put into leisure, and that’s crazy.” The Times story details an organization called Civic Ventures that is placing longtime managers and professionals from the for-profit world in nonprofit positions uniquely suited to their skills. Opportunities like this point to the positive effects that this “bonus decade or three” from Boomers could have on the nonprofit sector.

But to the extent that the nonprofit world is characterized by more leaders than leadership positions, the notion of offering sabbaticals for executives has gained salience. According to a recent report by Deborah S. Linnell of Third Sector New England and Tim Wolfred of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, sabbaticals allow the next rung of leaders to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities during the director’s absence. And they often continue to have enhanced responsibility and authority upon the director’s return, sharing leadership tasks. A sabbatical can serve as a dry run for a future transition, according to this report, Creative Disruption.

Jossey-Bass has also published a volume on the subject of nonprofit leadership, collecting previously published articles, research studies and essays from experts in the field—including Bridgespan’s study on the sector’s pending “leadership deficit”. Edited by Indiana University’s James L. Perry, The Jossey-Bass Reader on Nonprofit and Public Leadership stresses the importance of cultivating, sharing and delegating leadership throughout nonprofit organizations.

This is probably true now more than ever as the nonprofit sector grows bigger in size and importance. Part of increasing the sector’s impact has to include more investment in the development of its employees.

So, if you find yourself waiting, and waiting, apparently you are not alone. The question is, are the career development opportunities enriching your lives, and readying you for the moment when it finally comes.

—Jane Wales

Read Full Post »