The Strategy Landscape™

Given the scale and complexity of the challenges they face, foundations increasingly need to look beyond their organizations to other stakeholders--both in philanthropy and across sectors--to mobilize sufficient resources and effort to move the needle on pressing social problems. Yet working together remains a challenge: simply knowing what other funders are supporting can require time-consuming research, meetings, and calls.

As one foundation executive recently explained, "When funders come together for a day to talk about an issue, we spend 80 percent of the time talking about what we do, which leaves us with only 20 percent of the day to discuss what we could and should do in the future."

The Strategy Landscape™, created by Monitor Institute and delivered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy, aims to turn this ratio on its head. Developed with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Landscape is an online, interactive data visualization tool that makes it easy for users to see and understand patterns of grantmaking and strategies across multiple funders. Participants are able to see and develop a shared understanding of the larger funding landscape that they are a part of, and to recognize their position within that ecosystem. More specifically, the tool can help:

  • Compile in one place and make easily accessible information about the grants and programmatic strategies of multiple funders
  • Graphically represent the distribution and relative scale of grantmaking within and across foundations, grantees, geographies, outcomes, and strategies, while allowing for easy maneuverability between these different viewpoints
  • Allow groups of funders to understand how the work of different institutions is aligned across various strategies, highlighting critical overlaps and gaps in support across foundations
  • Support individual institutions or groups of funders in developing strategy with a better understanding of how they fit into the ecosystem of activity around them, thus helping to identify new opportunities for coordination and collaboration

The initial prototype of the Strategy Landscape™ was completed in early 2010, and illustrates grantmaking related to climate change by more than a dozen funders. Over the next 12-18 months, Monitor Institute will continue to expand the climate change Strategy Landscape™. At the same time, Monitor Institute and the Center for Effective Philanthropy will be working with interested funders to develop Strategy Landscapes™ of additional issues/locations to pilot test the visualization tool further.

Frequently Asked Questions

Creating Strategy Landscapes™

  1. How much time is typically required to complete a standard Strategy Landscape™?

    This depends on the number of programs or foundations involved. For a foundation with 5-10 program areas, creating a Strategy Landscape™ should take 2-3 months. For a cross-foundation Strategy Landscape™, assuming 8-10 foundations, mapping should require 3-4 months. Timing for both is heavily contingent upon active participation and quick turn around times from foundation participants.

    Time investments on behalf of the foundations for coding of the data vary significantly depending upon the number of grants coded, but have typically required less than 2-3 total hours of a program manager's (or other relevant officer's) time.

  2. Does any unusual or new data need to be collected?

    For most foundations, the majority of the data required is already routinely collected and reported on website or to intermediaries like the Foundation Center. In most cases, the only potentially new data required is the identification of the foundation's strategies supporting each program or issue area, and a brief written summary of each strategy.

  3. What type of file format is required for data input?

    The Strategy Landscape™ was designed with the lowest common denominator in mind, to enable easier adoption and usage. Funders export their data into Excel, and the data is then converted to XML before ultimately transitioning to Flash. While this means you won't be able to use this on your new iPad, it generally ensures that data exports are as easy as possible for participating foundations.

  4. How many grants can be included?

    The Strategy Landscape™ is capable of including a large number of grants and has yet to run up against any capacity problems. Rockefeller's internal Strategy Landscape™ included approximately 400 grants, while the cross-foundation Climate Change Strategy Landscape™ incorporated more than 3000. While the tool may get visually crowded with the inclusion of additional data points, the technology itself is capable of handling significant volume. And this visual crowding can tell a story in-and-of itself, as the most sizeable grants will continue to appear largest on the screen.

  5. How was the cross-foundation taxonomy of strategies developed, for example with the Climate Change Strategy Landscape™?

    Development of the taxonomy began with a cluster analysis of the various strategies and grants directed towards climate change issues, with a focus on the strategies and grants employed by participating foundations. This taxonomy was then vetted with the philanthropic affinity group for the issue -- in the case of the climate map, the Climate and Energy Funders group.

    The intent is not to create the perfect taxonomy -- it is to create a useable, "good enough" classification system that allows funders to see across institutions where they previously could not. Taxonomies can be refined by participating funders over time, but the idea is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Foundations have often complained that the uniqueness of their strategies can be lost in the process of "rolling-up" approaches to develop an overarching taxonomy. The Strategy Landscape process allows foundations to retain their individual language (which is included as sub-strategies to each of the broader strategies), and thus rolls overall strategies up only at the highest level.

Customizing Strategy Landscapes™

  1. What if our foundation categorizes certain variables differently (e.g., geographies by state or county, rather than continent)?

    The data and categories in the Strategy Landscape™ can be adjusted and tailored as necessary. The map is capable of capturing the data according to whatever taxonomy you provide. So long as all participating programs or funders are willing to utilize the same structure, the map is capable of reflecting any categorizations you agree upon.

  2. What if we want to include different or additional variables (e.g., target age range in addition to target geography, or additional layers of strategy and sub-strategy)?

    Inclusion of additional or alternative variables is an easy process so long as the foundation(s) capture the necessary data.

  3. How do you address grants that span multiple geographies or target more than one strategy?

    The Strategy Landscape™ is designed so that for each grant, foundations can indicate the estimated percentage of that grant directed towards a given region or strategy (e.g., 80% to Southeast Asia, 20% to Africa).

Maintaining and Expanding Strategy Landscapes™

  1. How are Strategy Landscapes™ maintained/updated on an ongoing basis?

    The Strategy Landscape™ is intended to be used as an analytical tool on an ongoing basis. Once the initial map is complete, Monitor transfers the map to the foundation (in the case of an internal map) or to an appropriate neutral host (in the case of an external map). Updates should typically require less than 1-2 hours of a program manager's time after each grant cycle to match any new grants to strategies and geographies, with some additional time for data input and vetting.

  2. What is the capacity to create Strategy Landscapes™ for larger numbers of Foundations?

    While the Strategy Landscape™ may get visually crowded, the technology is designed to easily handle increased participation.

Understanding the Technology

  1. What are the server hardware requirements (e.g. is this a multi-tiered application, single server, how many servers, etc.)?

    The Strategy Landscape™ currently requires only a single server running standard web service. There are no special hardware requirements.

  2. What web server(s) are supported?

    The Strategy Landscape™ supports any server that can deliver HTML, CSS, SWF, and XML files.

  3. Are there any minimum bandwidth requirements?

    Any standard broadband connection should be sufficient. The speed of the internet connection will affect the time required to initially download the data, but once data is loaded the Strategy Landscape™ runs locally and should not be affected by bandwidth issues.

Finally, for additional information please send inquiries to strategylandscape@monitor.com.

Detailed Navigation Instructions

The Strategy Landscape™ is manipulated using two primary navigation spaces: a drop-down list located in the grey box on the top line of the screen, and a second drop-down list located in a grey box on the right side of the screen. The data appearing in the bubbles can be "sliced and diced" by selecting different items in these drop-down lists.

To see a cross-section of information about the bubbles (for example, how much grantmaking each foundation is supporting in a particular geography) highlight items from the list.

To see a cross-section of information about the list (for example, which foundations are supporting a given strategy) highlight a bubble in the center to activate the list on the right.

To get an information box with further detail about a bubble, hold down the shift key and click on the bubble. There is supporting data available for the following variables:

  • Foundations - provides an overview of each foundation's climate change strategy
  • Strategic Approaches - provides a brief description of the general strategy
  • Strategies - provides a summary of each foundation's individual strategy associated with that overarching strategic approach
  • Grants - provides the basic grant information, including grantee, amount, duration, purpose, and program officer.

To zoom into a bubble, simply click on it.

To retrieve data identifying the cross-section of foundations funding a particular grantee, enter that grantees name in the Search Grantee box on the left.

To change the timeframe for data displayed, click on the Date Range dropdown list and adjust dates accordingly.

Finally, to return to a prior screen click on the words in the "breadcrumbs" trail at the top of the screen, rather than clicking “back” on your browser.

Interactive Demonstration

The Strategy Landscape™ is manipulated using two primary navigation spaces: a drop-down list located in the grey box on the top line of the screen, and a second drop-down list located in a grey box on the right side of the screen. The data appearing in the bubbles can be "sliced and diced" by selecting different items in these drop-down lists.

  • To change what's in the bubbles, use the grey box on the top line.
  • To change what's in the list, use the grey box at the top of the list on the right.
  • Mouse over an item in the list to see the relative proportion of each bubble that is related to the highlighted list item.
  • Mouse over a bubble and the relevant item(s) in the list will be highlighted.
  • Full descriptions of items that are truncated in the bubbles or the list can be read in full in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  • To get an information box with further detail about a bubble, hold down the shift key and click on the bubble.
  • To retrieve data identifying the cross-section of foundations funding a particular grantee, enter that grantees name in the Search Grantee box on the left.
  • To change the timeframe for data displayed, click on the Date Range dropdown list and adjust dates accordingly.
  • Finally, to return to a prior screen click on the words in the "breadcrumbs" trail at the top of the screen, rather than clicking "back" on your browser.