As philanthropy has gotten more strategic over the last decade, many foundations have begun to lose their appetite for risk and experimentation. But a small number of funders have begun to intentionally seek out and support high-risk, high-reward innovations with the potential to truly transform our most intractable social challenges.
In this cover article of the Stanford Social Innovation Review we explore the processes and practices used by these "innovation funders" and look at how funding breakthrough innovation differs from more traditional grantmaking approaches. We share a process for intentionally injecting two interrelated innovation principles — transformation and experimentation — into philanthropic processes and systems in order to bring a greater degree of risk-taking, openness, and flexibility into funders’ work.
Although these approaches often take a different shape within each institution, innovation can typically be introduced at five different stages of the funding process: sourcing, selecting, supporting, measuring, and scaling. Read the article to hear a series of stories that illustrate what these activities look like in practice.
Economic growth in emerging markets has outpaced the growth of the supporting institutions that make up the broader context in these markets. There are many “contextual gaps,” which can give rise to political, social and environmental challenges. For businesses, both multinational and local, these markets offer some of the most promising growth opportunities.
These businesses cannot afford to wait for governments, grassroots enterprises or civil society to close the contextual gaps; nor can they rely on prevailing business-as-usual practices to automatically overcome or resolve the gaps. Businesses must actively find ways to reinforce the contexts that support the very markets they need for sustaining their growth aspirations.With emerging markets accounting for two-thirds of global GDP growth over the past decade and about 40% of current global output, investing in contextual strength is becoming an essential business need.
That context has given rise to a new wave of growth in sustainable and inclusive business activities (SIBA). But as much as the adoption of SIBA has grown, it has a long ways to go. This report analyzes what motivates companies to engage in SIBA, what challenges they face, and provides a set of recommendations for what philanthropy can do to help advance and spread these essential changes in how business is done.
This work was done in partnership with Citi Foundation and the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
The world is changing rapidly. Inescapable demographic, technological, economic, environmental, and social trends are reshaping our communities and altering the landscape of philanthropy. Keeping pace will be a challenge for community philanthropy: in today’s rapidly changing context, the systems that are helping community philanthropy organizations thrive right now may not meet the needs of their users in the future.
Yet the status quo is not an option. Place by place, community philanthropy organizations will need to figure out what to hold onto, what to let go of, and what to create a new to better meet the evolving needs of their communities. We launched the What’s Next for Community Philanthropy initiative in January 2013 to engage community foundations and other community philanthropy organizations in a large-scale innovation and design process to help them open up to new models and new possibilities that will help them better serve their communities in the years ahead.
The United States’ single greatest collective investment in human capital—and in its future generations—is public education. Yet today that investment is generating very poor returns for low-income students.
Members of the lowest-income U.S. families are 10 times less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than members of the highest-income families. This situation would be troubling in any environment, but with income inequality only increasing and global job competitiveness intensifying every year, it is downright dangerous—not just for low-income students but for society at large. While a field-level conversation about the college access, persistence, and completion challenges that face low-income students has been slow in coming, we believe that conversation is now imperative.
This report outlines the problem, the state of the field, and how to collectively intensify the ways we address these pressing challenges:
To find out more, read the full report.
"Wicked problems" — ranging from malaria to dwindling water supplies — are being reframed as "wicked opportunities" and tackled by networks of nongovernmental organizations, social entrepreneurs, governments, and big businesses.
This optimism is part of the broader trend of organizations increasingly see themselves as part of broader ecosystems rather than siloed into specific industries or issue areas, enabling these networks to attract participants from across the three sectors and marshal a new level of both resources and coordination.
GATHER is a hands-on guidebook for all convening designers and social change leaders who want to create convenings that tap into a group's collective intelligence and make substantial progress on a shared challenge.
It provides simple frameworks for the questions that are often ignored: whether convening is the right tool to use to advance a strategic agenda, and how a convening can be used to achieve a specific purpose. It then helps readers understand how to customize the design to fit that purpose, laying out a clear series of steps for what is a naturally chaotic workflow. It then offers principles to use for each of the many tactical choices involved.
Drawing on input from 70 expert convening practitioners from across the social sector and decades of published work, GATHER is provided by Monitor Institute and Rockefeller Foundation as a public resource to spread the practice of using convenings as a lever for deep, systemic social impact. GATHER and its accompanying workshop materials are designed for you to use in your own work, with your team, and with larger groups both inside and outside your organization.
Opportunities to partner with other organizations often feel difficult to evaluate for both parties. Since each organization brings a unique mix of resources and capabilities, every potential partnership can feel bespoke. This can be particularly challenging when one party is a business and the other is a nonprofit, and the leadership teams on each side are less certain what value to look for in a partner.
Choosing whether and how to partner is made easier by viewing any potential partnership arrangement through the lens of four contributions that an organization might provide: reach, assets, reputation, and capabilities. The Value Exchange Tool is a simple method for considering what a partner could potentially contribute, stacking up what a potential partner brings, and representing the value exchange at the heart of the partnership in a single visual.
Many have promised that impact investing-providing capital that promotes good while doing well- is going to be big. Some estimate that as much as a trillion dollars will flow into impact investing within 10 years.
Yet despite this promise and the forecast of a vibrant, large market, some estimate the size of impact investing today as only about twenty billion dollars.
This report provides a brief investigation into one of the most persistent barriers to the growth of impact investing: the lack of a common definition for metrics and common standards for reporting.
The global economy has reached a tipping point where emerging markets are no longer simply a rising force but are now taking center stage. Even companies with a strong existing market presence must grapple with how to expand their reach into new countries and segments, including second-tier markets and rural areas.
In these markets, the scale and diversity of social needs provide rich commercial opportunities. But they also present major challenges to service and business operations. Throughout emerging markets, the gap between aspiration and met needs are often substantial with regard to issues of poverty, access to sanitation and clean water, food security, and the social infrastructure of housing, education, and health care.
Where companies once viewed social challenges such as poverty, poor sanitation, and unskilled labor through the lens of corporate social responsibility or philanthropy, these issues increasingly operate as real constraints to business expansion and long-term success in emerging markets.
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:
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.
Experience a demonstration of the Strategy Landscape™ for yourself
Please note that the data appearing in this map is purely illustrative. While the taxonomy of strategies and geographic areas of activity are real, the data is not real and is associated with fictitious foundations and foundation strategies. This "dummy data" is intended only to provide a sense of the tool's functionality, not for analysis of any climate change related grantmaking or foundation strategies.
Take a moment and read these two words: strategic plan. Now close your eyes and picture one. If what comes up is a thick binder, gathering dust on a shelf next to other thick binders from five and ten years past, you’re not alone. We believe that a better understanding of the history of strategy and what caused the demise of binder-bound strategic planning can point the way to re-inventing strategy for the world we live in today.
In the social capital movement today, there is tremendous excitement about the potential for business models to create social impact, and about the impact investors seeking to deploy capital into these models. However -- as described in the recent 'From Blueprint to Scale' report published by Monitor in collaboration with Acumen Fund -- the reality is that many of these models are a long way from being able to absorb investor capital and begin to scale. In this keynote address to SOCAP 2012, Katherine Fulton addresses the role for foundations and aid donors in closing this critical 'pioneer gap', and what key questions they should consider as they approach this emerging practice of 'enterprise philanthropy.'
Katherine Fulton contends that philanthropy has the opportunity to create disruptive change -- and risks being disrupted itself if it does not.
Funders know they need big platforms with diverse players to tackle the complexity of 21st-century problems. They also know that to do this work well they need to act as conveners, champions and matchmakers, connecting people, ideas and resources - in addition to getting money out the door. This means investing in more than discrete programs and more than individual organizations. It means catalyzing networks.
While grantmakers have deep experience cultivating networks of all kinds - such as coalitions, alliances, place-based initiatives, learning communities - there are few recognized best practices or established measures to prove they've achieved "network effectiveness" and 21st-century approaches to catalyzing networks are still being invented.
There is still much to learn, but this guide is an early attempt to create a rough map for the many individuals and foundations that are catalyzing networks in order to build and boost the impact of their philanthropy.
Co-created with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.
In our dynamic and increasingly digital world, the availability and use of credible news and information is one of the most powerful elements of community change. The Toolkit is designed to help community leaders better understand the local information ecology and take action to improve it. It offers a point of view, a process and a simple, easy-to-use set of tools to help community leaders advance their priorities through the lens of information--its availability, accessibility, quality and exchange.
For six years, the RE-AMP network—comprising 125 nonprofits and funders across eight states in the U.S.'s upper Midwest—has been focused on just one audacious goal: reducing regional global warming emissions 80 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2050. And it's working.
Much has been written about the power of networks to increase social impact. For nonprofits and funders that want to go deeper on the tactics of how to build an effective network, it is useful to understand how RE-AMP has done it. RE-AMP's process was well informed by decades of thinking related to systems dynamics and group facilitation. But what is new is the way in which RE-AMP combined these "best practices" with "next practices" to create a robust, resilient, and high-impact network.
The results speak for themselves. In just the past few years, the network has helped legislators pass energy efficiency policies in six states; promoted one of the most rigorous cap-and-trade programs in the nation; and, halted the development of 28 new coal plants. The network has also built the capacity of regional activists, increased funding for its cause, created a number of shared resources, and developed stronger relationships between funders and nonprofits.
Understanding just how RE-AMP accomplished this can give other groups interested in building a collective network to address a systems-level problem a roadmap to follow. During its two-month study of RE-AMP, Monitor Institute identified six key principles that RE-AMP members followed in building their network:
The world around philanthropy is changing much, much faster than philanthropy itself. An intimidating range of forces--globalization, shifting sectoral roles, economic crisis, and new technologies--are changing both what philanthropy is called upon to do, and how donors and foundations will accomplish their work in the future. For philanthropic and civic leaders looking to cultivate change in today's rapidly shifting landscape, simply tweaking the status quo won't be enough. Funders will have to pioneer "next practices"--effective approaches that are well-suited to tomorrow's more networked, dynamic, and interdependent context.
With this in mind, Monitor Institute is pleased to announce the publication of What's Next for Philanthropy: Acting Bigger and Adapting Better in a Networked World. The piece updates our 2005 report, Looking Out for the Future, and represents more than a decade of work by the Institute in exploring the evolving "future of philanthropy." It highlights the changing context in which funders now operate, and identifies ten emerging next practices that can help funders of all sorts increase their impact over the coming decade.
Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, What's Next for Philanthropy argues that while the cutting edge of philanthropic innovation over the last decade has been mostly about improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and responsiveness of individual organizations, the next practices of the coming 10 years will have to build on those efforts to include an additional focus on coordination and adaption--acting bigger and adapting better.
To apply these approaches in your own organization and philanthropic efforts, use any of the links on the left to download the report or its accompanying do-it-yourself innovation toolkit.
Developed in collaboration with Blueprint Research & Design, Inc., this report examines the changing environment for community philanthropy in the United States and its implications for community foundations. Other resources related to the future of community philanthropy project are available at www.communityphilanthropy.org.
"We shared On the Brink of New Promise with new board members and staff to let them know what direction we're going in. We part ourselves on the back for now having done a lot of things it recommended." --Kate Neilson, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham
"Our organization was challenged by On the Brink of New Promise, and we used that work to dramatically transform the role our organization plays in our community." --Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
A growing group of investors around the world is seeking to make investments that generate social and environmental value as well as financial return. This emerging industry of impact investing has the potential to become a potent force for addressing global challenges. But how might it succeed or fail? Will it take the next five to 10 years? 25 years? Or will it not happen at all?
This report examines impact investing and how leaders could accelerate the industry's evolution and increase its ultimate impact in the world. It explores how impact investing has emerged and how it might evolve, including profiles of a wide range of impact investors. The report also provides a blueprint of initiatives to catalyze the industry.
The strategy was completed in January 2009 with lead funding and support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Funding was also provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
For five years, Monitor has partnered with Fast Company magazine to produce the Fast Company/Monitor Group Social Capitalist Awards. The Awards served multiple objectives:
(1) to contribute to the growth and quality of the social entrepreneurship movement in the U.S.;
(2) to introduce a new population of business leaders to the principles of social entrepreneurship and the compelling results being achieved; and
(3) to develop and hone, in a practical laboratory, an approach to comparative assessment that might inform broader efforts to strengthen the social capital marketplace.
Global trends, from new technologies to dramatic demographic shifts, are combining to create a new context for philanthropy. This book—the culmination of a five-year exploration of the future of philanthropy—aims to help philanthropists understand what it means to give in a rapidly changing global and philanthropic landscape. Other resources related to the future of philanthropy project are available at www.futureofphilanthropy.org.
Cultivating Change, the companion white paper, examines the barriers to change in philanthropy and why the current moment holds new possibility for improving the field.
Nonprofits are in the knowledge business, whether they acknowledge it or not. This report provides a sampling of how three critical knowledge management tasks are done in the social sector: knowledge creation and knowledge organization, as well as knowledge transfer, sharing, and application.
A conceptual framework to help corporate foundations understand the array of options that are available for their giving and how uncertainties in the world around their companies might influence their choices.