The biggest network divide -- the one I think makes philanthropy so much less effective than it could be -- is the divide between so-called DONORS and BENEFICIARIES. I want to suggest that these terms are a little whacky.
I want to suggest that people who give money and people who have projects that need money need to rethink of themselves as a PEER NETWORK -- and that this small (but oh so difficult) step would instantly start a process of transformation.
First of all, people are doing fabulous, creative stuff out in communities. They are experimenting, working unbelievably hard, scrambling for resources to keep going. Philanthropists could learn so much from them about what works, what makes a difference - but how do they get a true picture of what is going on, because non-profits feel they have to make themselves look perfect to get money and so hide some of the most important information -- their mistakes!? How can positive community energy be identified and supported -- and be allowed to be imperfect, but held accountable for learning and making breakthroughs? What might happen if philanthropists stopped funding themes and started funding networks of high-energy groups that have or want to learn deep processes of innovation, collaboration and reflection?
But, by funding organizations rather than networks and projects, philanthropists take away the incentive to work with others, learn from others and get the kind of feedback that helps non-profits see the unproductive ruts they have slipped into.