Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Network Leap

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.

5 comments:

Jennifer Brooks said...

Absolutely!! Network value is a two-way street, and orgnizations and funders must focus both on what they can get from and give to a network ... creating a collective value that makes the network so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Thanks for the great post!

Jennifer :)
The Rurban Fringe

Nurture Girl said...

June, there are two issues mingled in this post. The first is an important one about the power dynamic between "giver" and "receiver" where we have historically honored the one with money. I totally agree that we need to shift this, and I am actively working on conversations to evolve our thinking here. First, the philanthropic relationship needs to be perceived as mutual empathy and mutual opportunity, I believe.

The second issue is whether "donors" of money pay attention to the boundaries of organizations (and particular projects) or the boundaries of energy (and the evolution of resilient innovative networks). Also, a vital and evolving area. I would love to hear more on this, from your perspective! Can you explain further? Thanks!

Teleri said...

I couldn't agree more, although I don't think that this is the only barrier to networking plans between non-profits. Part of it is a simple lack of connectivity. Groups are only becoming aware of each other via the web, twitter, facebook pages, etc.

However, the disconnect you point towards is indeed a large element in lack of engagement. Instead of competing for dwindling funding and other resources, its time for groups to go back to old fashioned asset mapping that is careful to include "clients" and "competitors" as stakeholders.

Tony Budak said...

Hi,
FYI, please check out the work of Edgar Cahn, see "Introducing the core economy and co-production",
http://tbmw.org/CoreEconCoProd

Cahn says, Co-Production requires A partnership on two levels: between professionals and those that they serve And between two economies: the monetary economy and the core economy

Best Regards,
Tony Budak

jane bush said...

Nice post Holley, enjoyed your thoughts...