Note from Beth: I’m hosting a small army of guest bloggers, grantmakers, who are attending the GeoFunders National Conference taking place this week in Seattle. The GEO community is united by a common drive to challenge the norm in pursuit of better results. GEO’s 2012 National Conference shares a range of perspectives and new ideas for smarter grantmaking that leads to better results and presents opportunities for participants to learn from the wisdom and experience of their peers. If you’re not attending and curious what funders are learning, you’ll have an opportunity to read some of the ideas and questions being discussed right here on this blog.
The Capacity-Building Frontier(s) – guest post by Barbara Kibbe
I have watched this community grow and change for 16 years. (My daughter was 4 when we began the conversation about funders’ role in building the effectiveness of their grantees!) As always, conversations at GEO are remarkably self-reflective. I am heartened by how many new faces are here at each conference and by how the culture endures.
This time, my favorite conversations have been about what’s next. In our networked, technological, diverse (dare I say fragmented) world there are plenty of new challenges. So, which capacities should we be building?
Well, it depends.
It depends on a complex web of factors that are themselves in flux. Here are a few things are becoming more clear to me as I talk with my colleagues here at GEO:
(1) We will always want to support the efforts of our grantees to build stronger boards, better fiscal discipline, more visionary leadership, systems that scale, and better ways to measure and demonstrate impact. None of that will go away. But our jobs are getting harder.
(2) Our grantees’ constituents are on social media. If nonprofits (including funders) don’t know how to communicate with them there, they will fail to engage the participation and support they need to do their work. Social media literacy and facility is a 21st century core capacity.
(3) If we want to collaborate; if we see the advantages of shared knowledge and collective action, then technology can help us make it real. The Strategy Landscape tool built by the Monitor Institute and delivered by CEP is the wave of the future for smart, strategic funders interested in results. Our grantees should have similar tools for collaboration to help them make smart decisions with limited resources in real time.
(4) The organizational frame is not the only frame and it is inadequate. Every organization is part of a broader, dynamic ecosystem. Thinking or acting like you’re not affected by the decisions and actions of others is very 20th century. We need to give that up along with linear logic models that assume we can control all the variables in our world in favor of a dynamic model that is more like life – full of actions and reactions.
(5) There is reason to be hopeful. A whole new generation of creative, flexible leaders – many nurtured through our efforts – is ready to join our ranks. These young activists, strategists, managers and visionaries know how to work and live and make change in our 21st century world. They make me proud and confident that our collective future may be troubled but can be bright.
Barbara Kibbe is the Chief Operating Officer for the Salesforce.com Foundation, where she leads the Foudation’s initiatives to scale and evolve to meet growing demand.