Note from Beth: I have the honor of leading a “Networked NGO Training” in Delhi for grantees of the Packard Foundation and have lined up some guest posts to supplement my reports from India.
The Collective Impact of Love guest post by Stefan Lanfer, Barr Foundation
Martin Luther King once said “love is mankind’s most potent weapon for personal and social transformation.” There is a lively debate these days in the nonprofit sector about how the solutions to intractable problems depend on “collective impact” and what it means to be “outcomes-focused.” A new case study in the Stanford Social Innovation Review injects that most potent of weapons – love – into the debate.
The case study – “Networking a City” – features the Barr Fellowship, which is an effort by the Boston-based Barr Foundation to celebrate and connect extraordinary nonprofit leaders in its home city. Every two years since 2005, a different group of 12 such leaders have been surprised by a phone call from Barr. Chosen from among hundreds of executive directors of area nonprofits, these 12 receive a unique offer – to become Barr Fellows. This means a three-month sabbatical, group travel to the global south, and the opportunity to join a remarkably diverse network of leaders.
Co-authored by Marianne Hughes of Interaction Institute for Social Change and writer Didi Goldenhar, “Networking a City” explores the amazing return on an investment in relationships among social change leaders, even without set expectations or requirements about what might emerge as a result. What has resulted, however, is something the Boston Globe once called, “a web of collaboration rippling through the nonprofit community with increasing effect.”
The Barr Fellowship is certainly a well-deserved “Thank you!” to a group of dedicated, effective leaders. It provides them with an opportunity for personal replenishment and growth. Yet, it is also an example of an approach to philanthropy that takes the long view – one that looks with humility on the complexity of change in a city like Boston, and recognizes that people, not organizations are the real agents of that change. And it makes a bet on the idea that good things would come from a concerted effort to forge bonds of trust and respect among a diverse network of community-based leaders – leaders who are already making impacts on their own, yet whose collective potential is largely an unexplored country. This is why the authors initially submitted the article to SSIR under the title, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?
To read more about the Barr Fellowship and to download the SSIR article, visit: http://www.barrfoundation.org/fellows
How have you seen love as that most potent weapon in change that takes the long view?
Stefan Lanfer manages communications for the Barr Foundation