Synapses Ablaze at GEO 2012 | Beth’s Blog

Synapses Ablaze at GEO 2012

Guest Post

Lehrer’s piece on the Wall Street Journal is here

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.

Synapses Ablaze at GEO 2012 – guest post by Victoria Dunning

Wow!  After Day 2 at the GEO conference my mind is abuzz!  The wonderful thing about this conference is hearing from the greatest thought leaders in the business of philanthropy, social media, capacity-building, and non-profit effectiveness.  It’s big, it’s inspiring, and it helps me think more clearly about Global Fund for Children’s work to scout, support and strengthen grassroots groups serving vulnerable children around the globe.  Here are my Top 6 Takeaways from Day 2 alone…

1. True grit matters…a lot. Jonah Lehrer author of Imagine: How Creativity Works kicked off the day and got my synapses firing – coincidently, he is also a neurobiologist.   His opening plenary helped elucidate the absolute value of persistence in achieving our goals.  Grit is a long-term metric, and though difficult to measure, it is a truer indicator than IQ or SAT scores and other static quantitative measures on the potential to achieve ultimate success.  Do our grantee partners demonstrate dogged determination to get results?  Does our staff?  Do I?   This is a new indicator I’ll be on the lookout for.

2. Don’t brainstorm. With an emphasis of quantity over quality and the cardinal rule to never criticize, brainstorming only dilutes our progress in finding solutions.  “Dissent and debate” allows us to disagree when problem-solving, rejecting the less valuable ideas, while pursuing and improving the ideas with real potential.  This gem, also from Jonah Lehrer, just might change the way I do business.  “One-plussing” can facilitate the process of taking a good idea and improving upon it.  Here’s how we can unlock our challenges!

3. Relax…and take a shower. True insight and creativity come when we are relaxed and our mind is wandering, not when we are jacked up on Red Bull and a double-shot Venti cappuccino (even in Seattle). Too often when problem-solving, we try to focus, focus, focus while staring at the computer screen.  But it’s during the walk around the block or staring out the window of the Acela to New York when we can thaw out the brain freeze and go for the breakthrough.  And the shower…well, it’s just about the only place we can’t bring that darn smartphone – another respite that allows our thinking to really flow.  HT (that’s “Hat Tip” in Twitterland)) again to Jonah!

4. No stories without numbers; no numbers without stories. This has been our metrics mantra at The Global Fund for Children, but now Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center has validated it.  People choose what data to accept or reject based on the story they have in their heads.  They frame their view of the world on their own experience.  New data either reinforces that story or that data is dismissed; rarely does data actually change one’s view of the world.  If we are not making progress making our case with data, the answer is not more data but better stories (with supportive data).

5. We live in an amazing moment in history where change is powered by the bottom up. This is great news from Katherine Fulton of the Monitor Institute for a grassroots grantmaker like me.  Of course, she also made the point that this is a world “where top down doesn’t work and bottom up doesn’t add up.”  So the grassroots solutions won’t be able to tackle the magnitude of our challenges.  As grantmakers, we must engage the multiplier levers at our disposal – convening and connecting are two tools we can use.

6. This is the age of networks and information Another powerful takeaway from Katherine Fulton is the idea that networks are not new, but now they are turbo-charged by technology.  Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have had an accelerating and compounding effect on social movements and social change.  How can we support and strengthen networks?  And when networks are turbo-charged by technology in the information age, how can we be more flexible and more nimble in responding to and supporting groundswells of change?

Victoria Dunning

Victoria Dunning is Vice President for Prorgams at The Global Fund for Children, where she thinks big about small grants to grassroots organizations serving the world’s smallest citizens.

One Response

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