Philanthropy can be a powerful enabler for those on the readiness runway. This phase is a time of listening, fostering relationships and investing funds to strengthening connections and interdependence.
The relative neutrality of philanthropy allows you to take up roles and fund in ways that others may not do. The types of things you can do are:
- Invest in leaders and organisations ready to work together—even if they’re not the biggest, most powerful or best known;
- Convene people to help them crystallise their concerns and identify doable actions they will support;
- Launch small, easy wins to demonstrate progress is possible;
- Advocate for those efforts where leaders and groups are open and are ready to move ahead—focus there;
- Identify and support places where residents can easily engage, make progress and produce tangible wins;
- Support people who tell stories of progress that are believable—make sure not to hype or overblow results 1
With these types of relationships and investments, the following progress is possible:
- Growing awareness and desire of the need for change among engaged leaders, groups and residents, which will represent a segment of the community;
- Positive signs of progress in isolated areas where change is possible. These may not be in the most strategic areas requiring action but positive signs represent the ability to make progress;
- Leaders and organizations emerge that want to move the community forward; only a relatively small number will end up working together to create significant efforts 2
Questions for you to consider when catalysing connections are:
- What knowledge or connections do I have that could be valuable to the initiative?
- How am I balancing the need to catalyse connections with the necessity not to force them?
- How do we bring diverse voices to the table in an authentic way?
- How open are we to the contributions and ideas of others?
- Do collective impact partners have the trust in each other required to work together? 3
The key insight for you is the need to focus on the emerging issue/s, not just on supporting individual grantees. Moving from investing in individual grantees to a more systemic, problem-focused orientation can be a major shift for philanthropists. 4