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June Must-Reads 2019

There’s reason for both disappointment and hope in two stories we came across this month: one about why the L.A. Kitchen shut down, and one about how communities in Canada have lifted more than 200,000 families out of poverty. Other articles led us to explore bigger questions around advancing equity and grappling with critiques of …

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

There’s reason for both disappointment and hope in two stories we came across this month: one about why the L.A. Kitchen shut down, and one about how communities in Canada have lifted more than 200,000 families out of poverty. Other articles led us to explore bigger questions around advancing equity and grappling with critiques of philanthropy. We also thought about what it takes to create and put in place a strategy that adapts alongside you.

What caught your attention this month?

1. Eight Practices for Strategic Agility

STRATEGY | Stanford Social Innovation Review | 8-minute read

If you can’t remember what your strategy is, it’s probably not serving its purpose. To be effective, a strategy should be an ongoing practice that informs your decisions and adapts as circumstances change. The author shares eight ways you can right-size the process of creating strategy and be agile as you execute on it:

  1. Clarify the scope of potential change.
  2. Design the process from the perspective of strategy users.
  3. Use outside sources to support—but not replace—internal stewardship.
  4. Look back, look around, look forward.
  5. Bring everyone along.
  6. Embed the strategy, starting with the process.
  7. Allow adaptation at all levels.
  8. Talk about it.

2. My Nonprofit Did So Much Right, But We Still Couldn’t Raise Enough Money to Survive

NONPROFIT STRATEGY | Inside Philanthropy | 16-minute read

L.A. Kitchen seemed to be doing everything right, writes Robert Egger, the former executive director: it was serving a rapidly aging population, employing emancipating foster care youth and returning citizens, conserving wasted food, and offering an alternative option for poorly managed city contracts. Yet a series of struggles, including a failed public-private partnership and resistance from funders, led the organization to shut its doors after five and a half years. In this blog post, Egger shares the story of L.A. Kitchen’s closing from his perspective.


3. Philanthropy: Beyond Attack and Defense

PHILANTHROPY | Open Democracy | 7-minute read

You’re not alone if you’ve noticed debates about and between writers of recent books on philanthropy – Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All, Phil Buchanan’s Giving Done Right, Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth, Rob Reich’s Just Giving, and David Callahan’s The Givers, to name a few. But “winning” these debates is not as important as adding more layers to the conversation about the state of philanthropy, writes Rajiv Khanna, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at Thousand Currents. Foundations can either dismiss critics for “not telling the full story,” or they can choose to engage with the deeper questions. To engage with each other in these deeper questions, Rajiv writes, we must have authentic relationships with each other.

4. Philanthropy with a Racial Equity Lens

EQUITY | Center for Effective Philanthropy | 4-minute read

Advancing racial equity requires personal transformation (internal changes) and that we lead from where we are (external changes), writes Anna Cruz of the Kresge Foundation. We must individually and collectively grapple with our histories of racism, exclusion, and oppression. We must recognize how our roles can be levers to shift or perpetuate harmful practices. In this blog post, Anna shares some ways the Kresge Foundation is making changes, particularly in how they approach learning and evaluation:

  • They’re striving to make their thinking visible.
  • They’re expanding the notion of credible data.
  • They’re resisting simplicity.
  • They’re unlearning together.
For more on how the Kresge Foundation is approaching and advancing racial equity, read the GrantCraft case study “Advancing Racial Equity Through Capacity Building: The Kresge Foundation’s Talent and Leadership Development Efforts


5. Reducing Poverty—Together

COLLABORATION | The Philadelphia Citizen | 10-minute read

Recommended by the Solutions Journalism Story Tracker

In Canada, communities lifted more than 200,000 families out of poverty in seven years. The approach to this “Common Agenda” effort, initiated by the Tamarack Institute and supported by the McConnell Foundation, was straightforward: change was led by whole communities, not individual organizations. The cities that joined this effort brought together diverse community players around five key points of agreement:

  1. It’s about less poor, not better poor.
  2. The strategies need to be comprehensive.
  3. You have to acknowledge your assets.
  4. It has to be multi-sector.
  5. Participants have to be willing to learn and change.

Since then, Central Iowa adapted the approach locally and made several concrete changes. In the last two years there, 25,000 residents have escaped poverty, a 2 percent reduction in the region’s poverty rate.

“One answer is not the same for every community; finding what works requires finding out what the unique problems, and unique solutions, are for each city—something that can only be determined by the people in that city itself.” – “Reducing Poverty—Together


Bonus article (requires subscription to Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Social Change Won’t Happen Unless Philanthropy Gives More Power to Grassroots Leaders

GRANTMAKING STRATEGY | Chronicle of Philanthropy | 7-minute read

True change will happen when we support grassroots leaders bent on tackling the particular problems they face, argue the authors. We must shift from asking “How can the program I’m operating or funding achieve impact?” to “How can we lift up and activate the power of people closest to the problems we are trying to solve to achieve the highest and most sustainable impact?” The authors offer four principles to help grantmakers and nonprofits reconsider their mindset and practices:

  • Value unfamiliar excellence.
  • Find ways to connect with constituents directly or indirectly.
  • Don’t just share the agenda and the dialogue; share power.
  • Think about long-term collaboration, not just checking the box upfront.


Get insights, advice, and resources every few months.

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