Archive July 2017

  • Rebecca Hobble, Analyst, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP)
    Posted: July 24, 2017

    This blog post was originally published on the website for UPenn's Center for High Impact Philanthropy and is being reposted with permission by the author.

    “Which snowflake breaks the branch?”

    “It’s neither the first nor the last,” said Leslie Crutchfield, author and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI). “Rather, it’s the collective weight of all the snowflakes that breaks the branch.” During the closing plenary, Crutchfield used this analogy to urge philanthropists to fund movements, not just programs. According to her research, movements only last when they have bottom-up support from a variety of different groups. For example, the successful movement to reduce smoking in the U.S. did not have one leader in particular. Rather, a groundswell of philanthropic leaders, citizen activists, lawyers, and others came together to push the movement forward—thus “breaking the branch” together. Philanthropies such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation played a crucial role in this movement, yet they alone cannot claim credit for its success. “There’s often ego involved in philanthropic funding,” Crutchfield remarked, “but funding movements doesn’t give you credit because you can’t attribute success to yourself.” For funders who are willing to forgo such credit, funding the “backbone” of movements can facilitate the involvement of the multiple stakeholders needed to make strong, lasting change.

  • Diana Ayton-Shenker, CEO, Global Momenta and Global Catalyst Senior Fellow, The New School
    Posted: July 17, 2017

    In reflecting on the recent Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact, organized in partnership with Morgan Stanley, several recurring themes emerged throughout the event: collaboration; innovation; and new ways to harness capital for good. The most striking takeaway of the gathering for me was how important it is for philanthropic change-makers to come together in a safe space and exchange best practices, lessons learned, and new ideas to foster positive social impact. All of these themes fall under the umbrella of how philanthropists can shift mindsets and strategies to create systems-level change. But what does it really mean to achieve systems change? Here are some inspirations that hit home for me and my role in the sector:


  • Maura Donlan, Director, Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy
    Posted: July 11, 2017

    About the same time that the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact was wrapping up in New York City on June 15, Jeff Bezos was breaking the internet—or at least his tweet was. With little preliminary fanfare, Bezos took to Twitter to ask the world for ideas to inform his “philanthropy strategy” with a special emphasis on the short term—the “here and now.” Since then, Bezos has received more than 45,000 replies and counting. Not bad for a month’s worth of crowdsourcing.

    To find good ideas, Bezos could have also attended the 2017 Social Impact Exchange Conference (SIEx17). Organized in partnership with Morgan Stanley, it brought together an impressive group of social innovators, philanthropists, and financial experts to explore ways to collaboratively fund and implement scalable initiatives that ultimately lead to systems transformation. Having attended my share of gatherings over the years, I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical about learning anything new or actionable. But I was wrong.  If he had attended, Mr. Bezos would have been able to benefit from some of the most cutting-edge thinking on how to find solutions that, as he phrases it, sit at the “intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

  • Saskia Siderow, MPH, Managing Director, Ormond House LLC
    Posted: July 3, 2017

    Language matters. Evidence matters. Transparency matters. In 2017, these may sound like political statements, but they are not intended to be. For those of us in the business of solving the world’s most intractable problems, they should be the fundamental tenets of our work. Nothing political, but simply the most efficient way to proceed: define your problem, design or fund programs based on sound evidence, develop and follow set protocols for your intervention and evaluation, report results in good faith. And as we look for effective ways to design and achieve system-wide change, these golden rules become even more important.

    At this year’s Social Impact Exchange gathering – held in two exciting content-rich days in mid-June – presenters and delegates explored myriad methods for achieving impact at scale: systems-thinking to uncover the best leverage points, cross-funder collaboration, partnership with government and other stakeholders, market forces, systemization of existing knowledge and entrepreneurial chutzpah. The golden rules were perhaps taken as given, but we should be careful not to lose sight of them as our goals become more ambitious.