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Although AVPN Conference 2019 is over, the discussions and partnerships it inspired have just begun. During the Conference plenary sessions, delegates heard from influential experts who shared their experiences overcoming roadblocks, achieving milestones and pursuing future progress. Here are five key takeaways for philanthropists looking to achieve deeper impact in their work:
“Go slow to go fast.” – Eileen Rockefeller Growald
Eileen Rockefeller Growald, Co-Founder and Chair of the Growald Family Fund, as well as a member of the philanthropic Rockefeller family, emphasised the importance of collaborating strategically to maximise impact. Whether convening with members of her family or organising stakeholders to tackle a new project, partnerships have always been Eileen’s unifying strategy. Her recommendation — to “go slow to go fast” — echoes this spirit of collaboration and partnership in suggesting that philanthropists take time to bring together the right players before embarking on a new endeavor. While it may be slower up front, having the right partners ensures greater efficiency and impact in the long-run.
“Think about your work in terms of learning, not success and failure.” – Larry Kramer
In his keynote, Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer outlined the pillars of strategic philanthropy: a goal, a story and a way to measure progress. Central to these pillars is a constant orientation towards adaptation and learning. While philanthropists should always begin with the problem, the rest of the path is less certain and requires research, flexibility and humility. Larry emphasised the importance of speaking to grantees, staff, and especially the beneficiaries you aim to serve before prescribing a premature solution. This feedback is critical to creating meaningful change and it inspired the Listen4Good initiative that the Hewlett Foundation sponsors as part of the Fund for Shared Insight.
“You may have a Ph.D., but you don’t know everything” – Cecilia Conrad
Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director of the Fellows program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and CEO of Lever for Change, shared this quote from her mother-in-law, referring to an exchange in which the two women argued over the best way to treat a child’s fever. Cecilia found that the phrase stuck with her, offering an important insight for her work. Cecilia’s mother-in-law’s sentiment, that even formal training doesn’t equip you to handle every problem, is echoed in the mission of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change program. By using an open competition to fund innovative solutions from change agents outside their network, 100&Change acknowledges that MacArthur does not know everything. For philanthropists, understanding this lesson, that even expertise and experience may leave out invaluable insights, is instrumental to success. Incorporating diverse perspectives from outside your network can unlock deeper impact.
“The future is a battle for mobilisation” – Jeremy Heimans
Jeremy Heimans is co-founder and CEO of Purpose, a global organisation that builds and supports movements for a more open, just, and habitable world. He is also a co-author with Henry Timms of the 2018 bestseller New Power. In his keynote speech, Jeremy discussed the changing dynamics of power, and what that means for philanthropists. While old power could be thought of as currency, able to be hoarded or transferred, new power is much less concrete and acts as a current, gaining in strength as it draws people in. According to Jeremy, the key for philanthropists is to determine how to support and engage with movements that lack structure or leaders in the traditional sense. To achieve deeper impact and capitalise on new power opportunities, philanthropists must embrace technology and find new ways to mobilise the public to engage in their work.
“Financial tools, applied correctly, have the potential to unlock progress in the world” – Christine Heenan
Christine Heenan is Vice President for Global Policy & Advocacy at the Rockefeller Foundation, where their work is focused on two key areas: health and nutrition, and economic mobility. In her keynote speech, Christine discussed the power of financial tools to create results at scale. According to Christine, the vast majority of the world’s problems are solvable: we often know the solutions, the challenge is bringing those solutions to scale. For philanthropists, unlocking the full continuum of capital tools–from grants to debt and equity–is essential to achieving that scale.