That sounds like a dry title…but let me explain.
I am doing some work at the moment with an organization called the Centre for Sustainability, a group out of the Vancouver Foundation that administers some grants programs to support organizational development for non-profits.
We are designing a program, called the Technical Assistance Program for Aboriginal Non-Profits (TAP) specifically for Aboriginal non-profits and as part of that work we are travelling around BC hosting conversations with the folks out there who might end up being recipients of the program’s funding. Yesterday in Terrace we heard some things that made us rethink a large part of the approach to how these types of programs are run.
Essentially, government and philanthropic organizations support these types of initiatives by issuing grants to recipients who do the work and then return a report to the funder. The work benefits the organization, and the funder is satisfied with the results. The loop is closed.
In Terrace we heard from people that there is much to gain from sharing stories about organizational development efforts and that our focus groups themselves, using storytelling as a means to contribute to our learning, are just as valuable as activities for which organizations might get funded. This started us thinking a bout a new model of networked learning and organizational development support that we sketched out for further inquiry.
Essentially, this model is an open loop learning process and is based in the idea of “paying forward” the lessons learned. Organizations would continue to receive grants to do the work, but with one additional reporting requirement: they would have to share what they learn. Materials produced in the process of rejigging their governance, designing policy manuals or creating human resources recruitment processes for example would be open source, and freely available to any other organization that wanted to use them. The resources would be hosted on a website and available to all.
Also, the recipient would be required to produce a presentation for one of five annual regional networking events around the province. These events would be supported by the granting agency and would invite organizations interested in OD issues to come together to learn from one another, participate in workshops and most importantly, hear the results of TAP recipients learnings from the work they have been doing. The advantage here is that presentations and reports could be in any format. And arts organization could make a dramatisation of their process, others could use video or storytelling sessions, and some might want to convene a conversation to tell the story and then discuss it further with other, to build even more learning.
Over time, we can build these networks into self-sustaining communities of practice, using and contributing to a growing body of materials freely available to all, and with increasing capacity in the regional networks for mutual help, support and collaboration.
The idea is new to us, but it combines many thoughts and theories I have worked with over the years including open source, social networking, learning networks and communities of practice, new forms of giving and I think it has some implications for progressive philanthropy as well. Hopefully Phil and others will weigh in and let me know.