Try “Putting Something in the Middle” and “Free-Writing” to Reflect on Grantmaking Strategy

Try “Putting Something in the Middle” and “Free-Writing” to Reflect on Grantmaking Strategy

Are you curious about how to create a routine that allows you or your team to reflect on your philanthropic practice? Dara Weinerman Steinberg, Executive Director of Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, shares her experience wrangling time to reflect and how it has reinvigorated her belief in the value of informal learning from strategy. I appreciated how many times she had to put it on her calendar before she gave reflection its due. It’s not easy! Dara and I hope this post will encourage you to experiment with taking time for reflection at work. Put that into your calendar, please!  – Jan Jaffe

Like many people, I’ve been moving forward without making adequate time to reflect. I’ve struggled to find the quiet time to think and explore different possibilities as to how the foundation might refine its grantmaking. I’d put a Shultz Hour on my calendar, and invariably I would move it to accomplish a task that was time sensitive. Plus, it’s easier to put off strategic work when there is no clear plan for how to do strategic reflection.

Continue reading →

Making Values Work for Teams

Making Values Work for Teams

Our first interview about reflective practices in group work is with Brenda Solorzano, who is the CEO of the new Headwaters Foundation in Western Montana. So many of our readers have asked how do you reflect when your staff is small and multi-tasking all the time or when the board is just past start-up stage and anxious to move from planning to action or a new CEO has just arrived and feels the need to hit the ground running?  Brenda and Headwaters offer us a chance to answer all these questions at once.  – Jan Jaffe

Jan: Headwaters Foundation is very new – just making its first grants. How do you, as its first CEO, help your board and staff hold the space for reflection when there must be so much pressure to focus on translating strategy into action?

Brenda: Over the years in philanthropy, I’ve come to believe that there is a very direct relationship between good values and good strategy. As a result, I’ve tried to “flip the frame” around those initial exercises about mission, vision and values exercises. It’s so easy to check values off the to-do list and forget that they can be used to remind us about how we want to work together as well as what we do. Rather than thinking about a values statement as a problem to solve and move on, I make it about intentionality around the culture we are trying to build. Values shape strategy.
Continue reading →

Adaptive Leadership as a Reflective Practice

Adaptive Leadership as a Reflective Practice

 

This post is the result of networks and reverse engineering! I wanted to explore whether philanthropy practitioners have used adaptive leadership, the framework developed by Dr. Ronald Heifetz and colleagues at Harvard’s Kennedy School, as a form of reflective practice. Hanh Le, who wrote a great post on Katy Perry lyrics and foundation strategy on this site, introduced me to foundation director and leadership consultant Marc Manashil, who with Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant created a variety of programs at New York University’s (NYU) Silver School of Social Work using the adaptive leadership approach. Those programs are funded by the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation. I wanted to learn how this foundation came to support a form of reflective practice as capacity building, and that’s how I began my conversation with the foundation’s Executive Director, Caroline Williamson. –Jan Jaffe

Caroline: My story is pretty unique. We are a new foundation, not very big and we are a grantmaking public charity. We support programs for underserved children in New York City. That aspect of what we do is traditional charitable work and it is good work. Very early on, we began to experiment with ways to encourage opportunities for reflection and learning among the organizations we supported. Our first grant was for $300K over three years to fund the adaptive leadership work.

Continue reading →

Stop in the Name of Movement

Stop in the Name of Movement

Ever since we started this project I’ve wanted to interview Darren Walker because I admire his fusion of intellect and energy. I have wondered what tools and skills help him mobilize and manage these strengths as well as handle the inevitable struggles that come with the job. For all of us, our strengths have a flip side, and in challenging situations that’s often where true leadership lies. Being attentive to what needs to be managed in ourselves implies showing vulnerability as a leader. It’s something not usually discussed, but Darren does here. — Jan Jaffe

Jan Jaffe: Darren, how do you deal with vulnerability in your work?

Darren Walker: In these moments at work when there is a heightened sense of vulnerability and emotion, my immediate response is to stop and not get caught up in the conflagration of whatever is triggered: rage, anger or frustration. We’ve all had personal and professional experiences that remind us of the imprudence of reacting in the moment.

Continue reading →

Systems Thinking: How You Show Up Matters

Systems Thinking: How You Show Up Matters

Jan Jaffe: Katie – Our project team has been describing reflective practice as a discipline of mobilizing and managing yourself to get to better outcomes. How about you?

Katie Hong: For me it means several things: 1) understanding that you, as an individual, are part of a system. This is true at work, in your family or as a member of your community. Recognizing what part of the system you are in – in your various roles at any given time – is important; and 2) at the same time, every individual, no matter what part of the system you are in, is powerful and how you show up in the world is a choice. That is, you have the power to either “cast a light or a shadow” to others around you and have positive or negative impact in the world, no matter what part of the system you are in. How you show up matters. Plus, as an actor in a system, you have the power to shift the system too.

This is important to recognize because funders are in a privileged position. My words and actions can mean more and carry more weight because I have influence over how resources are allocated.

I am passionate about the topic of reflective practice because I believe in the power of “self” as a tool and this is critical to having impact in the world.

Continue reading →