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I

n October 2011 I had the privilege of attending A Grantmakers Gathering on


Networks which explored how we can increase social impact in a networked world.
While networks are not new and people connected together have managed to create
change throughout history, deliberately working with a network mindset broadens our
potential of possibilities. One of the key messages at this gathering was that the field of
grantmaking must move from the traditional mindset of plan and control, strengthening
individual efforts, proprietary information and learning, looking to experts for insights, and
centralized decision making, towards a networked mindset characterized by shared decision
making, ongoing emergence, network-wide capacity, open and transparent information, and
collective learning and intelligence. This approach, one that invites others into our thinking,
conversations, and actions and openly shares what we are doing, has led to many innovative,
efficient, sustainable and accessible services such as BikeShare, Wikipedia, and Mozilla
Firefox.
As I reflected on new ways of working with a network mindset, I was reminded of some of
the ways our grantees and partners have begun working wikily. They are engaged in open
and transparent conversations, and have prioritized relationships to find new solutions to
complex social issues. A couple of examples that come to mind:
Over the last couple of years, Tides Canada Initiatives embarked on a new initiative aimed at
increasing the NFP sectors understanding of how shared infrastructure models support and
enable capacity building and innovation. Instead of using the traditional approach of
gathering input from people in isolation, and evaluating their own experiences alone, TIDES
opened the conversation to others in the early stages of providing similar governance
platforms. They engaged individuals, organizations, funders, and networks to
transparently discuss support for emerging initiatives. These conversations broadened
their network resulting in a community of practice that connects, shares resources, and
problem solves together. Engaging diverse perspectives strengthened the sector's
understanding, articulation and overall enthusiasm for shared platforms. A shared language
developed which resulted in an informational public video and support from the Ontario
Nonprofit Network who is endorsing the recognition of shared platforms to government.
Making Good is developing a gaming module that will enable at least 500 young people
between the ages of 18 - 30 to identify, pitch for, and self-define their own career paths.
Instead of hiring a staff person to research and test different ideas, activities, and resources,
they connected with groups within their network and offered resources in exchange for
experimentation. For instance, Making Good partnered with the DiverseCity fellows to
experiment on Doors Open Wide, a different type of career fair that introduced participants
to the people behind the jobs. Tapping into existing networks not only allowed Making Good
to experiment, learn, and adapt different models, but it also enabled them to access
hundreds of youth that they would not have had access to on their own. In doing so, they
also built capacity of the DiverseCity Fellows and others.
These examples provide some insight as to what we can collectively accomplish by working
with a networked mindset. The full impact of these initiatives has yet to be seen, but their
deliberate approach of building and fostering relationships has already proven to strengthen
the capacity of the sector.
We can all begin to create future possibilities for our communities and sectors that do not
currently exist by walking and learning together. Perhaps you have already been thinking
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Program Manager
Ontario Trillium Foundaton