March 7, 2013

Making Organizational Learning Stick in Philanthropy

Philanthropists, foundation leaders, and philanthropic communities are helping shape a learning mindset across their organizations, grantees, and communities.

By: Ann Goggins Gregory

Over the last year, my colleague Katie Smith Milway and I have convened nonprofit and philanthropic leaders around the country to hear what it takes to make organizational learning “stick.” We explored this theme by anchoring squarely on two questions leaders ask most frequently: What knowledge is useful to capture? And with whom will we share what we learn? The resulting article, which appeared last week on Nonprofit Quarterly’s website, provides an easy framework and examples from both nonprofits and philanthropy for thinking about the answers.

Concurrent with—but quite separate from—this effort, The Bridgespan Group launched “Conversations with Remarkable Givers,” a series of video interviews with over 50 philanthropists and foundation leaders who share what they’ve learned through their own experiences. Many of them talked about their own learning journeys and what they did to shape a learning mindset within their organizations and across grantees.

Here is a sampling:

In addition to these stories, we were struck by the increased desire for learning across philanthropic communities. Grantmakers for Effective Organization’s report, “Learn and Let Learn,” includes six case studies of groups that came together with shared knowledge goals. In each instance, the process proved as instructive as the product. Definitely worth a read.

What have you seen? When philanthropy is at its best, what does organizational learning look like? What about at its worst?

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