This commitment to bringing the community together to solve all of our major social problems in an integrated way is brand new. But we’ve been leading up to it, not always really knowing it. Our grantmaking has been measured against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, also known as “SDGs” which represent a commitment to address all problems, all the way. Our renovation of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad depot into a central hub that’s open to everyone has represented a commitment to coordination. We’ve also been committed to building the core strength and capacity of local nonprofits, understanding that they have to grow — big time — if they are to solve massive problems. Modeling ourselves after NASA and setting a deadline for problem-solving is the culmination of these approaches. They led us here. We’re not abandoning them. They’ll be subsumed under our mammoth new goal.
What’s it mean? In a nutshell, civilization can’t keep going on the way it is. It’s not sustainable. So, sustainability is the domain of work addressing the turnaround. It has been at the center of everything we do. And it can be measured. We track our region’s accomplishments and current projects. We’re mapping the local nonprofit sector. We’ve categorized the work into many of the same cause categories the UN uses. We’ve measured the impact of local efforts using technical tools like STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing & Rating) and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) systems. What we’ve learned will be critical to informing the work ahead.
Collective leadership is an inclusive approach to leadership. It asks individuals to cross boundaries of age, income, religion and culture and commit to listening, learning, joint action, shared responsibility and mutual accountability across sectors. It’s a shift away from an exclusive focus on individual change agents and highlights the importance of more collaborative approaches. The team, above the star, you know? What we’ve learned here will also inform our efforts going forward. Our new commitment is essentially collective leadership on steroids.
Since 2014, we’ve been working with our nonprofit grantees in a unique learning network called “Cohorts” — networks of nonprofits working together with support and coaching. It works. We do capacity surveys for local nonprofits. Their staff and leadership can use this assessment to discuss the strength of the organization. By focusing leadership on strength rather than old financial metrics like overhead ratios, we have a basis for building the organizations that can really change our local world. This learning too has brought us where we are and will inform where we go. We also fund the core strengths of our nonprofit partners — their fundraising, growth, financial analysis, human resource and technology functions to build partners strong enough to take on the community’s biggest problems.