Should We Be Sharing What Works?

Photo by Toban Black

This fall, I had a great opportunity to work with some thought leaders in the philanthropy world in tackling a problem that foundations are just starting to recognize.

Picture this: you’re a foundation with a specific mission and you give a grant to an organization to do some research that has the potential to really make an impact in your area. The organization does the research, applies the results to the work that it’s doing, and writes up a final report for you, the granting foundation, on what it learned and how the research has changed what it does or how it does it for the better. Then what?

The “then what?” is the problem we set out to tackle. What would happen if an organization could share its research with anyone else who might benefit? What if the foundation helped to disseminate the new knowledge that emerged from their initial investment? What if the impact of the grant could be magnified by all of the organizations that want to answer the same research question?

Rebecca Thomas of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and I wrote an article about the benefits of sharing for the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week. Our first shared research collaboration, the ebook Tipping the Culture: How Engaging Millennials will Change Things, was based on research done by Steppenwolf Theatre Company and funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Grant-makers and grant-seekers, what benefits do you see to sharing?