Giving Compass’ Take:
• Adaptive philanthropy asks funders to think beyond strategy. It requires adapting the foundation’s tactics to best address changes in the sector.
• How can funders pivot to adaptive philanthropy without throwing off their current strategy?
• Read more about why adaptive strategy is important in philanthropy.
Getting real results from philanthropy requires more than basic strategy; it requires a strategy that can adapt to unpredictable changes—an adaptive philanthropy. The question now is, how do we move from theory to practice—from a traditional approach to strategy to an adaptive one?
Adaptive philanthropy relies more on decision trees and scenario analysis than on rigid multiyear plans that take years to evaluate and months to refresh. It’s critical to note that this approach requires just as much analysis as traditional strategy, and maybe more since the analysis is dynamic, not static. Adaptive philanthropists are highly oriented toward the external environment, keeping an eye on important sensitivities and assumptions rather than executing what they wrote months ago.
Funders should consider the following:
- Adaptive philanthropists define what success looks like over the medium and long-term, for whom, and over what timeframe.
- Adaptive philanthropy defines the strategy’s anchors (what shouldn’t change in changing times); it also defines clear but flexible boundaries within which investments can move to catch currents.
- Adaptive leaders understand what the evidence says about what does and doesn’t work, what’s known and unknown.
- Adaptive philanthropists have a clear learning agenda and plan to experiment so that they can come down the learning curve as quickly as possible, especially in new areas.
- With clear boundaries and a goal informed by evidence, adaptive philanthropy does not assume a rigid, paint-by-numbers process to achieve that success.
Most philanthropists we know aspire to change the world—that’s why they love the job. But many are seeking appropriate behaviors and tools to do it. Adaptive strategy requires a shift in thinking and doing. It requires understanding where to anchor, and what can and should change.
Read the full article about adaptive philanthropy by Susan Wolf Ditkoff at Stanford Social Innovation Review
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