Giving Compass’ Take:
• In this Stanford Social Innovation Review post, the Bush Foundation’s Jen Ford Reedy discusses the nature of “good” failures in philanthropy and how to generate more of them.
• Are we willing to embed the lessons here in our strategic giving? How can we both learn from mistakes and discover more flexibility as we seek solutions in the social sector?
We in the foundation world talk a lot about embracing failure, but it’s not something to take lightly. When a social or environmental investment fails, it can negatively disrupt people’s lives and erode community trust. It can also have a huge opportunity cost, taking resources and energy away from other efforts. This is why risk mitigation planning is a standard part of good philanthropic practice, and why we regularly ask ourselves: How can we design our strategies to reduce the chance of failure?
But while success should always be the goal, it’s important to remember that not all failures are created equal. There are good failures and bad failures. Many investments don’t achieve their intended outcomes, but they nevertheless: 1) contribute knowledge to the field, 2) have a significant, positive, but unintended consequence, or 3) increase the capacity of all involved to try other approaches.
Given this, I suggest we add another element to our standard practice: failure optimization planning.
Read the full article about getting the best possible failures in philanthropy by Jen Ford Reedy at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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