How networking leads to powerful results

lourdessanz_250By Lourdes Sanz-Moguel

WINGSForum 2014: The Power of Networks accomplished the important goal of communicating to participants how networking leads to powerful results.

During the opening session on networks, it was enlightening to reflect on how networks enhance human connections, create efficiency and include diversity of approaches, allowing members to face complex issues with fresh perspectives and mitigate the bottlenecks produced by bureaucracy and hierarchical structures. The session also highlighted technology’s role in driving network achievements, and described the different types of networks, as well as key facets and activities of networks: shared vision; system organization; learning and researching; measuring and certifying; and advocating.

This first approach to understanding the network and its power is especially important for WINGS members that are membership associations, because it provides a set of insights they can pass down to their own membership, in order to continue the work and inspire new levels of commitment.

The concurrent session on impact measurement presented by The SROI Network and Nexus Network, Demonstrating Impact to Engage the Next Generation of Philanthropists, shed light on understanding measurement as a tool—a means as opposed to an end. Participants were invited to reflect on various questions, including:

  • Are we doing as much as we can?
  • How much are we putting toward measuring management rather than impact?
  • How does “value” look like from the beneficiary’s point of view?
  • How do we remain accountable?
  • How do we make sure the beneficiary’s voice is heard?

There were several conclusions on the difference between activities, products and outcomes—the relevance of measurement and outcome expectations, and how these relate to activities—and the level of accuracy needed to increase credibility.

Current debates were also a central part of WINGSForum. Because the comparison between Venture Philanthropy/Philanthrocapitalism and Strategic Philanthropy prompts a key debate in many countries, the exposure to different arguments supporting diverse experiences and points of view was very enriching. The panel gave their points of view while Jenny Hodgson invited the audience to express theirs, making the session interactive and enriching its content greatly.

Avila Kilmurray (Community Foundation for Northern Ireland) emphasised that local philanthropy is not equal parts business and venture philanthropy. “Civil society is the place where market (solutions) fail.” Civil society holds government and markets accountable. Grantmaking has to be connected closely with grassroots; social change comes from the ground, not from foundations.

An audience member spoke of grantmaking as a tool itself, inviting his peers to think strategically about the projects being funded through venture philanthropy. Barry Knight (CENTRIS) stressed how it is about the ends and not the means, while Gerry Salole (EFC) suggested that associations of grantmakers recognise weaknesses and strengths in both grantmaking and impact investment—that giving priority to one would be an error.

The panelists concluded with strong ideas: Andre Degenszajn (GIFE) affirmed that civil society must be strengthened as a practice; Independent philanthropy professional Heather Grady emphasised the need of ideas on how grantmaking can be improved, and Kurt Peleman (EVPA) stated that it is necessary to embrace diversity and clarify concepts instead of becoming defensive.

Lourdes Sanz-Moguel is the Philanthropy, Effectiveness and Services Director for Cemefi -Centro Mexicano para la Filantropía.

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