When you are one, you have only just learned to speak. You move about clumsily and knock things down a lot. You don’t yet know what is possible, but you are burgeoning with life.
It’s an exciting time to be in the feedback loop business, and no one knows this better than Feedback Labs, a new nonprofit consortium selected as one of the 14 organizations to receive a grant from the Fund for Shared Insight, the collaborative of funders helping nonprofits to collect and incorporate feedback to improve their performance—and how philanthropic dollars are spent. (Yup, this post is about a collaborative giving money to a consortium, one more sign that lone wolf outfits are decidedly passé.)
Feedback loops are being heralded as a way to ensure that the people served by nonprofits, the so-called “end users” of philanthropy, can give input to how organizations operate. Better listening promises to teach nonprofits what the client wants and does not want, and how, in providing services, it can best communicate with clients and also act to meet their needs. Some of the benefits? Feedback loops can help expand on successes and give quick attention to problems as they emerge.
The Knight Foundation took another step forward in its work to bolster U.S. cities recently, by identifying 126 finalists in its Cities Challenge. All 26 of Knight’s communities of focus for the challenge are represented in the pool of finalists and the winners will divvy up $5 million in funding.
Over 7,000 ideas were submitted for the challenge, coming from public and government organizations, design experts, urban planning organizations, and individual citizens.
With $3 million dollars in technical assistance and consulting from the Citi Foundation and Living Cities, three poverty-stricken U.S. cities now have more irons in the fire for improving government and building an inclusive economy.
In case you don’t know Living Cities, it was founded in 1991 and is now backed by 22 foundations and several financial institutions that partner with it “to develop and scale new approaches to dramatically improve the economic well-being of low-income people.” The big names in philanthropy are all behind this place, including Gates, Rockefeller and Ford, and big banks like Bank of America, Citi, and JP Morgan Chase are on board as well.
Living Cities has been around long enough to watch concern about urban poverty move in and out of vogue. These days it is most definitely in vogue. Not only is inequality writ large a hot issue, but there’s a huge amount of excitement about urban renewal and a number of mayors are doing interesting things to help cities create opportunity and stability for low-income people. As well, there’s a lot of energy around making city governments more innovative agents of change, which is crucial for enabling the local public sector to reduce poverty and drive economic growth. Creative programs are happening in many cities, but often in isolation.
From our union brothers and sisters:
Some Certified Nursing Assistants report having to buy their own equipment to make sure they can monitor patients’ oxygen levels. Physical plant workers report troubling shortages of critical equipment they need to combat mold in ventilation ducts to patient and operating rooms. Now the Hospital is threatening to make the situation even worse by laying off more employees.
At the same time, Lifespan – A Health System paid more than $16.6 million in compensation to just ten executives last year. These individuals averaged $1 million more in compensation than the average compensation earned by CEOs of nonprofit hospitals nationwide. Meanwhile, Rhode Island’s largest healthcare employer has employees working more forty hours per week that get no health coverage.
As the New Year gets underway, we could conjure up a list of “top trends” in philanthropy for 2015 or make a bunch of predictions that we would probably regret twelve months from now, along with all the junk we ate over the holidays.
But we’re going to skip such exercises and instead offer up a quick tour of the obsessions, favorite causes, and pet peeves that we’ll be indulging this year. If you’re still wondering what the agenda is at Inside Philanthropy, you’ve clicked on the right post.
Bloomberg Philanthropies made our list of most interesting foundations in 2014 because of its wide range of huge gifts, signaling ways the foundation may be forging new giving paths in Michael Bloomberg’s first year outside of the mayor’s office. But there’s one interesting initiative at BP we haven’t talked about much, one that’s been getting big funding and spreading to new areas: Bloomberg’s Innovation Teams.
This initiative is mainly associated with Mike Bloomberg’s wonky obsession with making government more efficient. But it also offers insights into how one of America’s top funders aims to foster economic growth and job creation in U.S. cities, a challenge which has cofounded many foundations and yet is attracting new energy amid a growing focus on urban renewal.