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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Barbie Land Method to Funder Listening


“I get that listening is essential, however what position am I really presupposed to play to make it occur?” A program officer from a big non-public basis just lately requested my colleague this query. The truth that this program officer needed to play a job in listening to the communities on the coronary heart of their grantmaking represents a particular shift within the discipline — 10 years in the past I repeatedly heard grantmaking workers query why they wanted to take heed to communities in any respect.

Now, their questions are targeted on the right way to pay attention nicely, and the precise ‘hows’ that program officers specifically ask about are many and various: How do I’ve ongoing conversations with my grantees about how they need to pay attention? How do I pay attention on to communities with out my companions feeling like I’m checking up on them? How do I cope with listening to conflicting solutions from totally different neighborhood members? How do I make the time?

It jogs my memory of the “Barbie” film (bear with me). As soon as Barbie accepts that her existence didn’t remedy “all issues of feminism and equal rights” in the true world, she faces all types of sensible questions. Granted, most grantmakers don’t want to determine the right way to quell an rebellion of Ken dolls. However they do want to determine how, virtually, to make room for listening when it feels essential however not often like their most urgent precedence.

Over the course of the subsequent month, the funders that make up the Suggestions Incentives Studying Group will supply sensible solutions for the way grantmaking workers can pay attention higher, inside the realities of their day-to-day work. We’re excited to widen the lens of what we imply by listening and supply actionable solutions for the right way to do it nicely.

Two years in the past, in our first weblog sequence with CEP, we wrote about how funders are utilizing their energy to dismantle the inducement construction that rewards nonprofits for aligning with funder priorities slightly than the wants and wishes of the folks most affected by their work. We shared that, as a part of that work, funders are more and more offering capacity-building help to assist their grantees pay attention and reply to the folks on the coronary heart of their work: 36 % of foundations we surveyed supplied grantees funding, coaching, or different listening-related capability help, and 60 % of the foundations that didn’t have been contemplating doing so.

It’s heartening to see, two years on, that funders are discovering extra methods to begin conversations with grantees about how they need to take heed to communities, whether or not by including inquiries to grant purposes or utilizing grantees’ How We Pay attention reflections on Candid, and providing help, like sponsoring trainings or entry to listening instruments, to assist them understand these aspirations.

However very similar to Barbie Land wants many alternative Barbies to operate, the methods wherein funders hear neighborhood voices shouldn’t start and finish with simply supporting their grantees to pay attention higher. Funders ought to completely help grantees to pay attention nicely. They need to additionally take heed to their grantees, whether or not by the Grantee Notion Report, grantee convenings, or ongoing conversations. And they need to additionally pay attention on to the communities most affected by their grantmaking. Simply as President Barbie wants the assistance of different Barbies to guard the democracy of Barbie Land, every of those three kinds of funder listening helps the others. They use totally different strategies, make sense at totally different factors within the grantmaking cycle, and uncover totally different, complementary insights.

Three important kinds of funder listening and the strategies every may use.

Take REDF, for instance, a grantmaker that invests in constructing an economic system that works for everybody. REDF sponsored a few of its grantees to take part in Listen4Good, a suggestions capacity-building program, and made new funding out there so these grantees might reply to the suggestions they have been listening to. REDF additionally included a few of Listen4Good’s suggestions questions right into a multi-year examine of their job-preparation interventions so they may immediately hear the hopes and goals of members within the packages they have been supporting. They usually despatched grantees artwork provides so they may make posters to share their visions for the longer term. “[Listening is] a strong act to make issues higher,” says Yon Jimenez-Macuso, supervisor for studying and proof at REDF. “By listening to our grantees, amplifying their voices and people of the folks they serve, and repeatedly studying from them and their communities, we collect worthwhile insights that not solely form our work but in addition construct actual connections and drive significant change.”

We don’t count on each grantmaker to change into an knowledgeable in all three kinds of listening in a single day. Most grantmakers have particular areas of labor the place it feels best or most related to begin deepening their listening follow. That’s why over the past yr the funders that Suggestions Labs works with have developed a instrument that lays out totally different alternatives for foundations to include high-quality listening. As we’ve workshopped the instrument with different grantmakers, we’ve emphasised that it’s not about selecting considered one of these areas to put money into and sticking to it. Fairly, the hot button is to establish the chance for listening that feels most related and possible in your work now, and construct to the opposite areas from there.

5 alternatives for listening

  1. Transferring into a brand new problem space or neighborhood: As you begin making grants in a brand new problem space or neighborhood, you’ll most likely be determining who’s already working within the system and figuring out what position you need to play within the house. Helpful listening approaches embody listening excursions, convening neighborhood members to create methods for change, or one-on-one conversations with leaders in that space.
  2. Investing in grantees’ listening efforts: Many grantees are desirous to pay attention, however lack the capability, house, or time. Others are listening, however maybe not in methods which can be apparent or appreciated. Understanding how your companions presently take heed to communities and what help they should pay attention higher can assist you higher direct help to grantees and companions. You need to use grantee reflections on the How We Pay attention part of their Candid profile to spark conversations about their listening practices, and supply capacity-building help for grantees to strengthen their listening practices within the methods they establish.
  3. Strengthening inside processes, governance, and staffing: Listening to grantees and communities can assist you enhance your grantmaking processes and inside buildings. You may be on the lookout for methods to streamline grant approval processes, assist workers get proximate to the communities most affected by your grantmaking, or recruit extra board members, workers, and consultants with lived expertise of the problems you’re making an attempt to deal with by your grantmaking. Helpful approaches embody grantee survey instruments just like the Grantee Notion Report, staffing neighborhood liaison roles or setting targets for the way a lot time workers spend in communities, and incorporating lived expertise as a criterion when hiring consultants or recruiting new workers or board members.
  4. Analysis and studying: Listening can assist you consider your progress, sense adjustments within the methods you’re making an attempt to affect, and modify your grantmaking accordingly. Helpful approaches embody convening neighborhood members to establish indicators of progress, listening to companions and neighborhood members as a part of evaluations, and sharing what you’re studying with the folks on the coronary heart of your work and alluring them that can assist you determine what it means.
  5. Sharing energy over grantmaking selections: Shifting energy over your grantmaking selections entails deciding how participatory you aspire on your grantmaking to be, and figuring out who’s most affected by your grantmaking selections and what decision-making energy you possibly can share with them. Helpful listening approaches embody advisory boards of individuals most affected by your grantmaking, participating neighborhood members in grant program design, or adopting different participatory grantmaking instruments.

Over the course of this weblog sequence, totally different funders will share their experiences with these totally different alternatives for funder listening, and supply sensible recommendation for the way grantmaking workers, and program officers specifically, can strategy them. We hope to supply suggestions that allow you to begin constructing on the alternatives for listening which can be in entrance of you. That’s, in any case, Kenough.

Megan Campbell is the senior director of Packages and Technique at Suggestions Labs. Discover her on LinkedIn or be part of her on the 2024 Suggestions Summit in Denver Might 15-17.

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