Shared Insight Theory of Change

Embracing Openness to Increase Effectiveness

Barr joins funder collaborative to increase openness and effectiveness in philanthropy.

In research released in February of this year, The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) found that both foundation and nonprofit leaders characterize transparency as “representing the values of clarity, openness, and honesty,” and 86% of foundation leaders surveyed believe transparency is necessary for building strong relationships with grantees.

And yet, the report continues:

“There is significant room for improvement in the degree to which foundations’ practices match the beliefs of their leaders about what is important to increase foundation effectiveness,” in particular when it comes to sharing how they assess their performance or their lessons learned. While this may not be news to many, it is one that is increasingly discussed, clarified by research such as CEP’s, and needs to be addressed.

In view of this challenge for our field, the Barr Foundation has joined the Fund for Shared Insight with a grant of $100,000 to support its efforts—and those of its grantee partners—to increase foundation openness. Shared Insight is an ambitious collaborative funding effort launched in 2014, grounded in the belief that philanthropy will be more effective if foundation culture is characterized by more sharing and listening, in particular with the people foundations aim to help. It provides grants to support better feedback loops, research, and foundation openness—which goes beyond one-way transmission of information to authentic exchange that informs foundations’ work going forward.

In July, the Fund for Shared Insight announced a new round of grants to increase foundation openness in service of effectiveness. Over the next two years, it will grant $2.6 million to 10 organizations working toward this goal through a variety of approaches and projects. These range from workshops and labs to research and analysis to new practical tools and resources hosted online. At Barr, we are particularly interested in opportunities for our New England region to engage in the work of Shared Insight’s partners and benefit from the initiative’s cumulative learning.

One of the three broad goals for Barr’s Cross-Program Initiatives that we shared this spring is to support infrastructure for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and among the initial priorities outlined is a focus on improving the practice of philanthropy. The Fund for Shared Insight is an effort to do just that, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to invest in Shared Insight, collaborate with and learn from peer funders deeply engaged in this work, and advance shared goals with these peers and our grantee partners.

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Trevor Pollack

Guest Author Former Program Officer and Manager of Special Projects