Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#DisruptMN All Day, All Week, All Year

By Monica Foss, Events Associate

We took a risk and it worked. Is there any better feeling?

This year's Annual Forum 2014: Disruptive Philanthropy was an experiment of epic proportions for Charities Review Council. A year ago we asked for feedback on our Forum and heard the Minnesota Philanthropic community calling for a deeper dive; so we aligned our new strategy with the planning for this year’s forum and delivered. We created a place where the full spectrum of Minnesota’s philanthropic members could come together to honor our community’s history of generosity, and to imagine a new future where donors, funders and nonprofits do even more good together. The theme Disruptive Philanthropy developed from the idea that change may not be easy or comfortable, but it is necessary in order to make space for new ideas and better outcomes.

Mayor Chris Coleman & Executive Director Kris Kewitsch
The day was more creative and energetic than we expected. Starting with the Design Thinking Session, the ideas were flowing. More than 100 people gathered together in groups of eight to explore the concept of giving, in their personal and professional lives. Virajita Singh led the session and helped us realize that “everyone is creative. It is inherently human.” Saint Paul’s Mayor Chris Coleman stopped by and reminded us that “City Hall is not the place where disruption will come from;” rather, people working in the community have the agency, the know-how, and the desire to catalyze change. The importance of finding new ways to deal with old problems is often lost in the bureaucracy of institutions, but innovation starts with individuals.

Michael Faye, our lunchtime keynote speaker, brought us an example of Disruptive Philanthropy by telling his story about the founding of Give Directly. The organization was created with the idea that those living in poverty across the globe know best how to invest donation dollars. His organization developed a model to provide those extreme poor with the technology to receive direct cash transfers, and they are now watching their unique investments change the landscape of giving. While it may or may not be a model that can be replicated in the United States, it was a reminder that sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. Seeing through old ways of doing to go back to our ultimate goal is the first step in sparking new ideas for giving, and giving effectively.

Neese Parker (Youthprise) and Jason Edens of RREAL
With a good laugh from the Theater of Public Policy to end lunch, we launched our newest idea for giving effectively: the Live Giving party. There we heard from five organizations tackling their communities’ problems with innovative solutions. And in the end, our vision of ‘disruption’ was put in action when everyone at the Forum was offered the opportunity to give with giving cards courtesy of Charities Review Council and GiveMN.

What did we learn?

We learned that Disruptive Philanthropy is already in action in the Twin Cities. It lives in the creative minds of philanthropic and nonprofit professionals. It is fostered by the Minnesota Nice mentality we uphold that allows for collaboration and appreciation of diversity.

Here’s what the Council staff learned in their own words:

Abby Wright, Program Assistant: “People are ready, willing and looking for a way to disrupt the status quo. There was an incredible amount of energy and excitement throughout the day reflecting that.

Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director: “There is more excitement and energy around wanting change than I expected.

Amy Sinykin, Associate Director: “Taking risks and making changes can be fun and invigorating.

Kate Khaled, Engagement and Development Manager: "We used Design Thinking practices to plan #DisruptMN, and it paid off. The process was catalytic for Charities Review Council and the community we serve. When you use an inclusive process (like Design Thinking) to imagine new programs, you can transform a traditional lunch into an active experience with the end-user in mind. We may not have gotten everything exactly right the first time, but with our guests as our partners, we can continue to build dynamic experiences (like #DisruptMN) that completely re-design the social sector engagement experience."

Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Program Director: “All people are creative and can contribute to the solutions we need to improve nonprofit systems. It is up to each of us to ensure there are empowering environments where people can contribute and practice their ideas; and even fail sometimes with support and encouragement.

 Pollen's Live Illustration Wall

The Council hopes to continue this collaboration throughout the year, with more Design Thinking sessions and opportunities to use learning from #DisruptMN. In the coming weeks watch out for a report from Virajita Singh on the ideas developed during the design thinking session. There are pictures already on Facebook from the event – make sure to find and tag yourself and friends! In addition, a video recap of the day will be on our website within the month. And if you haven’t already, please fill out our evaluation survey – your feedback is essential to shape next year’s forum and to make it bigger, better and more disruptive.