I love cooking, though I admit to rarely consulting recipes and opting to improvise. But when it comes to cooking up strategies for effective philanthropy I am consistently searching for (and applying) tried and true recipes. As mentioned in several great articles in Alliance Magazine, networks among funders, partners and grantees are critical for increasing the effectiveness of philanthropy. With 15 different networks under the umbrella of the European Foundation Centre, the Thematic Network team led by the vibrant and creative Maria Orejas-Chantelot organized a session at the EFC conference in Sarajevo to get participants creating and sharing their best recipes for building and sustaining effective networks: ‘Funders’ Masterchef: mixing “net” and “work” in a recipe for success’
Three teams were given the same ‘main ingredients’: clear goals, accountability, activities, commitment/engagement, communication, creativity/innovation, evaluation tools, facilitator, open-attitude, governance and resources. Each team was invited to add their three ‘special ingredients’ to the mix. Ultimately, each team presented their own unique recipes. As the jury’s assessment and insight reminded us, whatever the recipe may be, they should be developed collaboratively with participants of the network keeping in mind three aspects: developing a shared purpose, achieving clarity on methods of engagement and roles, and ensuring a system of rewards and incentives to keep members active and looking forward.
My own main takeaway insight from this session was the importance of collaboration in designing and building networks, and the powerful metaphor and exercise of developing a ‘recipe’. As many know, there are three fundamental elements of cooking, known as the ‘Three T’s’: taste, temperature and texture. According to the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), there are also three fundamental elements (dimensions) in facilitating collaboration: process, relationships and outcomes. During the session, I was reminded of this and began mapping the various ingredients back into the three dimensions. Most of the main ingredients given to the teams addressed process and outcome while the special ingredients (such as trust and solidarity) added by the teams helped to achieve balance in the relationship dimension.
In this sense, whatever the recipe may be for building and sustaining effective networks, the key is to ensure that network design teams have the skills and frameworks they need to ensure that the process is collaborative and that they have the right balance of ingredients to achieve success.
Filiz Bikmen is a social investment and philanthropy adviser, and a Board Member of the Interaction Institute for Social Change.