Why VPP decided to experiment with networked philanthropy

Alliance magazine

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) was founded on a novel concept in
2000: to improve the lives of disadvantaged young people in the
National Capital Region by building the capacity of a select set of
non-profits through large, multi-year grants and a highly engaged
funder/grantee (or ‘investment partner’) relationship. The results after
a decade of hard work were notable: the organizations were stronger,
more focused on outcomes, and doing impressive work to achieve those
outcomes. Yet VPP was not seeing systems-level change. As VPP partner
Marc Schindler put it, VPP had done a very good job of working in
partnership with non-profits so that they were ‘better able to push the
boulder up a very steep hill but the hill hadn’t become any less steep’.

So in the past year VPP has been experimenting with a new approach:
connecting leading non-profits working to improve the lives of young
people in the Washington metro region. It’s an evolution, not a
departure from their longstanding commitment to organizational capacity
building. They’re strengthening organizations and building
networks in the belief that transformative change can happen through the
combination of collective action and enhanced capacity. This is
requiring a shift towards a network mindset. It has meant investing even
more in relationship building, facilitating collaborative strategy
development, developing shared metrics, and building VPP’s own capacity
to enable the network to thrive. It’s hard work. The verdict is still
out, but the case for working with a network mindset is promising.

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