Generating ideas, connections, and action

November Member Spotlight: Diana Scearce


November’s Member Spotlight highlights the work of Diana Scearce and the Monitor Institute. We are extremely fortunate to have Diana as one of our partners on the Leadership and Networks project. When LLC’s Director of Evaluation and Research, Claire Reinelt, wanted to connect with an organization that shared LLC’s interest in networks and social change she reached out to the Monitor Institute. The Monitor Institute has been a leader in exploring how networks catalyze social change on a large scale, and in engaging foundations (staff and consultants) in a deeper conversation about how to invest in, support, and assess networks. LLC and the Monitor Institute are both deeply committed to advancing fields of practice through partnerships and learning communities. In March 2010, Claire presented a case study of the Barr Fellowship Network at the Institute’s Network of Network Funders meeting; and, in preparation for an upcoming webinar with the Network of Network Funders, Diana is helping to synthesize some of the Leadership and Networks materials.

A clear trend is underway in the funding community toward support for networked action and working with an increased awareness of ecosystems. Foundations, like Annie E. Casey, The California Endowment, and Social Venture Partners, have been experimenting with new network-based models for addressing issues ranging from vulnerable youth to public health to donor engagement. At the same time, social media tools are motivating foundations to open up to and engage broad stakeholder networks, illustrated by experiments and initiatives like Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Web 2.0 Philanthropy strategy and the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Island Innovation Fund. These funders are pioneering grantmaking practices and a way of working that is critical to today and tomorrow’s more networked, dynamic, and interdependent context. They’re harnessing the power of networks by catalyzing new relationships, decentralizing power, and experimenting with greater levels of transparency.

For the past 4 years, the Monitor Institute has been working with a number of foundations to understand and tap network potential. Most notably, they led a multi-year partnership with the Packard Foundation to explore how networks can facilitate greater philanthropic effectiveness. Findings from this work are captured in the article, “Working Wikily” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2010). Since early 2009, the Institute has been leading and facilitating the Network of Network Funders, a community of practice for grantmakers who are intentionally investing in and working through networks. The group has been working together to surface and connect what they know about network-centric grantmaking, identify gaps in their knowledge and begin to fill those gaps through research and experimentation in their organizations. They’re looking hard at questions such as: How to assess the impact of networks? When should a funder catalyze networks? What is the funder’s role in networks and how might this change over time?