At ten20 we aim to do more than give, as a catalytic philanthropy foundation our work moves beyond giving money away to actively participating in solving the social problem of early childhood disadvantage.
We are not bystanders in the system, we are active participants and have a role to play in solving the problem. This means we need to build and nurture relationships. We aim to bring our whole selves to the work, not just dollars. This is a whole hearted approach. We know all quality relationships are built on trust and need to be earned not assumed.
From this premise we wait to be invited and we accept the adage that collaboration moves at the speed of trust.
This is not without its challenges and we are learning all the time. The power imbalance funders often face with communities is part of what we want to address and by approaching this work as collective impact, respectfully understanding we all have a part to play and are called to account by one another. Traditionally funders hold the money and therefore the power. Grantee’s window dress the situation to increase likelihood of funding renewal. This dynamic works against open and transparent communication and against trust.
Here are some important lessons we have learnt so far we can share with other funders:
- Prove yourself
Don’t just say you’re going to behave differently show me through your actions. This means you need to walk the talk.
- Invest time and money
Go to the community’s place on their turf to listen and learn, instead of them coming to you. Make the time for conversation and listening, nothing makes up for face to face conversations, both formal and informal.
- Listen and don’t impose your agenda
Putting results the community is working on at the centre. This is after all what we
are all working on to address together. This may mean waiting until conditions are right for investment.
- Be willing to learn, try, fail and adapt.
Being a funder also requires intentional reflection and adaptive practice. We’ve learned that humility and courage are qualities needed for this approach. We need to be honest and prepared to say we tried and learn from the effort, whether it works or not. We need to call each other out and be willing to hear our peers, others in the initiative to call us out if we revert to traditional behaviour of command and control.