The ten20 Foundation was recently asked “what are the questions that guide your practice?”

Here are some from our list:

  1. What beliefs, values and theories underlie our philanthropic practice?
  2. What is the nature of our role and how do we negotiate our expectations with communities and partner organisations and respectfully establish boundaries on what we will and won’t do?
  3. How do we ensure fair, inclusive processes in our work with each other and with communities?
  4. How do we build capacity in ourselves to undertake the work and then assist communities in building that capacity?
  5. How can we best share our learnings with others?
  6. How do we develop a sense of responsibility and accountability to each other and to the shared agenda for change?

Being able to ask the right questions is only the first step. A disciplined, authentic and honest approach to answer the questions must follow. At ten20 we don’t pretend we have the answers, but are willing to take the risk in asking the questions. We commit to reflecting on our work and using the insights to continuously refine our practice.

Why is the process of asking questions so important to us? We think philanthropy has a responsibility to hold itself accountable by asking questions of itself, its practice, its contribution and its impact. As a catalytic philanthropy organization, we actively engage in and contribute to systems change efforts. One of the contributions we can make in this area is to use our independence to ask probing questions and convene different conversations and mobilise action around these.

And if the people living in a community have mobilised together to change outcomes for themselves, catalytic philanthropy has ability to support that community power and facilitate its connection to the larger system. Asking questions is a key part of this.

The responsibility of catalytic philanthropy is to ensure it:

  • understands the different parts of the system
  • aligns its strategic and organisational goals and actions around a complex issue faced by the system and monitors its contribution and impact.
  • is transparent in the process about learning (scar tissue), adaption and results.

It requires the ability to collect, synthesize and interpret data from the adapting system to constantly inform strategy, practice and engagement.

This is new territory and practice for much of Australia’s philanthropic sector.

At ten20, we are committed to this practice and interested in learning with other funders as we go. And the practice starts with questions not answers.

We would love to hear about the questions that guide your practice. Let us know your thoughts and we will be happy to share them on a future blog.

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