Sharing the lessons of The Philanthropy Workshop 2013

For almost two decades, The Philanthropy Workshop has worked to create a dynamic network of strategic philanthropists who today are making a difference all around the world. As the latest cohort (our 19th!) recently finished the programme in New York, we wanted to share some of their key lessons from the year, and exciting plans for what they will do next.

This year’s group, hailing from the US, Canada, the Philippines, Sweden and the UK began the programme in London in October 2012, and travelled through Argentina and Chile in March before completing the course in May.

Perhaps the most poignant observation from this year’s programme was the relevance of sustainability to all causes people seek to positively advance. Traversing the dramatic wild landscapes in Patagonia illuminated how our well-being is inextricably intertwined with the well-being of the natural world around us. In the words of one of our hosts: “The full realisation of the human being, in a context of individual, social and environmental harmony, is the central focus of sustainable development”. Many members of the cohort expressed that this deeper appreciation for the issue of sustainability will undoubtedly influence their philanthropy- and indeed many other aspects of their lives.

A theme which recurred throughout this year’s programme is that of collaboration- not just among donors or their beneficiaries, but across the whole spectrum of agents and stakeholders in any given issue. The “Theory of Aligned Contributions” helped the group think through what role they might play in achieving impact collectively with others.  As one participant reflected at the end of our final week: “fitting your contributions into the right partnership unlocks great potential.” A number of participants were particularly struck by the recommendation to remember to speak to those who they do not agree with, and to look for allies in unexpected places.

A liberating tip offered this year is to “fail forward,” as one member of the group described it; “starting with what you can and evolving as you go, aiming for progress and not perfection, and learning from your mistakes.” And we were reminded that philanthropy is a practice. As much as TPW is about giving emerging philanthropists the time and space to develop their giving strategies, there is only so much that can be set out on paper and there is much to be learned by doing.

At the end of the programme, we had the opportunity to hear from each participant about their philanthropic plans, which, among other things, will include incubating and scaling social enterprises in the Philippines; connecting social activists around the globe with vital advocacy resources and tools; developing a portfolio of organisations in Stockholm to improve prospects for some of the world’s poorest girls; changing the trajectory of vulnerable women in Canada; and preserving some of the last remaining intact ecosystems in the United States.

Written by Natalie Tucker, Programme Officer for The Philanthropy Workshop

We look forward to welcoming our 20th Cohort to TPW this October, for information about joining us please see here or contact The Philanthropy Workshop team at tpw@instituteforphilanthropy.org or on +44 (0) 207 040 0262 (in the UK) or +1 212 513 0020 (in the US).

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