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Innovating for Relevance and Impact

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Throughout the philanthropic field, thought leaders and practitioners are working to identify how we can consistently maximize positive impact for all our constituencies. Across the board, we are realizing that we must innovate in order to stay on the cutting edge of social change. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published an article entitled “5 Things That Will Change the Way Nonprofits Work in 2013.”

Two items on that list are particularly pertinent to the work of D5, and dramatize the urgency of this effort. As demographics shift—enough to determine a presidential election—and data becomes more and more critical to measuring and maximizing impact, philanthropy needs to understand and reflect these new realities in order to remain relevant.

We can draw creativity and breakthrough innovations from the clash of ideas and approaches that comes from working across a variety of life experiences determined by people’s gender, age, ethnicity, orientation, socio-economic background, if we meaningfully—not superficially—include diverse perspectives at tables where decisions are made. And we can be smarter about how we’re carrying out our mission and reaching our constituencies if we commit to collecting strong data and being transparent about our results.

Ultimately, a broad range of stakeholders will benefit from the new, creative solutions we uncover and the information we share with the field. But taking action in our organizations to include diverse perspectives and collect better data is not a small task. It requires leaders in our sectors to embrace these changes—welcoming innovations that will increase effectiveness, and inspiring others to take them up.  In “Unlocking the Slices of Genius in Your Organization: Leading for Innovation,” an article written for the Harvard Centennial Symposium on Leadership, Linda A. Hill, Maurizio Travaglini, Greg Brandeau, and Emily Stecker outline the power and potential impact of leadership that empowers organizations, individuals and networks to tackle tough challenges and stay relevant.

This is a style of leadership that is often extolled in philanthropy, but difficult to practice. And yet, we have seen this leadership in action across a range of issues, in various arenas and across a broad spectrum of philanthropic forms and approaches.  D5’s work develops tools and strategies that can support philanthropic institutions’ commitment to practice this kind of leadership. In this year’s State of the Work report, D5 will showcase the journeys of a few leaders who have prepared their own institutions—and those in which they invest—to be, “the nonprofits of the future.”

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