Breaking Out of Silos: LASVP’s Next Investments in Education Focus on “Collective Impact”

June 6, 2013

LASVP Hones in on Collective Impact

LASVPLASVP’s newly revised investment approach alternates between a permanent social issue (education) and a rotating social issue based on Partner interest.  Having worked with great educational nonprofit in the past, it will come as no surprise that the permanent issue chosen by Partners was education.

Taking education as the framework, the Investment Team met in late 2012 to narrow in on a more specific focus area for 2013.  The team broke up into subgroups based on Partner interest.  Different teams looked at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, early childhood development, advocacy, and collective impact.  Each of the subgroups researched their topics then presented their findings to each other.

One approach stood out.  Collective impact was a component of many subgroup recommendations, and rose to the top as a strategic approach that appealed to the majority of the group.

Defining Collective Impact

So, what is collective impact?  Collective impact happens when diverse organizations come together to address a complex social issue.  John Kania and Mark Kramer’s article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review defines collective impact as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.”

Collective Impact Puzzle PiecesThe idea of collective impact was born out of the idea that complex social issues require a coordinated, structured, and collaborative approach.  Collective impact is defined by a variety of organizations coming together across sectors (i.e. nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, foundations, etc.) and who are all committed to a common agenda.

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Why Collective Impact Makes Sense for LASVP

Alex SoschinAlex Soschin, Partner and spearhead for collective impact (pictured to the right), recalls that during the Investment Team’s discussions, collective impact seemed like a natural fit.  It provides a framework that is being utilized by nonprofits in all the areas the Investment Team explored.

By finding the organizations and initiatives that are collaborating in this way, you find players who are taking a holistic approach to tackle the issue.  Alex says that collective impact appeals to him because, “There is a focus on data, a focus on breaking out of silos. Collective impact looks at the big picture, not the individual battles.” When organizations decide to work collaboratively, they begin to share data, funding and experience, and they begin to eliminate unneeded competition.

“When you write a check to support a collective impact initiative that includes 20 or 30 other organizations, they all win from your investment,” says Alex. “Even a small strategic investment can leverage huge results.”

LASVP’s 2013 Collective Impact Investment Cycle

With this strategy in mind, the Investment team conducted research and reached out to other funders to learn who had initiatives underway that would improve long-term educational outcomes for children in Los Angeles County.  Potential applicants were invited to apply after attending a workshop on May 14th.  Applications are due June 10th.

PARTNERS:  If you would like to get involved with the application review and selection process for this Education Investment Cycle, please contact SVP staff.

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Fast Pitch Success: Get on the Bus

June 6, 2013

Get On The Bus Mom and DaughterWhen asked how she became involved with Get on the Bus, community outreach director Karen Van de Laat half-jokes, “I basically called and informed them that I would be taking the job.”  She had seen a Craigslist ad for the position at Get on the Bus, and knew it was exactly what she wanted to be doing.  “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still keep doing this job.”

Karen won the $5,000 coaches’ award at LASVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch for Get on the Bus, a program that gives kids and their guardians rides to see their mothers and fathers in prison.  Parents in prison are often hundreds of miles away from their families, so the distance and expense makes the trip impossible for many children.  “As a mother, I just can’t imagine being separated from my child like that,” says Karen.  Prisons have noted the improved behavior and decreased recidivism in inmates who have visits with their children. While Get on the Bus has historically only been able to provide trips on Mother’s and Father’s Day, the success of the program is leading to additional trips.

Get on the Bus Logo“We have raised much more money than we did the previous year—this is definitely because of Fast Pitch,” says Karen.  She used to “wing it” when speaking to potential donors, and would often forget to mention important points and kick herself for it later.  The Fast Pitch helped her get her “best of the best” message down pat, and now she is able to adjust her pitch based on her audience and how much time she has to speak.  “Now we know how to talk to a whole different audience,” says Karen, who used to restrict most of her outreach to churches.  “That’s a major change for Get on the Bus.”

After the 2011 Fast Pitch, Get on the Bus received a $10,000 donation, “and the money kept showing up,” says Karen, in addition to more media attention than the organization had ever received in one year.  “The Fast Pitch has really helped us raise awareness, in addition to money and volunteers,” Karen says.  “And that’s the most important thing to us.”

GetOntheBusKaren Van de Laat (pictured at left) is the Community Outreach Director at Get on the Bus. As a participant of the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, Karen won the $5,000 coaches’ award.  Click here to watch Karen’s 2011 Fast Pitch.

For more information about the 2013 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, click here or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


Partner Q & A: Stephen Groner

June 6, 2013

Stephen Groner, LASVP PartnerLASVP Partner and Board Vice Chairman Stephen Groner is the founder of S. Groner Associates, Inc. (SGA) a community relations and social marketing firm. Stephen has been an LASVP Partner since 2008.

Q: How were you introduced to SVP?
Stephen: I found LASVP by chance. I heard a lecture by the dean of the Claremont Graduate School regarding philanthropy. He talked about Peter Drucker and his work in the field of non-profit management and during the course of the lecture brought up the concept of venture philanthropy. I was so fascinated by the concept that I started researching organizations and ran across SVP. Well, one thing led to another, I got in touch with Executive Director Diane Helfrey, she invited me to the first ever Fast Pitch event at USC and I joined a few weeks later.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?
Stephen:
I used to be a big NPR news fan, but after the last few election cycles, I’ve more or less sworn off the news media. I now tend to shift between listening to classical music or I like to listen to podcasts of university lectures on history or science.

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Stephen:
I love reading, but I’m not a fast reader and am always picking up new books before I finish the last one. Currently, I’m reading Einstein: His Life and Universe, Tribal Leadership, and The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and just finished All the King’s Men.

Q: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with SVP so far?
Stephen:
Coaching John Sullivan with BTS Communications in his unforgettable 3-minute Fast Pitch.  Watching an introverted reticent young man over the course of 8 weeks grow his confidence and find his voice was inspiring. But then when he went on to wow a packed audience with an emotional, inspiring and poetic 3-minute pitch, it sent chills through my body. It was certainly one of those efforts where I got so much more than I gave.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?
Stephen:
Running.  I especially love to take long runs early on weekend mornings. I live fairly close to the beach, so my meditation is just getting in a zone and watching the waves and the surfers go by as I plod along mile after mile.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.