Witness the Power of the SVP Network!

December 4, 2012

Diane and Way-Ting at SVP Conference 2012Last month, 7 Partners and staff members represented LASVP at the largest Social Venture Partners conference to date in Portland, OR. The growing SVP network now has over 2,300 Partners in 29 cities around the globe, including the most recent additions to the network Chicago and Bangalore. Over 300 people came together to stretch their thinking and share ideas. There was even a nonprofit delegation from China who was able to join and share how SVP is becoming a global movement.

With almost 20 breakout sessions to attend and hundreds of socially engaged people to meet, SVP Partners were able to make connections and learn more about the power of the network at every turn. Sessions on Innovation in Education, Collective Action, and Financing Social Impact gave an overview of what is happening across the network and the movements that SVPers want to be a part of. In the Excellence in SVP track, Executive Director Diane Helfrey and Partner Way-Ting Chen  (pictured) led a session on the LASVP Impact Framework and the Strategic Planning process to a packed room of people eager to learn from our experience!

Plenary speaker Dan Palotta, author of Uncharitable and Charity Case, provided an update on the Charity Defense Council. The Charity Defense Council seeks to be a voice for the nonprofit sector and act as an anti-defamation league. The organization has been granted 501(c)3 status, built a board, and has defined their five primary functions. SVPI board member and SVP Cincinnati Partner, Tom Callinan is aiding in the effort as well, as the chair of the Charity Defense Council’s anti-defamation committee.

Keynote speaker, Sam Kaner, author of the Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, helped us think about our group interactions and how we can move toward consensus decision making. We learned about the dreaded “groan zone” that is a natural part of true consensus decision-making. The “groan zone” happens when a group finds itself with a number of ideas, opinions, and possible courses of action and must work through the diverse options in order to move toward consensus. Kaner described it as “struggle in the service of integration” and we learned that by helping one another to understand and communicate with each other, we can reach a decision.

On Changemakers Night, we heard firsthand how difficulties, setbacks, and failures lead to innovation. Matt Flannery of Kiva, Jill Vialet of Playworks, and Craig Kielburger of Free the Children all inspired us to keep moving through our own struggles as we stretch ourselves to the next level of impact and unleash our own potential. This trio of speakers gave us real-world examples of people who were lost, who failed, and who weren’t taken seriously, but found the strength to move ahead and create organizations that are making a better world, showing us all that innovation and change are possible.

If you weren’t able to make it to the conference this year, be sure to stay tuned to all of our SVP news and make plans to attend the next annual conference in Silicon Valley on October 18-19. It is a wonderful time to see the power of the SVP network in action and witness the power of coming together to create change in our communities.


Let Our Passions Lead the Way…

May 23, 2012

Diane Helfrey is a Founding Partner, board member, and Executive Director of LA Social Venture Partners. LASVP held a General Partner Meeting on May 16, 2012. Here is Diane’s recap of the evening:

It was great to see everyone at the Partner Meeting on May 16th! Board chair, Claudia Sangster got us off to a wonderful start by having everyone tell what their philanthropic passions are. Hearing the wide-ranging yet overlapping passions we have among our Partners really set the context for unveiling of our new strategic direction. Shared interests and passions are what bring us together, and what have inspired our vision to create a larger community of high-impact philanthropists who will catalyze social change in Los Angeles!

First, the stories…

Several Partners shared how LASVP has helped them amplify their philanthropic impact. Ken Deemer said that before LASVP he was “just writing a check and hoping someone does something good with it.” Now utilizing knowledge and experiences gained through LASVP, he is much more strategic about the organizations he supports and also serves in volunteer leadership roles with Environmental Charter Schools and USC’s Hybrid High. Charlie Steinmetz is also active on a variety of boards, but sometimes didn’t know how to effectively address issues that arose in board meetings. Through LASVP, he’s developed relationships with other Partners who he can call on as expert resources when he has a question. Richard Landers described how his involvement with LASVP has led him to ask what it would really take to drive education reform. His exploration has piqued his interest to explore advocacy as a means of creating systemic social change, and he invited others to learn with him.

We also heard from a highly-energized (and energizing!) Amy Johnson about the exciting work she had been doing with our investee, Synergy Academies. One of the keys to Synergy’s success is how they “teach teachers to teach.” However, many of the secrets and techniques are best known by co-founder Randy Palisoc, whose time coaching teachers became more and more constrained as they grew from 1 school to 3. Amy and Randy have teamed up to capture this knowledge in an iBook that includes videos, text and graphics, and can be used by teachers at any time. Now that’s creative!

Amy’s passion, skills, and willingness to dive in have given her the chance to make a difference at Synergy Academies in a way that will ripple out to the teachers, students, and community of South Central LA. Think of the potential if we had 500 Partners like Amy. Think of how – together – we could shape Los Angeles for the better.

How we build on this momentum, together …

These and other stories demonstrate the value of being part of a community where we can harness our passions, dig in to social issues together, learn from each other, and invest in nonprofits doing incredible work to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles. This is exactly what we want for the whole Partnership. And as board member Way-Ting Chen said, “We need to invest in ourselves as an organization” so this can happen.

Over the last year, our strategic planning process illuminated our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. Our dual mission hasn’t changed, but we’ll change some of what we do in order to enhance the Partner experience and evolve aspects of our capacity building programs to be increasingly driven by Partner interests. A key insight that shaped our strategic direction was that we have been unbalanced in allocating resources toward our dual mission. Understandably, in our early years, dramatically more resources have gone toward nonprofit capacity building than to philanthropy development. Even though we learn a ton through hands-on experience, we concluded that focusing on the needs of our Partnership is critical to our next level of success. We believe that when Partners are consistently equipped with the right knowledge, skills, support, and networks, we are better able to add value by building relationships with, advising, and make connections for the nonprofits we support.

We are excited about our focus, our future, and our potential to have a greater impact – together.

If you missed the Partner Meeting and want to know more, there are several things you can do. You can 1) view the slides here, 2) join conference calls that will be scheduled in the next 1-2 months to discuss the strategic direction, 3) contact Diane with questions, or 4) join one of our working groups that will develop our implementation plans.