by Valentina Ko
On 13 August, 2019, APC, with Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), co-hosted a workshop on effective philanthropy strategies, with Prof Paul Brest, author of “Money Well Spent” and Faculty Co-Director of Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society as well as former President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The workshop, titled “Helping Funders Evaluate Non-profit Program Strategies”, focused on programme strategy and evaluation.
How Does One Solve a Social Problem?
From the workshop, Prof Brest imparted that solving a social problem is a process that requires the following strategic steps along the way:
- Identifying the problem and intended outcome
- Developing a strategy to achieve the outcome
- Implementing the strategy
- Evaluating the strategy
- Scaling the Programme
Members and participants saw Prof Brest exemplify each step with the global problem of homelessness, and expanded their own learning by working on global road safety as an example. Through this stimulation activity, Prof Brest got the room together to share-out and talk about what they identified as factors for successful programme outcomes.
Lesson Learnt: Effective Collaboration leads to Programme Success
From the group activity, members were able to apply theories that were being presented into practise and experienced an exchange of ideas. Sharing out helps to facilitate collaboration as each member would offer their own perspective of the problem, bringing about a solution that is protected on all fronts.
APC members were encouraged by Prof Brest to continuously re-think their concept of success with the question: “What would success of solving a certain problem look like?” Success is embodied differently when a diverse group of people get together. Through discussion, or, effective collaboration, different perspectives focusing on the same principle occurs and philanthropists are able come together despite their differences to formulate a solution that is ideal.
Just as one of APC’s mission to create thought leadership, Prof Brest emphasises on sharing each person’s best practises to implement programme and ensure success. However, in order for effective collaboration to work, all stakeholders should align on the cause of a social problem. This is an integral part of the solution process because one derives the strategy or the Theory of Change (TOC) according to the cause to help philanthropists achieve their goals.
Gaining Traction with Programme Success
Towards the end of the session, Prof Brest brought up the topic of outcomes vs. impact with the question: “What would happen if we did not implement our strategy”, emphasising that there could be situations where programme success could have happened without a philanthropists’ intervention. APC Chairman Stanley Tan asked the question of “gaining traction with our strategies” where “philanthropists should have still do more to ensure that solution will be solved more efficiently”. Prof Brest agreed but added that correlation does not equal causation and challenged us to think about additional factors- both natural and intervention contribution that led to this outcome. This will help in the scaling process so that philanthropists know what combination had allowed the design to work and will be able to make a better prediction of what to anticipate.
While this is the first event that APC has in conjunction with AVPN, many members voiced positive feedback on the workshop, saying that there were many insightful takeaways from the session. The most important lesson that members walked away with is the importance of how to kickstart effective collaboration. The group activity allowed philanthropists from different backgrounds to envision different paths to success for the same problem through shared learning. As APC CEO Laurence Lien stated, “APC focuses on the key principles of philanthropy; the key is not just what we want to do, but for our members to learn effective practices”, this is what we hope the workshop with Prof Brest did for our members as well as other attendees!