CKX PhilanthroLab

Are community foundations more than just philanthropic piggy banks? What else can they do in their communities besides raise money and cut cheques? How can they work with others to drive change? How might they spark change if they couldn't grant a single dollar? 

In the CKX PhilanthroLab at Belong 2017, the biennial community foundation conference, we challenged community foundation leaders, donors and partners to reimagine community philanthropy and build the community foundation of the future from the ground up.

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Not your mother's Design Lab

Using several design lab principles and techniques — as well as some play — the CKX PhilanthroLab hosted a series of tinker sessions throughout the conference, each focused on a particular aspect of community philanthropy including grantmaking, donor-advised funds, governance and community leadership.

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These weren't lectures or panel discussions. In each PhilanthroLab session, participants left their assumptions at the door, rolled up their sleeves, and engaged in immersive conversations and activities as we reimagined community philanthropy together.

Imagining a future without donor-advised funds 

In community philanthropy circles, it’s often said that donor-advised funds are the easiest way to bring money in, but the most restrictive in terms of investing for community impact. So we asked ourselves an audacious question: What if a community foundation decided to do away with donor-advised funds altogether?

In this session, we mapped out and tore apart existing practices and considered ways to reimagine the role of donor-advised giving. Knowing that donor-advised funds aren't going away any time soon, the intent of the exercise was to show how incremental shifts in practice could point the way to transformative change.

In other words, sometimes you've got to aim for the moon to jump a foot off of the ground.

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Designing the worst board ever

What’s the true purpose of a board of directors? Are there alternative governance structures that might be more effective? How many board members is too many? Are we just going through the motions at board meetings?

For this session, we used one of our favourite design tools, TRIZ, which intentionally creates the worst design for a program, product or service possible. Think a car with square wheels. An elevator without buttons. A hospital emergency room with no doctors. Why? Because designing for the worst sheds light on the poor design choices we already make — allowing us to creatively consider alternatives we might otherwise overlook.