Adopting emergent learning practices can have a transformative effect inside organizations by creating a sense of agency that empowers people to lead from their seats to challenge the status quo and encourage innovation. But even organizations eager to embrace change may find it difficult to move forward with charting new territory. That’s where the interdisciplinary mindset of Candid CEO Ann Mei Chang, developed through a career steeped in Silicon Valley, is invaluable to the social sector.

In conversation with PEAK’s Satonya Fair, Chang shares her unique perspective on reenvisioning how philanthropy operates by adapting methods used in the tech sector to drive innovation and impact. Together, they explore the imperatives of reframing risk, embracing iterative learning, and engaging disparate voices—ultimately rebalancing power and creating true partnerships between funders and nonprofits.

Fair: We always have to battle against this notion of doing things the way they’ve always been done and the anxiety around change. That’s why I hope this conversation will activate others to start thinking about innovation and emergent learning in different ways. As a historically rigid field—and I hate to say that, but I think we are—what might philanthropy learn from organizations that center innovation?

Chang: Think big. If you don’t take a big swing, you’re unlikely to end up doing something transformative. For our sector, that involves placing lots of small bets rather than picking one winner, keeping a laser focus on determining what, ultimately, leads to more impact.

The problems that we’re facing in the social sector are getting bigger and more complex, and our solutions just aren’t keeping up with them. It’s not that we’re not working hard: I know there are so many people working themselves to exhaustion. And yet, the problems grow.

In the course of the pandemic, we’ve experienced lots of tragedy, but it also forced us out of our comfort zones. It gave us an opportunity to develop new muscles—to place a lot of small bets in the relentless pursuit of impact. Now’s the time, on both the funder side and the nonprofit side, to get out of our traditional modalities. What’s come out of that? Some things worked, and some things didn’t, but we now have a bunch of interventions to carry forward. And I think that there’s hope that we can continue innovating.

Read the full article about philanthropy driving innovation by Satonya Fair, Ann Mei Chang at PEAK Grantmaking.