Giving Compass’ Take:
• In this India Development Review post, Jen Ford Reedy from the Bush Foundation argues that not all failures in philanthropy are created equal, and urges more thought in cultivating them.
• From contributing knowledge to increasing capacity, there are many positives from the missteps made by organizations on the path to impact. Are we equipped to find them?
We in the foundation world talk a lot about embracing failure, but it’s not something to take lightly. When a social or environmental investment fails, it can negatively disrupt people’s lives and erode community trust. It can also have a huge opportunity cost, taking resources and energy away from other efforts. This is why risk mitigation planning is a standard part of good philanthropic practice, and why we regularly ask ourselves: How can we design our strategies to reduce the chance of failure?
But while success should always be the goal, it’s important to remember that not all failures are created equal. There are good failures and bad failures. Many investments don’t achieve their intended outcomes, but they nevertheless: 1) contribute knowledge to the field, 2) have a significant, positive, but unintended consequence, or 3) increase the capacity of all involved to try other approaches.
Given this, I suggest we add another element to our standard practice: failure optimization planning. How can we design our strategies so that if they do fail, they will be good failures?
1. Failures that contribute to knowledge in the field
2. Failures that have significant, positive unintended consequences
3. Failures that increase the capacity of systems to try other approaches
Read the full article about getting the best possible failures in philanthropy by Jen Ford Reedy at India Development Review.
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