Giving Compass' Take:

• European Foundation Centre CEO Gerry Salole expresses frustration that aid organizations and other nonprofit groups are slow to learn from mistakes, often jumping on new trends, without taking into account community voices.

• How can philanthropy do a better job of listening to community leaders?

• Read about five big impact investing goals identified by community foundations.

The philanthropic and development industries have much in common: ever-expanding jargon, genuine concern for the people at the bottom of the pyramid, a growing focus on evaluating impact — just to randomly name a few of the thousands of similarities. But in what follows I concentrate on a singular joint foible: their respective razor-slim bandwidths for learning.

My suspicion that both sectors seem to possess an inability to learn and retain lessons has been growing over the last (almost) four decades that I've spent working between the two. I have watched as lessons are learned, then forgotten over a few years — each generation convinced that they need to sweep away the “old” and bring in the “new.” I have watched these “new” ideas and trends arrive, with donors dutifully getting in line to be the first to test shiny new magic bullets, and to stake their claim as a leader (even worse, expert) in whatever fad has captured the zeitgeist in a particular moment. What’s most frustrating is watching the cyclical nature by which this oblivious learning and forgetting is happening, and happening again, and then happening again. To borrow Yogi Berra’s famous quote: “It's déjà vu all over again.”

Take for example the beautiful simplicity and importance of putting communities at the heart of (their own) development — the theme of a new GrantCraft Leadership Series paper "How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power: What Donors Can Do to Help Make That Happen." This has been a reoccurring theme over the course of my career, but unfortunately it seems to be an idea that needs to be continuously relearned.

Read the full article about trying to learn from the lessons of the past in philanthropy by Gerry Salole at GrantCraft.