Giving Compass' Take:

• Self-inquiry can help entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and other social change leaders understand how to shift perceptions to positively influence their work and the world around them. 

• How do you practice self-inquiry, and how can it impact your charitable giving? 

• Read about the significance of nonprofit employee wellness. 

Our research, conducted in collaboration with The Wellbeing Project, included in-depth interviews with 30 different leaders to identify new insights they discovered about themselves through self-inquiry (also known as inner work, personal work, or self-care) and the changes they enacted as a result of those insights. We also inquired about the nature of those practices to understand what tools, programs, and resources have proved most effective.

Philanthropists are increasingly criticized for their failure to really understand the complex social issues their foundations and largesse attempt to address. And the gulf is sometimes so large as to create fearful or even toxic relationships between those who disburse funding and those who need to it fund their social change work. As Edgar Villanueva, board chair of Native Americans in Philanthropy, writes:

Those managing philanthropic resources, including those who determine the process for accessing those resources, all too often lack deep relationships with the communities closest to the pain of social, racial, and economic isolation. This is evident when funders tell the community what it needs, rather than listening to the community and acting on its recommendations.

Self-inquiry can help solve this problem. Every leader we spoke to reported that they were able to better connect to others because of their self-inquiry practice. “The more human I can be, [the easier it is for others] to interact from a place of vulnerability,” said Synergos Foundation’s [Peggy] Dulany. And [Mark Bertolini, ex-CEO of the health-care insurance company Aetna] said that he makes a point of establishing deeper connections to the CEOs on whose boards he serves and the other board members, which facilitates more productive working relationships.

Read the full article about self-inquiry for social leaders by Katherine Milligan & Jeffrey C. Walker at Stanford Social Innovation Review.