By encouraging extraordinary people to explore open-ended inquiry and nonlinear thinking to address complex challenges, among a well-networked group of peers across sector and discipline connected by place, the Stanton Fellowship gives leaders room for experimentation and new perspectives as they refine their vision and reimagine what’s possible for L.A.
A fellowship like the Stanton cultivates creative thinking and innovation within and among leaders committed to making a positive impact. We believe this formula for R&D philanthropy has the potential to be replicated and customized in cities across the U.S. We know from talking to our fellows over the years that it is nearly impossible for busy leaders of change-making organizations to dedicate the time required to think differently and deeper about the challenges they face.
Even if they were encouraged by their boards to use general operating funds for a deeper level of inquiry, leaders tell us they would be reluctant to do so. This is especially true of travel and time for open-ended research. Even a small percentage of overall philanthropic dollars invested in R&D could change this.
We have seen a glimpse of what can be accomplished when extraordinary leaders are given the time, space, and resources to think deeply. We have also seen that when we invest in leaders, they invest back in their networks and that the peripheral vision they gain can shift the collective perspective, often yielding tremendous results.
In product and service businesses, research and development – better known as R&D – isn’t focused on immediate profit or other traditional market-based metrics. It’s a phase of study based on testing innovative boundaries and making discoveries that keep companies at the top of their game over the long term. Considering that social sector leaders are charged with steering organizations seeking to solve society’s toughest challenges, adopting their own form of R&D makes a lot of sense.