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“Which snowflake breaks the branch?”
“It’s neither the first nor the last,” said Leslie Crutchfield, author and Executive Director of the Georgetown University Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI). “Rather, it’s the collective weight of all the snowflakes that breaks the branch.”
During the closing plenary, Crutchfield used this analogy to urge philanthropists to fund movements, not just programs. According to her research, movements only last when they have bottom-up support from a variety of different groups. For example, the successful movement to reduce smoking in the U.S. did not have one leader in particular. Rather, a groundswell of philanthropic leaders, citizen activists, lawyers, and others came together to push the movement forward—thus “breaking the branch” together.
Philanthropies such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation played a crucial role in this movement, yet they alone cannot claim credit for its success. “There’s often ego involved in philanthropic funding,” Crutchfield remarked, “but funding movements doesn’t give you credit because you can’t attribute success to yourself.” For funders who are willing to forgo such credit, funding the “backbone” of movements can facilitate the involvement of the multiple stakeholders needed to make strong, lasting change.