In multiple ways. Some breakthroughs are years in the making, some happen in the span of single conversations, and others are still just being dreamed up – but each one incrementally contributes to the effort of breaking through for social change.
Here are just three examples:
What happens when movement leaders lead from their strengths? The report Working from Strengths to End Domestic Violence uses the real experience of participants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation's Strong Field Project to show how a strengths-based leadership approach can create individual, organizational, and field-wide change in the domestic violence movement.
Over the last six years, CompassPoint has integrated our experience with strengths-based leadership into our delivery of the leadership development component of this initiative, in which movement members build their capacity to lead by participating in individual and peer coaching, in-person gatherings, policy education, networking, and alumni engagement. By focusing on personal strengths, both their own and those of their colleagues and clients, individuals are leading their agencies and the field with a new sense of possibility and purpose. It’s a breakthrough that we believe holds insights for other movements as well.
"I believe that the focus on strengths is helping all of us start to have the conversations we need to have to build stronger agencies and a stronger field.”
The Arc Toward Justice Leadership and Solidarity Program, an initiative of the Akonadi Foundation and facilitated by CompassPoint, supports twenty dynamic leaders who are working toward a racially just society for youth of color in Oakland. This group of leaders has been exploring leadership frameworks, learning about strength-based leadership, diving into coaching, and engaging with themes of self-care and sustainability. As described by participant Yejide Ankobia from Community Works West, which works to break the cycle of incarceration and violence through restorative justice, the Arc Toward Justice Leadership and Solidarity program is developing emerging leaders of color within their organizations, sparking personal growth, and connecting these diverse movement leaders for mutual support and solidarity.
“Initially I thought that I’d get some coaching, become a better manager. That would have been good because I definitely needed that kind of support. But what I didn’t realize [I would get was] the opportunity to grow in a personal way in terms of having space to pause and look at myself and at my organization, as a woman and as a manager of color. That was really a big piece for me. Also, to have a chance to look at those things in the context of a broader racial justice picture – in Oakland, in the nation, and with all that's happened with Ferguson and Black Lives Matter . . . I confronted difficult truths about being a woman of color in this work. I shared and grew. I developed in a lot of unexpected ways and got a lot more courageous in my voice, in speaking up.”
Through our on-the-ground research with leaders and organizations, CompassPoint continues to seed new breakthroughs and insights for the field. Examples include Daring to Lead, our series of reports with the Meyer Foundation from 2000, 2006, and 2011 on the tenure and leadership challenges of nonprofit executives, and Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability and The Sustainability Mindset, our award-winning books that are shifting how organizations link mission and financial strategy for long-term sustainability.
In 2013, CompassPoint, in partnership with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund cast a light on the recurring cycle of fundraising and development staffing and systems deficits that challenge small- to mid-sized organizations. The result was UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, a call for organizations to take steps toward, and for funders to support, building a culture of philanthropy within organizations as the best means toward sustainable fundraising and development systems.
We’re now working in concert with Klein and Roth Consulting and the Haas Jr., Fund to delve deeper into themes from UnderDeveloped to document and share how some organizations have built successful individual giving programs. This bright spots research will be featured in 2016 as a part of a larger Haas Jr., Fund initiative on exciting and achievable practices that challenge some of the conventional wisdom about fundraising and support organizations in breaking through toward successful individual donor giving efforts. Keep an eye out in early 2016.