Monday, April 25, 2011

3 Good days in NYC

Recently two of my board members and I traveled to New York City to celebrate being one of eight finalists for the Lodestar Foundation’s elite Collaboration Prize. The Prize was created by the Lodestar Foundation to expose and reward successful collaborative model in the nonprofit and public sector, ultimately creating an extensive database of models and lessons learned. See the database at the Foundation Center .

Databases don’t ordinarily inspire most of us, but this database is the gateway to an endless supply of national good news stories infused with a heavy dose of candor and a tone of humility. The overarching themes? Set aside egos, replace with a shared vision, and maximize complementary strengths to fill service gaps. Said another way? Mission, mission, mission.

The Grand Prize went to Adoption Coalition, an Austin-based group that set out to reform the failed system of foster-kid adoption. Their post-collaboration results were stunning—not only did they increase the rate of adoption by 70% within two years; they reduced the number of transitions that foster kids experience and created “forever families” for kids who are too often forgotten.

What had started as a competition became a feast of inspiration, ingenuity, and hope, with stories like these:
Graduate! Philadelphia fixed the problem of “brain-drain” by mobilizing the assets of loyal Philadelphians. Now, local talent has a supportive and flexible path to finish their college degrees.
FeedMore, admitted that the community didn’t need two food distribution agencies and kitchens, and then knit together the donors and resources of the former competitors to ensure that no one need go hungry in Richmond Virginia.
• Twenty private colleges in Wisconsin, WAICU, took on the unglamorous but valuable task of consolidating back-office administration so that savings could be re-invested in financial aid.
Network for Good recognized that most technology does not abide by the “build it and they will come” tenet. They merged with the customer-support-focused Groundspring to train nonprofits and recently celebrated reaching the half a billion dollar-mark in brokered donations.

• The WIN Family Network in Southern CA created a first-in-class program of clinical case management for infants and their families, breaking down the old silos of care so that families can achieve stabilization faster and more completely.
• And, the Gulf Coast Consortia coalesced by recognizing that the big and meaningful problems that science sets out to solve are rarely solved by one discipline alone. Their efforts have yielded multi-institutional training, shared access to state-of-the-art facilities and tools, and tradition of interdisciplinary scientists who are encouraged to think big.

Congratulations, Adoption Coalition, and fellow finalists! Thank you for inspiring us and for elevating good news about everyday miracles in the nonprofit sector.

Jenn Brandon

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