Shifting individual passions towards collective movement

By Fernande Legros, Full Circle Fund Program Officer

Every year around this time, our Members gather to exchange ideas and explore the potential issues they want to put their financial and intellectual resources towards. Following three nights of brainstorming and discussions, we are thrilled to launch into the Inquiry Phase of this year’s Grant Cycle with 9 teams across our four Circles! The issues ranged from homelessness and reproductive rights, increasing access to renewable energy for those most marginalized to tackling the inefficiencies and inequities in mass transit, and to 21st-century literacy – particularly as it pertains to media literacy, civic engagement, and workforce development.

We arrived to this point through multiple rounds of discussions and used the emerging themes from the January Kick-Off as a point of departure. In response to what can “we” do, current and prospective Members alike shared their insights and experiences, asked questions of each other, and engaged their curiosity in determining how to shift individual passions towards collective movement.

But why is this process important?  In many of our recent conversations, we’ve been challenged to define what it means to be a philanthropist. The word itself has some deep-seated connotations, and often brings to mind the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and extreme wealth – self-made or inherited. A quick Google search will corroborate this point. The realization we came to is that, whether you are a leader of a nonprofit organization or a professional providing support to one, we all have a stake in what happens in our communities and when organized properly, can be powerful catalysts of social change. That belief extends the role of “changemaker” not just to those who are on the frontlines running programs and delivering services, but also to those who use their knowledge and influence to find solutions to strengthen those organizations – which highlights the power of the collective.

And so, we began with questions. What are the pressing issues in the Bay Area? What skills, talents, and expertise do we each have, and how can we leverage them to effectively partner with others? What assumptions or blind spots do we bring, and how can we help each other see the bigger picture? What do we still need to learn? Who are actively engaging with these issues and can deepen our understanding? Ultimately, the emphasis at this stage is on learning – and that takes particular precedence precisely because we do not claim to have the answers nor seek to solve the issues for the organizations we support. We believe in working “with” our grantees and serving as thought partners in support of their vision to make the Bay Area a more equitable and thriving place.

In the next month, Members will continue to meet to narrow their scope and refine their inquiry questions. Now is the perfect time to jump in and help shape this year’s grant cycle. Below is a quick summary of issues by Circle:

Health:

  1. Access to Care

  2. Reproductive Rights

Economic Opportunity:

  1. Workforce Development

  2. Homelessness

  3. Racial Equity

Environment & Energy

  1. Mass Transit

  2. Renewable Energy & Climate Education

Education

  1. 21st Century Literacy

  2. Teacher Training

If you are looking to re-engage with us or learn what another team is doing, please reach out to us and we’ll connect you to the appropriate lead. And if the issue you most wanted to champion was not selected, there will be many opportunities throughout the year to engage with those issues on a smaller scale – so stay tuned!

And if you need a quick refresher on our Grant Cycle head here.