Nonprofit Organizations

Beyond Transparency— – Hewlett’’s “”Work In Progress”

January 9, 2014  • Jane Wales

In announcing plans to publish knowledge gained in setting and evaluating strategy, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer not only signaled a new openness on the part of the foundation he leads, but embraced an expanded definition of a grant-maker’’s task. Yes, it is to pursue an informed strategy and select wisely. But, both require a commitment to learning continuously –─ and to helping others do the same.

Larry shows us how.

An Understanding of How We Learn: A scholar and an educator, Larry describes learning as a collaborative undertaking in which assumptions are revealed and discussed, findings are shared and subjected to scrutiny, arguments are advanced and defended, and conclusions are amended to reflect knowledge gained in the process. And so Hewlett Foundation officers will take part in the open, ongoing conversation that social media offers, sparked by the new Hewlett blog “”Work in Progress”.”

A Generous Impulse: Larry also describes learning as a privilege. And, true to the generous spirit on which the Hewlett foundation was built, privilege is to be shared. This conversation is not behind closed doors. Nor is it limited to members of a club. It is with all those who aspire to make a difference.

A Strategic Choice: The Foundation’’s goals of reducing global poverty, limiting the risk of climate change, improving education, and informing philanthropy can be advanced or undermined by millions of individual and group choices. Informing and learning from those choices are strategic opportunities that are not to be missed.

The Translation of Purpose into Practice: In launching this online conversation, Larry gives practical expression to an emerging consensus among foundation leaders. For example, fellow members of the Aspen Philanthropy Group, CEOs of foundations committed to advancing the efficacy of the sector, recently concluded that the goals of strategy evaluation should not only be to inform the decisions of grantor and grantee –─ as important as that is ─ but also to advance field wide learning. The Hewlett initiative translates this purpose into practice.

In sum, Larry has established a purpose ─ –field wide learning.

He has asserted a duty— ─ to share knowledge gained.

And, he has shown the way –─ conversation that is both open and ongoing.

And, those are contributions that are likely to be felt for a very long time to come.