Chairman's Corner

Chairman’s Corner: February 2003

February 19, 2003

Sharing What We Learn

by Mario Morino, Co-founder of VPP

Since the inception of VPP, we have believed that we had more to offer than money alone. We believed we could bring value to promising nonprofit organizations by sharing with them the management experience, insights, and other non-financial resources of our team. Similarly, we believed that many funders and nonprofits had a treasure trove of experiences, observations, and knowledge to share.

In line with those beliefs, one of the overarching goals of our work at VPP is to share with others what we’ve learned and accomplished and to learn from them as well. Since our inception, “knowledge capture and dissemination” has been a mantra for us. Our initial effort in gathering and sharing information was to publish studies about social conditions affecting children in our region. We then commissioned reports to help us learn about building capacity in nonprofits and to track developments in the emerging field of venture philanthropy.
While selecting organizations to support and making investments in them, we have tried to take good notes and have rich discussions with our staff members and our investment partners so we can capture, interpret, codify, and share those experiences with others. We have also looked to others for ideas about how to do this effectively. At the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, knowledge sharing has become a core element of the way the foundation pursues its field- and institution building goals. The organization is currently developing a series of papers that will soon be published on its website.

Tim Wilmont, the chief knowledge and evaluation officer for the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, assigns “knowledge coordinators” to gather and organize information that is shared among teams in each program area. We are encouraged by these activities and hope that others will make similar efforts. I have been working closely with members of the VPP team to define and illustrate our investment process and develop points of view on key aspects of our model, such as strategic planning. Victoria Vrana, our chief knowledge officer, has worked closely with staff members to weave this information and knowledge into a new VPP website that we have just launched (see story below). We are excited about this next step in the evolution of our knowledge-sharing efforts and hope that you will find the information helpful.

We believe that the philanthropic, public, and nonprofit sectors will benefit from the learning and discovery that we and our partners gain through our work together. If giving other funders and organizations serving children a window into our world provides them with new information, or spares them from reinventing a wheel, we will be pleased.