Shared Gifting in Philadelphia, the Third Experiment
Nov 4 2014
by Ellie Lanphier
“In a community of human beings working together, the well-being of the community will be the greater, the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of the work he has himself done.” – Rudolf Steiner
This quote was read at the beginning of the third Shared Gifting meeting of RSF held in Philadehlpia, PA. RSF sought the time and expertise of two of our borrowers, Common Market and Fair Food Philly to bring the Shared Gifting model to organizations working to create a more sustainable and just local food system in the Philadelphia region. With their guidance and input, and the valuable nominations received from RSF clients in the area, RSF invited twelve non-profit organizations to participate in the third Shared Gifting circle convened in mid-September 2014 at the Philadelphia Impact Hub. (click here for a full list of participating organizations)
Shared Gifting gives ownership and allocation authority of gift money to the participants of the circle, leveraging the knowledge and experience of each participant to insure grant funding reaches the areas it is needed most. RSF asks that each Shared Gifting participant bring an open heart and mind to the experience. We also ask for participants to help us explore this new model of grant making in co-creation.
With each Shared Gifting circle, there are many different variables that might come into play – different needs, organization sizes, and varying focus of work. We acknowledge and appreciate the risk these participants took to spend their day with us and their peers examining the intersection of each organizations work, how collaborating can strengthen their work, and for stepping outside the traditional confines of philanthropy.
Before the collaborative distribution of grant funding commenced, the participants shared their hopes and expectations for the day ahead. They looked forward to learning more deeply about the other organizations, they shared that they were humbled by reading each other’s grant proposals, they looked forward to connecting their work more, to build each others capacity, and sought to deepen relationships and partnerships by tearing down silos and building a culture of real trust and collaboration.
For these organizations, $100,200 was made available from the RSF Local Initiatives Fund to distribute in support of each other’s work. A highlight from the day was that this particular group demonstrated a deep interest in collaborating and fully embraced the innovative nature of the model. Half way through the day the group started a conversation to dig deeper into questions of how it would look to work together more collaboratively. The group even suggested a process change to RSF – innovating on the spot!
Another highlight of the gifting process was the energy and support shown to Friends of Farmworkers, a newer and smaller organization in Philadelphia. By providing legal services, education, and advocacy, Friends of Farmworkers strives to improve the living and working conditions of vulnerable, low wage food and farmworkers in Pennsylvania. In response to this showing of support, Friends of Farmworkers staff attorney Stephanie Dorenbosch committed to providing community education opportunities to all meeting participants and their organizations on the legal rights for migrant and immigrant workers throughout the Commonwealth. This exemplified an important component of a successful Shared Gifting experience – resource sharing. Shared Gifting seeks to make space for these opportunities to emerge, for the recipients to create mutually beneficial relationship-based collaborations typically not seen in competitive models.
We have found that Shared Gifting creates opportunities for grantees to collaborate, leverages community wisdom, and creates accountability among the participants. During the meeting, this inspiring group set aside a small portion of the total grant funding available with the intention of creating future opportunities for collaboration. How they will leverage the funds remains to be seen. We look forward to witnessing their success, learning and innovation in the coming year, and sharing it with you.
Ellie Lanphier is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance