Jeff Clarke, CEO
“The true method of knowledge is experiment.” —William Blake, artist, poet and visionary
At Philanthropy Northwest, we honor Blake and the countless others who have offered similar encouragement by taking initiative to conduct learning experiments. Our latest? The Catalyst Fellows, a place-based experiment in thought partnership and network learning.
We’ve designed this program to begin and steward ongoing conversations about the important role that different types of capital, each integral to philanthropic strategy, play in creating and sustaining vibrant, equitable and inclusive communities. While there are many important forms of capital, we’ve chosen to begin this work by focusing on influence (advocacy), financial (impact investing) and natural (sustainability) capital.
What do we mean by a “place-based thought partnership experiment?”
“Place” is integral to who we are. Here in the Pacific Northwest — Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming — our sense of place results from an incredibly rich, diverse and unique set of characteristics rooted in our cultures, experiences and learning over time as related to the environment. Regardless of whether in a rural or urban setting, sense of place is a layered concept that, once peeled to its core, reveals that local matters. Certainly, there are robust national dialogues about philanthropy and advocacy, impact investing and sustainability. We benefit from those dialogues. However, it is our belief that there are few robust place-based conversations that surface and share deep local knowledge, successes and challenges. This is where we hope to add significant value.
Why these three issues?
There are many important cross-cutting issues in philanthropy, but we decided to go with three that we believe most directly reflect our Pacific Northwest culture of generosity, innovation, and stewardship:
- Advocacy in the form of your voice and relationships, is essential to advancing your mission of sustained community impact or social change. Ultimately, whether it’s your voice or you support the voices of others, it’s about strengthening democracy.
- Impact investing, or going beyond the grant to put more of our financial capital to work directly in our communities — call it place-based investing — is a key strategy to improving the quality of life in the places in which we live and work.
- Sustainability speaks to what is arguably the defining characteristic of place in the Pacific Northwest: our natural environment. Our mountains, rivers, fields and forests and the rich ecosystems they support are the wellsprings of our region's well-being and wealth — past, present and future.
Who are the Catalyst Fellows and what will they do?
Meet our remarkable team: Rosalie Sheehy Cates, Leslie Christian, Mitchell Thomashow, Remy Trupin and David Wood.
Together, they will connect with you and other community builders, build networks, deeply explore and share vignettes about these three issue areas locally across our six-state region. The Catalyst Fellows will also connect national conversations to Northwest communities to make these ideas accessible and actionable at all scales. Our hope is that by seeking out the remarkable creativity, knowledge and leadership across our philanthropic network and in the communities we serve, we create the conditions for learning together and ignite the fires of possibility.
Philanthropy Northwest is your network. The team’s job is to ensure that we are a valuable thought and action partner to you. It’s through experiments like these that we learn best how to meet that aspiration. Please do let us know how we are doing.