Exercise: Evolutions

Feature image with blue background, white TGP logo in the right bottom corner, and a graphic with a person going journeying from A to B. Title reads:Exercise: Evolutions; Naming, embracing and living into change.
November 20, 2023

In the video below, Senior Advisor Mark Sedway walks through one of our most used exercises with clients. We call it the Evolutions Exercise and for years we’ve used it to help foundations, philanthropy-serving organizations and other non-profits name, embrace and live into change. 

Clients have described the exercise as “invitational,” “freeing” and “illuminating.” We hope you give it a try and would love to hear how it goes.


0:20 How the Evolutions Exercise works
1:14 Doing the Evolutions Exercise in Person
2:04 Kari McCann Boutell on why the exercise is so effective
3:38 Janine Lee’s perspective on how Philanthropy Southeast is evolving
4:25 Janine Lee on evolving from caring to loving
5:55 Janine Lee on evolving from gentility to real, painful conversations

Exercise Overview

Use Case:
Strategic visioning and forward thinking at any level (i.e. organizational, team, individual). 

We’ve found that the Evolutions Exercise is particularly effective as it…
…welcomes change by showing how it’s already happening  
…illuminates progress where things have felt stagnant in the past
…generates group energy and alignment 
…surfaces themes, patterns and trends
…helps teams identify priorities and gain directional clarity  


1. Identify the thing that is evolving.
It could be your organization, team, project, strategy, or field. (Or, if you’re doing the exercise on your own, it could even be yourself).

2. Determine a timeframe to use for your evolutions.
For example, if you’re using this exercise as part of strategic visioning for the next three years, your time span might be from “three years ago” to “three years from now”

3. Brainstorm evolutions.
Ask members of your group to write down any evolutions that come to mind. They can be positive or negative, general or specific, straightforward or subtle.

4. Analyze evolutions.
Sort the evolutions into categories or themes, observe and reflect. What stands out? What’s surprising? Where does the group have the most energy?

If you have time, work with your group to think of ways that you can support positive evolutions and redirect negative ones. 

You can find our companion worksheet here for more detailed instructions. 


If you are looking for support in strategy or facilitation, please reach out to us at hello@thegivingpractice.org.

Mark Sedway is a Senior Advisor at The Giving Practice. You can learn more about our team of consultants on our team page here

A note on exercises and frameworks: We find that exercises and frameworks are most useful as a place to start. We encourage all users to test and modify as needed to best support your group and goals. 

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