Transparency Talk

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The Wiki Workplace and a Network Mindset - Part 2
October 5, 2011

Diana Scearce (Diana Scearce is a senior consultant with the Monitor Institute where she works primarily with networks and multi-stakeholder groups. Her work combines strategy, facilitation, research, scenario thinking, and learning design. She has written multiple articles and reports on effectively leveraging networks, including the forthcoming "Catalyzing Networks for Social Change: A Funder's Guide" (GEO, October 2011).

This is part two of a two-part blog series on how the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is working with a network mindset with its "see through filing cabinet"— a wiki through which the foundation's Organizational Effectiveness (OE) team shares resources and insights across its grantmaking, research in progress, and even internal documents. Part one shared an interview with the OE team's Stephanie McAuliffe and Kathy Reich, about how the experiment came about and how it's impacting their work. Part two shares insights from another OE team member, Jeff Jackson, about wiki results to date and how they're approaching assessment. For a deeper dive, check out their "wiki learning" page.

How do you know if this experiment in transparency — and now engagement — is working?

Jeff Jackson: Year one was about making sure the work and processes most meaningful and useful to us were shared, and that perhaps some people would engage enough to let us know we were not just being transparent to ourselves. While initially we weren't quite sure how to measure this, we now have more third party comments about our transparency than we know what to do with, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy saying "Packard is leading.

Efficiency became the earliest and most visible benefit of transparency.  We could easily point ourselves and others in the right direction faster and better than we did before with our disjointed filing cabinets (we're a very virtual OE team with team members in Mexico and multiple U.S. locations). A non OE team member (a nonprofit leader) is now telling us he is using the wiki as his OE resource center.

It seems strange to try to measure a wiki since it evolves with every new member and can take on a very different look as the work changes. For instance, it wasn't immediately apparent why Eugene Kim wanted to use the wiki to post his notes from the GEO Learning conference (vs. use his own blog), but that's the beauty of this flexible, open format. Although I don't know why he made that choice, I still found value in what he did. Once he posted his conference notes, I decided to do the same for conferences I attended.

We're also learning that once we set "our" measures, the definition and scope of "our" changes. At the same time, we still believe that without measures/targets for distinct parts of the wiki (Goldmine for instance), we might not progress or know we are progressing.

The Packard Foundation team's experiences mirror broader experiences we've noted in the "Network of Network Funders" — a learning community for funders who are catalyzing networks and working with a network mindset. Assessing the impact of network platforms, like wikis, and the impact of groups of people who are working together formally and informally on shared social change goals can be tough. Participation is fluid, the network is in a constant state of flux, and outcomes can be unexpected when you're inviting broad and diverse participation. Yet, as Jeff says, having clear indicators of progress is critical for staying on course, learning about what is working, and adapting as needed.

How are you assessing the impact of your efforts to work transparently and catalyze networks?

-- Diana Scearce

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  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

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