From the President: Experiments in Communication
Jul 01, 2011
Jim is Irvine’s CEO. A native Californian, he is passionate about the Foundation
User is currently offline
Demonstrating transparency about our work remains a key aspiration for us at The James Irvine Foundation. Toward that end, we have recently experimented with new and different ways of communicating as well as new approaches to solicit feedback about our efforts. We have engaged in these activities not just for transparency’s sake, but as importantly, to encourage more of a two-way dialogue with our grantee partners and other stakeholders in an effort to listen and learn. My quarterly letter will focus on what we have tried, our rationale behind these activities, and what we are learning at this early stage.
In the past few months, we have experimented with the use of multimedia content. We’ve used videos and audio slide shows to summarize two major reports, our Grantee Perception Report and 2010 Annual Performance Report, and we’ve also used multimedia to help explain a shift in our Arts grantmaking strategy. This use of audio and video ensures we are taking advantage of a broader range of online communications tools, and we will continue to experiment with ways to make our work more accessible and to communicate more clearly.
Hand in hand with the greater use of multimedia content has been a conscious focus on encouraging more interactivity through Irvine’s communications. In June, when we announced our new Arts grantmaking strategy, we conducted a webinar for the first time and had more than 250 grantees and other participants. The purpose was not only to allow grantees to ask questions of us but also to begin what we hope will be a vigorous and robust dialogue that will help us to shape and flesh out our new Arts strategy over the coming months.
We have also been encouraging more feedback and advice from those who visit our website. In posting both our Grantee Perception Report and in outlining the new Arts strategy, we set up an open comments section, soliciting feedback, ideas and reactions and responding to those ideas when appropriate. Later this year, we plan to build upon all of this as we make more significant changes to our website to further facilitate the kind of interactivity we seek. At the same time, we are increasingly focused on using Twitter and other social media platforms to stay attuned to the broader environment and spot trends that can inform our work.
As we move forward, we will continue to try new ways to share information and invite discussion around the issues that matter to the future of California. As we do so, we won’t always get it right, and that’s where we need your help. Part of what we are learning in these initial forays is that one of the challenges we face as a philanthropic organization is the difficulty of receiving authentic feedback, including disagreement and potential criticism of our approach. We’d like to learn how to do better in this regard, as we are persuaded that the more we can engage interactively and authentically with our key stakeholders, the more our thinking will be stretched and improved.
The rapidly evolving world of communications technologies offers powerful ways for Irvine to stay engaged with its grantees and stakeholders and to fight the tendency among foundations to become insulated. The more we can open up communication and promote a robust, honest conversation about our grantmaking — even while we’re developing new strategies, as in the case of the Arts program — the more effective we will be in achieving our long-term program goals and our mission of expanding opportunity for the people of California. In that spirit, I continue to invite your comments and suggestions about how we can more effectively promote that dialogue.