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Maximizing Philanthropic Impact: An Interview with Jim Canales

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Mar 12, 2013
What does the Irvine Foundation learn by regularly gathering feedback from grantees and other constituents? And how do we integrate those lessons into our work?

How does the Foundation think about “risk” in the context of its grantmaking strategies?

What is the proper role of government in social innovation?

In an interview last week on the Social Velocity blog, Irvine President and CEO Jim Canales discussed these and other questions with Social Velocity President Nell Edgington. The interview is one in a series of monthly discussions that Edgington conducts with leaders in the nonprofit sector. The interview is reprinted here:

Nell: One of the four grantmaking principles of the Irvine Foundation is “Invest in Organizations,” meaning that you are committed to providing grants to build nonprofit organizations (evaluation, operating support, infrastructure). This is a pretty radical idea for most foundations. What do you think holds other foundations back from this kind of investment and what will it take to get more of them to embrace the idea of organization building as opposed to just supporting direct programs?

Jim: This question of general operating support versus project support has been an ongoing debate in the nonprofit sector, and I’d like to suggest that we may be creating for ourselves a false dichotomy that may not be helpful. I’d suggest we focus on the end goal, not the means. Let’s start by asking the question: How can we maximize impact toward the shared goals of a foundation and its grantees? By asking the question in that way, we naturally have to explore whether we are investing sufficient resources, in the right ways, so that our grantee can have the impact we both seek.

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Media Coverage Spotlights Leadership Awardees

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Mar 07, 2013

The 2013 Leadership Award recipients are making headlines. In the month since the awards were announced, media outlets across the state have been spotlighting the work of these extraordinary individuals who are advancing innovative solutions to some of California’s biggest challenges.

Vida en el Valle, a weekly Spanish language paper serving the San Joaquin Valley, profiled recipients Aida Cardenas (Building Skills Partnership, Los Angeles) and José Quiñonez (Mission Asset Fund, San Francisco), noting that both "have dedicated a substantial part of their lives helping others build their own."

The San Francisco Chronicle featured an op-ed by Quiñonez describing how Mission Asset Fund, through its Lending Circles program, helped a low-income family establish a credit score, build assets and start a small business.

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Irvine In The News: February 2013

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Mar 01, 2013

In February 2013, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Continuing the Dialogue on Our Arts Strategy

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Feb 26, 2013 1

A number of compelling conversations have been taking place over the last several weeks as a result of some very thoughtful blog posts about our Arts grantmaking strategy. (Nina Simon kicked it off with this post and then linked to related posts here.) What I find most exciting about all of this is the fact that a range of thoughtful leaders are engaging with ideas that are obviously important to Irvine, and their engagement will help make our grantmaking better. I’d like to take the opportunity to add to the dialogue as well as clarify a few points about our Arts strategy that were raised in the conversation so far.

Irvine has funded the arts since our inception because we care deeply about the importance of a healthy arts ecosystem that connects people and builds communities. We have an interest and an obligation in strengthening the arts system as a whole and we believe that the system will thrive if it focuses on engaging Californians who so far have largely been absent as audiences, visitors and donors. In becoming an adaptive, relevant and responsive field, we become more able to address the fact that the majority of Californians don’t engage with our system---not responding to this situation is clearly not the answer. Our response then, the core focus of our grantmaking that launches later this year, will be to support sustainable, core operational shifts as arts organizations expand engagement.

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New Arts Grants Explore Engagement

BY Josephine Ramirez
Josephine Ramirez
As Arts Program Director, Josephine is leading the implementation of a new grant
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| Feb 19, 2013
Late last year, our board approved 19 new grants as part of our statewide Exploring Engagement Fund and another five grants as part of our more targeted Exploring Engagement Fund for Priority Regions (focused on the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley). We now have 52 grantee partners that are providing an array of exciting new arts engagement opportunities for Californians.

What I find most exciting about this latest round of grants is that it creates fresh possibilities for the field to learn about how to effectively engage more Californians in the arts. Our goal of promoting engagement can only be successful if there is a robust, nimble, responsive group of nonprofits that are actively exploring how they can engage audiences and visitors. “Business as usual” has not been working for many arts organizations that are experiencing declining audiences and revenues, and it’s gratifying to see so many groups primed to learn more about engaging their communities through these grants.

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From the President: Transparency 2.0

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Feb 13, 2013 5

Dear Friends,

Within the past few weeks, I have read with interest the observations of a number of active bloggers in the arts field whom I have come to respect and admire: Nina Simon, Diane Ragsdale, Clay Lord and Barry Hessenius. Each of them has blogged on aspects of the Irvine Foundation’s new arts strategy and, in doing so, has contributed to a robust dialogue that has played out on their respective blogs as well as on Twitter.

And that’s what prompts my contribution to this discussion: I will comment only lightly on the substantive issues they have raised related to our Arts strategy as my colleague, Josephine Ramirez, who directs our Arts program, plans to post a more substantive comment on those issues in the next week or so. There is another aspect of this discussion that I do want to comment upon and invite others to engage on with me and my colleagues in philanthropy.

From my early days as Irvine’s CEO, and with great support from our Board of Directors, I have placed a premium on transparency, both with regard to our work at Irvine and for the broader field of philanthropy. I have certainly not been alone in this quest (Brad Smith at the Foundation Center is probably our field’s leading champion), and I think it’s a fair observation to say that the field has come a long way in the past decade.

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Guest Post: State Elections Experts Begin New Collaborations

BY Doug Chapin
Doug Chapin
Doug Chapin directs the Future of California Elections project. Chapin has been
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| Feb 08, 2013

By Doug Chapin – Director, Future of California Elections

On January 23rd in Sacramento, the Future of California Elections (FOCE) hosted its first public event. FOCE initially formed in late 2011 with help and support from the James Irvine Foundation and is now setting up shop as an independent entity. This meeting was our opportunity to introduce FOCE and its work to the state’s policy community.

As someone who has been helping facilitate the group since its formation in late 2011, and who will be directing FOCE’s efforts going forward, I was both excited and nervous about the event.

I was excited because I believe in the motivation behind the project: identify leaders and practitioners who understand the challenges facing the state’s election system and then help find common ground for policies that will increase participation without sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness. But I was nervous because FOCE was getting ready to expand the conversation beyond its two dozen or so founding members to include policymakers and other advocates from across the state.

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Announcing the 2013 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Feb 04, 2013

Dear Friends,

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards. The awards recognize Californians who are implementing innovative, effective solutions to critical state issues. This year’s recipients are particularly collaborative in their approaches and excel at building upon the resourcefulness and determination of California’s residents to improve the future of our state.

They are:

Aida Cardenas, Building Skills Partnership, Los Angeles — Aida leads a unique labor-management collaboration that is increasing opportunity for thousands of low-wage workers while improving the competitiveness of their employers.

Karen Christensen, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Capitola — Karen is bringing together landowners, environmental groups and government agencies to craft innovative solutions that protect water and other natural resources.

Stuart Cohen, TransForm, Oakland — Stuart champions innovative regional planning to create affordable, vibrant communities that improve our quality of life and help the environment.

Jeff Oxendine, Health Career Connection, Oakland — Jeff leads efforts to strengthen California’s health workforce and expand opportunity for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds to launch rewarding careers in the state’s growing health industry.

José Quiñonez, Mission Asset Fund, San Francisco — José helps low-income families build assets and establish credit scores by turning informal lending practices into recognized financial activity.

Jill Vialet, Playworks, Oakland — Jill offers a unique approach to recess at hundreds of California elementary schools that improves student learning and behavior, and reduces bullying.

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Irvine In The News: January 2013

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Feb 01, 2013

ArtPlace Honors Oakland

BY Ted Russell
Ted Russell
Ted Russell has been with Irvine since 2005 and helps oversee many of the Founda
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| Jan 29, 2013

Last week, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan joined ArtPlace director Carol Coletta in touring the Oakland neighborhood that was designated one of America's Top 12 ArtPlaces. As she announced the award at the press conference, Carol made the point of saying this award was data-based and in fact entirely statistical. Since it’s not biased or subjective, the selection carries even more weight for many in the Oakland community.

Mayor Quan proudly accepted the award on behalf of the city that has become, in her words, "cooler than San Francisco!" And she emphatically credited a public-private-nonprofit partnership for the incredible turnaround of several depressed neighborhoods ranging from Old Oakland to Uptown. It's clear that the vibrancy brought to the areas by the emergence of arts nonprofits, in conjunction with for-profits, had economic and human impacts.

ArtPlace, an initiative of national and regional foundations, federal agencies and major banks to accelerate creative placemaking, identified the top ArtPlaces in the nation’s largest U.S. metropolitan areas. An array of data and other factors were considered in selecting the neighborhoods, which were successful at combining art, artists and venues for creativity and expression with independent businesses, retail shops and restaurants, and a walkable lifestyle to make vibrant neighborhoods. Other California neighborhoods that joined Oakland in the Top 12 were San Francisco's Mission District and Central Hollywood in Los Angeles.

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