Yale School of Management

At the Yale Philanthropy Conference, A Focus on the ‘Virtuous Cycle’ of Innovation

The 10th Yale Philanthropy Conference, held at Yale SOM’s Edward P. Evans Hall on February 13, focused on what the student organizers called a “virtuous cycle” for philanthropic organizations: reflection on past efforts, leading to innovation and then to an impact on the world—which, in turn, prompts another round of reflection.

At one panel discussion, under the “impact” rubric, Yale SOM’s Tony Sheldon and four practioners discussed the challenges and potential benefits of collaboration between organizations and across sectors. “Even though we’re all working toward the same goals, we’re all accountable to different entities,” which can lead to conflict, said Keisha Kersey, a program officer at the federal government’s Corporation for National and Community Service. One key, pointed out Nell Derick Debevoise, CEO of Inspiring Capital, is for nonprofits to communicate honestly with funders, rather than telling them what they want to hear. “There is that lack of willingness or courage or ability to clarify and speak your needs in a real way in the nonprofit sector,” she said.

Watch excerpts from the panel discussion, titled “Increasing Effectiveness through Collaboration”:

Other panel discussions looked at applying lessons from business to philanthropy, creating a culture of change, data-driven decision making, and the use of incentives. Speakers included Dr. Zia Kahn, vice president for strategy and evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation; Michael D. Smith, special assistant to President Barack Obama and the head of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative; and Nancy Pfund ’82, founder and managing partner of the impact investing firm DBL Investors.

Related videos:

Watch the conference's opening remarks and keynote address by Dr. Zia Kahn.
Watch the conference’s closing remarks and keynote address by Michael Smith.

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