Learning Circles as a Funding Strategy

Fashioned after the Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project, reDirect initiated Learning Circles to help our grantees build a peer network as they develop a road map for implementing Supportive Environments for Effectiveness (SEE) in their organizations. Our Learning Circle cohorts have focused primarily on using SEE to improve internal organizational functioning.

Below are some of our biggest takeaways as a foundation seeking to authentically work with nonprofits.

reDirect’s work fills a gap in the funding world.

While many nonprofits acknowledge that having effective, highly functioning staff is essential, they have difficulty dedicating adequate resources or time to systematically improving their systems and work environment. And very few funders provide monies to support this behind-the-scenes focus. Participating with reDirect, and engaging with the structure created by the Learning Circles, help organizations to be more intentional and to make time for this kind of work.

Learning Circles are powerful.

The Executive Directors and/or senior staff from each organization meet regularly to explore Supportive Environments for Effectiveness (SEE) as it relates to their workplace. These meetings have exceeded our expectations in terms of the level of participation and investment by the organizations, and the power of peer insight. Participants have been willing to be vulnerable and transparent as they collectively explore strategies to better engage with their staff and to improve their workplaces.

Some quick wins can improve the workplace right away.

One of our initial assumptions was that organizations would be investing in changes that might take a considerable amount of time to implement. In our Learning Circle meetings and sessions with staff, we have discovered that SEE has helped generate ideas that the organizations have been able to implement immediately. Even small changes such as improving the physical work environment with walking meetings or helping staff feel more appreciated by developing a birthday calendar can create more supportive environments for bringing out the best in overworked staff.

Our thanks to the nonprofits participating in this work with us: Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Community Resource Center, Community Shares of Colorado, The Gathering Place, Spark the Change Colorado (formerly Metro Volunteers), The Park People, Playworks, and Youth Employment Academy. You can read more about what SEE helped them achieve here.