The Rainin Foundation’s senior communications officer, Mandy Flores-Witte, was invited to share her thoughts about foundation transparency in Glasspockets’ Knowledge Sharing Champions #OpenForGood series. Read her post below.
Originally published by Glasspockets.
Transparency and the Art of Storytelling
Foundations are uniquely poised to support higher-risk projects, and as a result, failures can happen. Recently, I was searching online for examples on how to share the story about a grant that had some unexpected outcomes and found that, while the field strives to be transparent, it can still be a challenge to learn about initiatives that didn’t go as planned.
Communicating about a project doesn’t always have to happen in a scholarly report or detailed analysis, or by hiring experts to produce an evaluation. Sharing what you learned can be as simple as telling a story.
Embracing the Facts and Checking Our Ego
When the Rainin Foundation funded our first public art installation in San Francisco’s Central Market, a busy neighborhood undergoing a significant economic transformation, we knew it was an experiment with risks. The art installation’s large platform, swing, and see saw were designed to get neighborhood residents, tech workers, customers of local businesses, and visitors — people spanning the economic spectrum—to interact. There’s no doubt that the project succeeded at bringing people together. But after seven months, it was relocated to a different part of the city because of complaints and safety concerns about the types of people and activities it attracted.
These issues were addressed at several community meetings—meetings that helped build stronger relationships among project stakeholders such as city departments, businesses, artists, local nonprofits, and neighbors. We were disappointed that the project did not go as planned, but we were amazed to see how one public art installation could spark so many conversations and also be a platform for exposing the city’s social issues. We knew we had to share what we learned. Or put another way, we saw an opportunity to be #OpenForGood.
Senior Communications Officer
Mandy is responsible for directing the Rainin Foundation's communications, and media and public relations. Read more.