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grantees. Their approach helped to transform our strategies for spreading SPARC innovations.”

As we launched network activities, we defined our purpose simply as “the spread of a valuable new idea, technology, or practice.”  Throughout the grant cycle, grantees and sponsors found that the “new idea or technology” was relatively easy to develop but the spread was hard.  As an ensemble, we developed a sense that the future is already here but it is not uniformly distributed.

Start-Up Requirements: Oil, Water, Apples, and Oranges Alchemy

All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the

lovers of their opposites.  Marc Chagall

An array of unique conditions made the initiative a complex challenge.  The field was wide open because few precedents existed in the field of philanthropy and this was the first grant cycle for the Foundation.  The constraints were daunting and alchemy was required.  A practical approach would have to be:

Simple – grantees were very busy people with full time jobs on top of their project leadership responsibilities, participation had to be simple

Economical – the Foundation’s limited funds were dedicated to funding the projects themselves, network implementation had to be inexpensive

Relevant – at first glance the projects had very little in common except a focus on “health,” our interactions had to make a positive difference in each local context and community

Grantee-directed – the “not invented here immune response” would likely kill any consultant-driven innovation, grantees had to participate in direction-setting

Foundation sponsors made it clear the effort was designed to support grantee learning and development, NOT to add additional pressure on performance or completing grant requirements.  Participation in social network activities was encouraged, not required.  A small percentage of the grantees did not take full advantage of the activities. This article is a report on work-in-progress.  

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