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Knitting the 5 C's Together in Work and Life

Posted on July 09, 2020 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21

Two weeks into my one-year fellowship at The Patterson Foundation, and you could say that I’ve learned a lot about a lot (with a lot more to be learned!) I’ll dive into these many discoveries over my year here, but I thought I’d first discuss one of my early learnings about how TPF frames its approach and the ways it uses multiple sets of five words/actions to do so.

TPF works with stakeholders to “catalyze efforts toward shared aspirations” by connecting, learning, sharing, evolving, and strengthening (Set #1). To achieve success, it promotes alignment with five characteristics: leadership, willingness, readiness, capacity, and culture (Set #2). There are five internal stakeholders: CEO, board, staff, donors, volunteers to engage within nonprofits (Set #3), and five external stakeholders: people, business, media, nonprofits, and government (Set #4) need to be on board to achieve ultimate success. There are five ways to move the needle when it comes to impact: scarcity to abundance, issues to aspirations, enabling to engaging, silos to systems, and outputs to outcomes (Set #5).

As you can see, there are a lot of “fives,” and TPF embodies each word and action. While all of these are ideal to strive for and achieve, there’s another set of five that I think have stood out the most during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does TPF weave these actions into its daily work, but the set of The FIVE C’s helps guide thinking in how philanthropy, in general, can be better and do better.

This set is caring, connecting, collaborating, contributing, and creating. They interweave with one another to craft an approach that helps guide TPF as it faces challenges head-on and works with partners to collaborate on new realities.

5 Cs
How do they intertwine? I’m a novice knitter, so I imagine each word is one strand from one yarn ball. Then, the strands are woven together. Can you separate the strands? Sure. But together, do they weave an even more beautiful object that can be used in multiple ways? (E.g. a scarf, a hat, a sweater.) Absolutely.

To further clarify, I’ll provide an example about one of the initiatives I’ll dive into during my year here: the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR).

I’ll discuss this more in a future blog post, but because of COVID-19 and a drastic change in summer programming, SCGLR had to pivot to figure out ways to connect with children and encourage them (in fun ways!) to read over the summer. SCGLR Director Beth Duda and her creative, dedicated, and thoughtful team created “THIS BOOK IS COOL!” (TBIC), a 10-15 minute recorded program for Pre-K to 3rd grade, which features books for each grade level, guests on why the featured book is cool, new vocabulary words, and activities related to the book. Over ten weeks, children and their families have an opportunity to receive up to 20 books.

TBIC reaches more than 4,000 children and their families in the Suncoast area! Not only are these children receiving these books for free and creating their own library, but they’re also connecting to leaders in the business, government, philanthropy, and media spaces in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties, increasing their vocabulary, and receiving tools and knowledge to craft new projects.

I immediately saw how the 5 C’s come together in TBIC. TPF created a new way to connect with children and parents by collaborating with educators, entrepreneurs, artists, community members, and others, demonstrating care for children and contributing to their education by forming new connections and sharing a variety of interesting books during these unprecedented times.

So there’s one professional example. To give you a more personal one, I did not imagine four months ago moving to Sarasota and beginning a new job during a pandemic; however, TPF staff and consultants have gone above and beyond in welcoming us here.

TPF staff and consultants created a wonderful, personalized video welcoming us to Sarasota. Hannah and John, my fellow Fellows, cared for us by creating a beautiful sign and giving us necessary cleaning supplies. Nancy Henry contributed her time by driving out multiple times to drop off things for me to sign, and then drove back to pick them up. CEO Debra Jacobs has connected with me every day to ensure that I am/we are settling in and has also contributed to my knowledge by answering every seemingly random question I’ve had. Finally, Beth is collaborating with me by introducing me to SCGLR and working with me on various assignments related to the initiative.

I could go on with examples, but I wanted to draw something specifically out. There are multiple reasons why people either trumpet or critique philanthropy. I won’t discuss them here, but simply put, wouldn’t it be better for all if philanthropic organizations followed the 5 C’s? What would happen if we cared for everyone in equitable ways? What about the benefits of productive and equitable collaborations? What can we create that can either (or both) have an impact locally, or could be scaled to impact even more individuals? How can cultivating connections within the sector and cross-sector make the world a better place? What are we contributing to society as a whole, and how can we do more, and engage more people?

This structure may be too simplistic to encompass all of the questions and concerns about philanthropy, but what if we helped our stakeholders (boards, staff, donors, nonprofits, etc.) frame their thinking around those 5 C’s? I think we could see greater short- and long-term impact.

These 5 C’s, as well as the other sets of fives and TPF’s initiatives, are what I hope to learn more about, see them in action, and grow into this year.

If I can use the 5 C’s to help guide me during this time and forever forward, I’ll be, as I said in my first post, a better philanthropist and a better person, working always to make the world a better place.

I have a lot to learn and do. Just two weeks in, and I know I’m moving in the right direction.

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