Photo: DeSoto Harwood Event

TPF's Various Forms of Listening and Learning

Posted on August 07, 2023 by Kellie Alexander, TPF Fellow 2022/24

The Patterson Foundation (TPF) has a unique and collaborative approach to philanthropy that, as a Fellow, I've had the honor of experiencing first-hand. I've learned the power of convening, sharing, and collaborating at all stages of a program while exploring how to structure next steps and strategy, ensuring intentionality with each new or recurring item. TPF looks for ways to listen, learn, and evolve -- this may take the form of a Thrive and Dine, Knowledge Sharing Session, or Listening Tour.

Thrive and Dine includes exactly what it sounds like -- collaborating to excel and food! With the understanding a meal is shared, these convenings are always in-person. All cohorts participating in the same TPF endeavor are invited to attend. The timing of this event always takes place following programming or consulting, making it a meaningful gathering where all organizations have encountered success and challenges.

Recently, I wrote a blog about the first-ever Digital Access for All (DA4A) Digital Navigator Thrive and Dine. This event brought attention to the power of discussing challenges as unique organizations may share similar obstacles.

TPF Fellow Michael Zimmerman's blog shared how Margin & Mission Ignition (MMI), part of TPF's Nonprofit Thrivability initiative, convenes organizations working on earned-income ventures to learn from one another. 

Knowledge Sharing Session (KSS) may be the most widely used terminology for different listening and learning structures. KSSs are used for many purposes throughout many initiatives to gather individuals and organizations involved to learn what is working, share what they have learned, and hear what opportunities there are to grow moving forward. Attendees are in the current cohort while active in a program. This is unlike the Thrive and Dine, a collaborative convening of all cohorts after structured programming or consulting.

While MMI uses KSSs often, another Nonprofit Thrivability endeavor also organized to listen and learn. Read through launched TPF Fellow Abby Rolland's blog about KSS over Zoom.

TPF Fellow Connor LaGrange wrote how the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading hosted a version of a KSS to ensure "cookies" were shared.

The term KSS has also been present in Advancing Philanthropic Leadership endeavors during The Future of the Philanthropic Sector: Experiential Learning with The Patterson Foundation (Study Away course) and the Nonprofit Internship Program. Noting these different ways to listen and learn, I took another look at using the term KSS for the Zoom meetings that Interns, supervisors, and TPF Fellows participate in. These Nonprofit Internship Program Zooms, which occur at the beginning and end of the internship timeline, are only open to the lead and student, not multiple organizations as other KSSs. This was a great opportunity to step back, think carefully about our words, and progress forward with more intentional language.

A Listening Tour is a series of Zoom and in-person meetings to learn about a topic associated with a program or initiative. These can happen at a variety of stages to gather information to either begin a program or improve for the next. Regardless, the objective is to encourage sharing of positives and what needs improved. Listening Tours are incredibly intentional ways to ensure excellence and purpose at the next step of implementation.

Take a look at how Rachel Ploss, TPF Fellow, saw the Listening Tour create future opportunities for Suncoast region nonprofits through the TPF initiative, Fueling Dynamic Fundraising (FDF).

Rachel also participated in the Suncoast Remake Learning Days Listening Tour for 2022. Read more about how this format helped build trust.

While TPF does not own the language, TPF's Aspirations to Actions (A2A initiative) also uses Community Conversations to learn a great deal about community aspirations. This in-person format includes a set of predetermined questions for a group of individuals connected in some way (healthcare, educators, etc.) to identify shared aspirations and grow trust. If you are interested in joining conversions focused on disasters, sign up using this link: Aspirations to Actions Disaster Community Conversation Interest Form.

These are not the only ways that TPF learns. TPF also has a robust offering of Zoom meetings that take the structure of a Webversation or Labinar. Webversations combine the virtual learning platform of a webinar with the dialogue of a conversation, and Labinars combine the engagement and interactivity of a learning lab with the virtual education of a webinar. TPF strives to learn and create spaces for collaboration throughout the dozens of initiatives. With the understanding that these structured formats can be incorporated across all of the unique initiatives, I hope this writing inspires other organizations to implement their own ways to listen, learn, and evolve.

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