Innovation Through Impact Networks

If you were at Federation’s Campaign Kick-Off Event in November, you may remember me saying that Portland’s Jewish community will be talked about and known as the most innovative and exciting Jewish community in the country. Well, we are on our way!

I am pleased that the Jewish Federation has made international news with our new Community Impact Grant fund of $300,000. Please click here to read the announcement that was sent to organizations locally and around the world. And, an international daily email that reports on the Jewish non-profit world, wrote the following article -- Will Portland Become the New Center for Jewish Innovation?

One major opportunity we have with the Community Impact Grants is to create a more vibrant and engaging Jewish community by encouraging collaboration between organizations. The non-profit sector is facing challenging financial pressures, greater competition for fewer funds, and higher demand for services. Therefore, it is crucial that the resources available be allocated to the programs and services that are the most effective in delivering results – and new ones at that. To do this, organizations must work together in what are now referred to as “Impact Networks.”

An “impact network is a range of activities performed by collaborating organizations that leads to a positive outcome.” These networks improve the work of non-profits in three ways. First, organizations that understand networks can more effectively link their activities with others, thus developing common strategies that ensure people receive services from the most suitable provider. Second, organizations can begin to identify gaps and/or weaknesses in a network and take positive action. And third, organizations within networks can allocate resources effectively to avoid duplication or waste, and identify activities that can be provided more efficiently by another charity.

I am not naïve and do understand that there are challenges for organizations to work more closely together. First, relationships take time and require trust. This sounds so obvious, yet Jewish communities continue to perpetuate “turf issues” and a “you will take from us” mentality. In addition, cultures must change within organizations to where the focus on positive outcomes for the greater good overrides one’s own institutional needs. This will require letting go services that may be more effectively provided elsewhere or may not be critical to achieving our communal goals. Finally, the fears of an imbalance of power can deter collaboration, particularly between large and small organizations, or for those organizations that provide similar services they may be reluctant to collaborate for fear of direct competition.

Narishkeit (Yiddish for foolishness) as my grandmother would say. We must get beyond all of that! Our efforts need to focus on new ventures, greater effectiveness and more positive outcomes. The $300,000 in grants are to be used for innovative ways to impact our diverse and ever-growing Jewish community. By utilizing impact networks, we can develop relationships with other organizations that one has never previously seen as a potential partner. That is why we have opened up our Community Impact Grants to any non-profit who partners with a local Jewish organization. One never knows where the creative new ideas for tomorrow may come.

As organizations look to create proposals, I hope they consider working backwards – start with a desired outcome that will enrich and enhance our Jewish community -- then begin to identify the activities that will lead to those outcomes. Once organizations have decided on their idea(s), it is imperative that proposals include large-scale collaboration and multiple working partnerships – all for the good of the community.

I am excited by the opportunities our Community Impact Grants have in changing Jewish Portland. The national Jewish community is watching -- and they will follow our lead.

Just as we are making external changes in the way we do business, we have also made some internal changes. Inside the Federation I am pleased to announce several new professional developments:

• Bob Horenstein, our long-time Community Relations (CRC) Director will now also oversee our Planning and Allocations efforts at Federation.
• Josh Stein, our current Marketing Director has been promoted to be our new Campaign Director.
• Caron Blau Rothstein joins our team as our new Community Engagement Director to focus on outreach for the entire Jewish community.
• Nicole Walters will serve as our interim Marketing and Communications Manager.
• Jennifer Greenberg, our special events coordinator, will now also be working with our Women’s Philanthropy Committee.

I look forward to working with our current team in moving the Federation and community agenda forward – together with you!

Shabbat Shalom.


PS – We are so delighted to have received scores of entries for our Next Great Jewish Idea Contest. We are currently compiling them together and a committee will begin the process of reviewing them. I look forward to sharing more in the near future and let you know how you will help select the winner.


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