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Thaddeus Squire, Cultureworks Commons Management, Philadelphia, PA
03/Aug/2018

The power of language in how we think about and promote shared resource solutions. In today’s social and political environment we bear witness every day to how the power of words can divide, discriminate, and denigrate. They can also be tools for equity, justice, and social good. In the field of nonprofit shared resources we need to examine more carefully how our choice of language can aid our cause to foster greater efficiency, equity, and positive social impact. We may find that we are wielding blunt semantic instruments to build our missions. Let’s look at perhaps our most commonplace expression, “shared resources” (space, people, services, etc.). Our field is growing with increasing demands placed on the third sector as government-provisioned social safety nets wane. The call is ever louder for greater efficiency and equity of access through sharing. However, I’ve been asked frequently how our coworking space at CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia differs from old-school executive suites, or even a generic multi-tenant building. Likewise, as a Model A Fiscal Sponsor, people wonder how our services differ from that of an outsourced bookkeeper, for example. Good questions. If you think about it all professional service firms, for-profit or nonprofit, are “shared resources”; a law firm’s attorneys are “shared” by many clients. And I doubt that NCN would consider itself the association for general multi-tenant landlords, even if they are nonprofit. So what are we talking about when we say “shared spaces and services”?


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Keith Jones, Dena Kae Beno, Bob Yates
24/Jul/2018

We are on a journey of remarkable change and transformation in the community of Abbotsford, a municipality of 150,000 people 70 km east of Vancouver, Canada. Our story starts sadly with a reactive response to homelessness in 2013 but then shifts to a positive response of unity, hope and inspiration. Impacts nonetheless are still being felt by residents, businesses, service providers, and vulnerable individuals. Realistically, this story is about incremental change within a broader long-term transformative agenda: taking the time to listen to the voices and frustrations of those who are realizing the day-to-day impacts, and then creating space for multiple perspectives to generate co-created solutions. This is the real work, the messy work, and the shared realization of cultural transformation through applied systems work on a day-today basis. The community is now on a far more collaborative pathway to a better future for people experiencing homelessness. The community has rallied around shared strategies that reflect the systemic nature of these sorts of community challenges. Organizations across all sectors are working together on actions they share and toward common outcomes they identified. The coordinated efforts of many people and organizations toward these shared outcomes are starting to make a difference in responding to those experiencing homelessness and those at risk of becoming homeless. Teams are devising new approaches, documenting their experiences, and learning together. New relationships are being forged and trust is building despite moments of tension, ambiguity, and uncertainty. While there are early signs of improvement, there is also a growing appreciation for the need to take the long view, to remain committed, stay the course, while always learning and adjusting. This is the evolving nature of our collective impact work.


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07/May/2018

As we prepare for Sharing Innovation 2018 in October, we thought we'd take a trip down memory lane to our 2017 event. Whether you missed last year or need a little convincing to attend this year (as if!?), check out the first of our four Sharing Innovation 2017 Blog Video Series below. With two speakers each over last year's themes of Technology for Collaboration, Adaptive Partnerships, Smart Growth and Sustainability, we're certain you'll walk away with not only some fresh innovative ideas, but also the desire to (re)connect with the NCN community this October! So without further ado, this week we focus on…


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Summer Hess
23/Apr/2018

I never thought I would dabble in ecology. In the artificial divide between the arts and sciences in grade school and beyond, I was categorized as creative-by default, I think-since I did not display a natural aptitude for STEM subjects. Recently, however, I've found a point of entry into the scientific realm through Biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies. This merging of ecology with the creativity needed to problem solve has helped me frame much of my work in a shared space ecosystem.


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10/Apr/2017

Nearly a quarter of all shared space projects are driven by foundations, whether it’s because they have many grantees conducting capital campaigns at the same time, they’re searching for new offices themselves, or they’re looking for a new way to invest in their community. We know that the philanthropic community is a valuable partner to shared spaces, but shared spaces have many benefits for foundations as well.

  • A mission-related investment opportunity: Many foundations invest a portion of their endowment in real estate. Shared space offers the same opportunity with a deep local impact. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund structured the development of the Jessie Ball duPont Center so that its rents generate a reliable return on investment. While the building does not perform at the same rates as other portfolio assets, the foundation sees that the local social return is worth it.
  • The ability to make in-kind grants: The Charles A. Frueauff Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas, offers in-kind grants of office space for two to five years to qualifying nonprofits. This allows the foundation to leverage its own offices to have a greater impact.
  • The chance to spark community redevelopment: The Melville Charitable Trust purchased the historic Lyceum building in the Frog Hollow neighborhood of Hartford, CT in 2003, an area that had seen decades of disinvestment and decline. Following a building renovation, the space became a hub of housing advocacy and community organizing, leading the Trust to make additional property investments in the neighborhood.
  • The opportunity to be in-the-know: Many foundations that share space with other nonprofit agencies report a value from being at the center of a hub of community activity. Program officers can see first-hand the issues that affect their grantees and become a stronger community partners.

If you represent a foundation that operates a shared space, we want to hear from you. What are the benefits that you’ve seen to your practice as a funder? E-mail us at info@nonprofitcenters.org!


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03/Oct/2016

In September, I had the privilege of attending the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Nonprofit Management Institute on Network Leadership. I have been interested in the topic of network leadership because every nonprofit center that we know of is or has the potential to be a network for catalyzing social good. For many years, the idea was that to increase your social impact, you had to bring your model to scale. However, researchers like Jane Wei-Skillern have found that there have been many organizations who have multiplied their ability to achieve impact by taking the opposition – slimming down their operations, specializing, and working in concert with partners.


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