To increase impact potential, the Packard Foundation wants their support to go beyond a financial one by also providing other resources, experience, knowledge, and networks to their grantees; yet, on their side, grantees are reluctant to ask for help. They fear that highlighting needs calls attention to weaknesses and thereby undermines the funders’ confidence, which could threaten their grants, both current and future.
The nonprofit ecosystem is highly interconnected and relationship sensitive.
Create a culture of candidness in the nonprofit ecosystem with a tangible catalyst, which encourages, facilitates, and allows for a comfortable way to be transparent.
Smaller cubes travel among grantees and funders—handed off through face-to-face meetings, which encourages more frequent engagement—while a large cube hosted at the foundation reflects the average communication across the ecosystem.
Equipped with audio recording capability, the smaller cubes collect anonymous stories—advice, challenges, upward feedback, mistakes, etc. As we discovered, the power-imbalance and underlying tension discourages these kinds of conversations from happening, muting the opportunities with them. Funders and grantees can listen to stories and read transcripts through an online platform and app. At the larger cube, a display rotates headlines, quotes, etc. from the smaller cube recordings to inspire reflection and encourage more proactive behavior.
The cubes glow and the intensity and frequency of illumination correspond to the numbers of recordings, thereby serving as visual feedback of the level of engagement. e.g. a dimmer light with less flashing would signal that the community needs to communicate and engage more, while a brighter cube shows a healthier ecosystem.
We also prototyped a playful, human-like character, as a way to bring brevity into the situation. Really, the concept could take other forms, for example a more direct metaphor could be something like the Tamagachi toy—”Keep the communication alive.” Meet Frank: