ICYMI: Spend Down, But Knowledge Up
Beginning the process of spending down may be the most critical time for a foundation to focus on managing the knowledge they have gained, lessons learned, and shareable insights that can be enormously valuable for the legacy of the foundation itself and for the good of the philanthropy sector. Candid’s Legacy Collections on Issue Lab was created to capture these lessons in a way that benefits all.
Two recent articles share important tips on setting up your foundation policies with knowledge preservation in mind. Whether or not you are spending down now, your foundation can begin planning its knowledge legacy and both of these articles will help you take necessary steps so you can more easily share what you’ve learned.
(GlassPockets, January 14, 2020)
Ashleigh Halverstadt, the former senior evaluation and learning officer of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, a spend-down foundation that concluded operations in December 2020, shares tips about what she would have done differently earlier on to more easily be able to share the foundation’s knowledge
As our sunset approached, we wondered: What would come of the knowledge we’d produced and supported? During the spend down, we invested more than $80 million in research and evaluation related to our strategic initiatives, and we published a few dozen resources of our own. We worked hard to share knowledge through our website and email distribution, and, more importantly, through our partners. But we knew our website wouldn’t live forever (it is currently expected to remain live for at least one-year post-sunset) and that we wouldn’t be around to support the ongoing knowledge dissemination efforts of our partners.
After much consideration, we decided against establishing a formal, comprehensive archive of all our records (read more about that here). We felt a responsibility, however, to create a permanent, publicly accessible home for our knowledge products—and that led us to IssueLab. IssueLab is one of the social sector’s largest open repositories, which already makes it a sensible place to store things. Plus, when a resource is added to IssueLab, it also gets disseminated through knowledge aggregators such as WorldCat (the world’s largest library catalog) as well as other Candid properties and partners. When we learned that Candid was launching the Legacy Collection service, specifically designed for organizations that are closing their doors, we knew it was a good fit.
What did it take to actually do it? I spent much of the last year leading the creation of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Legacy Collection in close partnership with Lisa Brooks, director of knowledge management systems at Candid. For the benefit of anyone considering a similar undertaking, this piece offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process we worked through, and some of the lessons learned along the way.
(Lisa Brooks, Candid blog, February 10, 2020)
Lisa Brooks, Director of Knowledge Management Systems at Candid, shares knowledge preservation insights by giving us a closer look at two new Legacy Collections.
We created the Legacy Collection Service for foundations and social sector organizations that are ending operations. Through funding, commissioning, or creating original works, many of these organizations developed rich content, which they usually made available on their websites. But what happens to these websites—and these works—when an organization ceases operations? Although some organizations make their sites available for a specified time after closing their doors, many do not. And when the websites disappear, all the knowledge contained within them, knowledge that was never captured in a formal publishing system, disappears, too. It pains me to think about how much work it would take to locate and secure this knowledge. No, really! I’ve had to search for this very type of orphaned and forlorn content; it is painstaking, painfully slow work, even when you have clues.
Two organizations that closed their doors at the end of last year decided to go down a different path with the knowledge they produced themselves, funded, and/or collected over the years. Their decision to work with Candid to keep this knowledge in play was fueled by a determination to share their legacies of learning long after their organizations exited.