Core Components of Foundations that Learn

There is a growing sense in the philanthropic field that knowledge, strategically applied, is as important to community-change efforts as money. If this is true, then foundation leaders must re-imagine and reconstruct the role of learning and give it a central place in their organizations’ missions, goals, strategies, internal structures, and external partnerships. In short, foundations must become learning institutions.

During 2004-05, a Chapin Hall team interviewed approximately 35 funders, foundation board members, experts, and researchers prominent in the community-change field about the challenges and opportunities for learning. This paper distills, organizes, and reports our respondents’ reflections, descriptions, and practices with regard to learning for community change. The paper identifies and explores seven core components of learning foundations.