Playworks wins $100K grant from Packard Foundation


Playworks was announced last week as one of the six winners of Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Social Change. This Northern California competition, held by Ashoka Changemakers and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, searched for local initiatives that cultivated empathy skills to strengthen communities and motivate young people to become leaders of change. Each winner received a $100,000 prize.

Playworks, which is in its second year in the BBF program, is a nonprofit organization that, through playtime activities organized by recess coaches, strives to create school or youth group playgrounds into positive environments for students to practice leadership and teamwork. It plans to use the grant to expand its program to more schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and to train other schools that are interested in implementing the same model in their own playgrounds.

Other winners included San Jose State University’s Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, Soul Shoppe, The First Tee of Monterey County, The Respect Institute, and Rising International.

Read more about the competition in the August 11 post “In the Bay Area, Entities in Each Sector Are Incubating Positive Social Change” by Katherine Murtha.


Destiny Arts Center featured in documentary

Directed by Suzanne LeFetra and David Collier, F R E E, a documentary film that highlights the mission and impact of the Oakland-based nonprofit Destiny Arts Center, was released on October 11. The Destiny Arts Center has been a part of the Berkeley Board Fellows program for the past 8 years. The Center combines dance, theater, or martial arts with “a clearly articulated philosophy and methodology of peaceful conflict resolution to assist youth in avoiding or diffusing potentially violent situations, build a more holistic sense of self, increase empathy for others, and augment youths’ capacity for productive self-expression.”

F R E E focuses on the lives of five teenagers whose involvement with the Destiny Arts Center has helped them overcome their personal difficulties, including rape and gang violence.

For more information on the film, check out these San Francisco Chronicle articles: 1 2

BBF Kick-Off: David Riemer’s advice to mentors

The Berkeley Board Fellows welcomed 82 Fellows and 40 nonprofit organizations at the Kick-Off event on October 6. Professor Paul Jansen spoke to the Fellows while Executive-in-Residence at Haas David Riemer spoke to the mentors about how to make their participation in the Berkeley Board Fellows program a successful experience for both the board and the Fellows.

  1. Be a “booster” for the Fellows: Let everybody know what the Fellows’ strengths are and that the Fellows are there to make a contribution and to provide a different point of view.
  2. Immediately assign and integrate the Fellows into a committee: It’s a great way for the Fellows to get activated and really involved.
  3. Come up with a clear problem definition for the project: With a vague problem definition, it will be hard for the Fellows to do a good job of focusing, working with the staff, and knowing what to work on. With a crisp problem definition, the Fellows can come up with an affective solution that aligns with that problem definition.
  4. Encourage the Fellows to spend time with staff: In addition to meeting with the staff, Fellows should work on their projects with the staff. Make sure it’s easy for the Fellows to get access to the staff and to collaborate with them. Encourage the Fellows to use what they’re learning in school, especially from the “Problem Finding Problem Solving” class.
  5. Acknowledge the demands of being a student, but also remind the Fellows that they are representing the school, the program, and future Fellows.

Berkeley Board Fellows holds Kick-Off Event

Event: Berkeley Board Fellows Kick-Off
Date: Monday, October 6
Location: International House

The Berkeley Board Fellows commenced its 2014-2015 program year with the annual Kick-Off event, which welcomed the 82 Fellows and 40 nonprofit organizations. Introducing the Berkeley Board Fellows to the attendees were guest speakers Dean Richard Lyons, David Riemer, and Paul Jansen. Paul spoke about the qualities of a highly effective (“Dynamic”) board of directors.

His talk included the 10 Things to Know about Your Nonprofit to ensure they are informed, engaged board members:

  1. Core activities – who, what, where, for how long?: What does the nonprofit do? Who does it try to help? What help does it try to deliver where and for how long?
  2. Mission, theory of change: What change is the nonprofit ultimately trying to achieve and what’s the strategy or set of activities it’s going to do to achieve that desired social outcome?
  3. Organization chart/profile of key leaders
  4. Revenue mix/trends: The phrase “No margin, no mission” has real meaning. Where does the nonprofit get its money – earned income, donated income, or income from government sources or contracts? Depending on the mix of revenues and sources, you can have a very different kind of nonprofit.
  5. Key cost components
  6. Board composition/committees: Who is on the board, and what are the committees of the board?
  7. Key peers/competitors: Who are the peer organizations who are the nonprofit’s competitors or collaborators?
  8. Other stakeholders, including regulators, government, funders: Who are the major donors, who else believe that they have a real interest, and who are the beneficiaries in the work of that nonprofit?
  9. Recent events/public profile: It’s worthwhile to do a Google search on nonprofit and find out what’s been written about it lately. It goes a long way towards understanding what the vibe might be in the board room.
  10. Results against mission

Faculty Spotlight – Jane Wei-Skillern

weiskillern_janeSharing her nearly fifteen years’ of research experience in social entrepreneurship, nonprofit networks, management of nonprofit organizations, Jane Wei-Skillern encouraged students in her “Networks for Impact: Social Innovation’s Next Frontier” class to explore how to catalyze and support networks for social change.

The course was one of Jane’s efforts to spread the word on network leadership, an approach in which various organizations bring their respective expertise to the mission and work alongside each other instead of having every nonprofit organization trying to advance its own institution and programs in order to achieve its mission singlehandedly. To Jane, network leadership is compelling in that by working behind the scenes, in collaboration with, and in support of other organizations, communities, and beneficiaries themselves, nonprofits do not “pretend to know all the answers” and thus get to social impact much more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably.

“It’s not rocket science,” Jane said, “but network leadership is not very easy in the current system, given the way that funding happens and the way supporters and leaders in the field assume that the way to get to the mission impact is to advance the organization first.”  In fact, she noticed that there were countless organizations who, despite having successfully built big brand names, large budgets, and sizable staff, were still far from meeting their missions.

“There needs to be a dramatic change in the way people think about their work and act in service to the mission,” she said. Continue reading