Effective Philanthropy, Research, Skills Training, Workforce

July 2020 Newsletter: Context is Key

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2020

A Note from Executive Director Katy Knight

One of the core philosophies that I ask the members of our team to keep at the top of mind in all of our work is the belief that “context is key.” In order to be the most effective thought partners and grantmakers possible, we need to fully understand the conditions and circumstances under which our grantees do their work.

In order to deliver on that promise, we aim to ask relevant questions of ourselves throughout the relationship building process that are designed to keep us aware of and engaged with the factors that shape our grantees’ experiences. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that context plays in informing our strategy, especially as our world has shifted so much in the past several months. I’ve shared some thoughts on the questions we try to keep at the forefront of our process in a new series of Insights titled Context is Key.

The first two posts highlight questions that we ask about critical contextual details, including:

  • Who’s doing the work? How can our understanding of an organization be shaped by getting to know the people who lead it? What else can we learn from the members of the team in charge of the day-to-day? What about the members of the communities served? Interrogating all of these questions in detail helps us better understand how we can provide support that’s closely tailored to our grantees’ specific needs, and guide us in creating a strategy that sets them up to be more impactful in the long term.
  • Where is the work happening? Understanding the role that regional context plays in shaping a grantee’s work is critical to effective philanthropy. We ask ourselves a lot of big questions about the role of “place” in shaping our grantmaking, especially as we explore relationships with grantees in a diverse range of regions and localities.

I’ll be sharing additional installments to this series soon, and hope that this look into our process can be useful in shaping your own conversations and the partnerships you seek to build.


Katy Knight
Executive Director

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SFE News

The National Governors Association (NGA) recently released a toolkit to help state policy leaders create resilient local workforces that are adaptable to ongoing technological change, disruption, and innovation. The toolkit represents the culmination of NGA’s Future Workforce Now program, a partnership between NGA, FHI360, and the Fab Foundation that was jointly funded by SFE, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Schmidt Futures. Learn more about the toolkit and the program’s recommendations here.

SFE’s Executive Director Katy Knight moderated a panel on the future of work in rural America at Jobs for the Future‘s Horizons conference. Panelists included Matt Dunne, Founder and Executive Director of the Center on Rural Innovation, Joshua Frazier-Sparks, Senior Manager at Walmart.org, and Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Launch MinnesotaSee the key takeaways from the conversation, and learn more about what the future of work in rural America can look like.

SFE’s Executive Director Katy Knight was recently appointed to Pursuit‘s Board of Directors. Our two organizations share a long and deep history, and we’re excited about this new stage of our partnership as we work together to scale their programs to serve communities across New York City and beyond. Read Pursuit founder Jukay Hsu’s statement on Katy’s appointment.

Grantee News

The Center on Rural Innovation is hiring for three new positions as they enter a new stage of expansion. Learn more about the roles and apply below:

Genspace, a community biotech lab in Brooklyn, NY, is hiring an Education Coordinator to manage administrative details related to the organization’s ongoing educational and outreach activities. Learn more about the role and apply here.

Data & Society, an independent research organization based in New York City, is hiring a Policy Director to help their research findings achieve policy outcomes. Learn more about the role and apply here.

Feedback Labs is looking for a Partnership Manager to join their team. Learn more about the position here – and find out more about their upcoming remote internships for fall 2020!