Towards Trustworthiness: A Practical Application of Trust Based Investing

May 11, 2015 //

In recent conversations, including a few I had while at the Council on Foundations Annual Meeting, folks have asked how to adapt TWI’s 9 Practices of Trust Based Investment in their specific contexts.

One family foundation executive asked, “How do I get my 24 person multi-generation family member board, to change the grant-making practices that are decades old?”

Another leader who is building a new collaborative that mixes practitioners and donors asked, “While I love the idea of streamlining our paper and digital footprint, we actually need to have an application process because we simply don’t know the landscape well enough to pre-identify.  How do I adapt the “We Do the Homework” practice to our situation?”

For the family foundation leader with the large, all family board, a fellow family foundation leader made a powerful suggestion: revisit the original minutes from the founders very first board meetings to glean what the founding values and aspirations were. It’s likely that these original values did not detail an extensive or bureaucratic grant-making process, but speak to passionate purpose. What an important lesson: When we are caught up in defending a structure or long time practices that seem irrevocable, what about revisiting purpose?

For the leader of a new donor-practitioner collaborative, I suggested that she consider including potential recipients in the design process (and compensate them for their trouble). When we deeply consider the “user-end interface” to borrow from the tech and business sectors, we can circumvent building something that needs to be overhauled when people try to use it.

These questions remind me that our 9 Practices are TWI’s way of demonstrating our value for equity, relationship, and inclusion.  They cannot necessarily be dropped successfully wholesale into other contexts. We offer them as our wisdom won through experience, or “wisdom as metabolized experience” as a colleague once (re)defined it for me.

Mainly we continue to wonder, “what does equity look like in your lane?” The underlying premise is that those with power and privilege be active in creating structures that humanize and equalize the act of investing in efforts to create equity.  While we do not pretend that our practice is perfect, we do intend to continue being in the practice.  What does your practice look like?