Seattle Foundation Blog

Statewide Capacity Collaborative Releases Leadership Report

“If you take a tent and you stake it far out at the margins…the middle is always covered. And the further out you stake it the stronger the structure you get.  And why is that? Because in our systems and our social systems the people at the margins are actually living with the failures of the systems. And they are creating adaptive solutions to them. So when we design to take care of them we build stronger systems for everyone.”  --Cesar McDowell, President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change

April 22, 2016

Greater Seattle has earned a national reputation as an ideal place to live. Bolstered by its reputation for literacy and culture, economic and environmental sustainability, and outdoor recreation, Seattle regularly ranks near the top of many ‘Best Cities’ lists.

But not everyone is benefiting from this prosperity and good fortune. Quality of life for many is fragile, subject to economic forces. Disparities in academic achievement, health care, access to arts and the environment, food and housing continue to grow. Many residents of greater Seattle and across the state struggle on the “margins” Cesar McDowell describes.

Seattle Foundation is a member of the Statewide Capacity Collaborative (SCC). This funder collaborative supports Washington’s nonprofits by sharing best practices and aligning resources to invest in the capacity building needed to keep the nonprofit sector strong and vibrant. Last year the SCC focused on leadership development partnering with CompassPoint, a leading nonprofit leadership and strategy advisor. We asked nonprofit leaders from around the state which leadership programs are working and what we can do to develop leadership skills required to lead organizations and movements that are making positive changes in our region.

In addition to the leadership survey, the SCC conducted interviews and held focus groups with leaders of color and leaders from rural communities to ensure the results benefited from a diverse pool of knowledge. The interviews and focus groups highlighted gaps in access and services that were not apparent from the overall survey results.

In reviewing the findings the SCC chose to adopt a ‘margin to center’ approach, to ensure that our energies were focused on developing solutions benefiting those who may struggle despite the prosperity of our community. This approach helped us elevate the fact that there are leaders operating at the margins and that they may have needs for us to consider as we look at the ecosystem of training and leadership development.

Please read the SCC and CompassPoint’s Washington State Leadership Scan, and think about the ‘margin to center’ approach and the strengths and needs in your community. What are the opportunities for building on the strengths in your community? What can we do to strengthen and support our nonprofit leaders and ensure they have access to effective programs to develop their skills?

This blog post was written to coincide with the release of the Statewide Capacity Collaborative’s report, Washington State Leadership Scan, researched and authored by CompassPoint. Over the next few weeks, members of the SCC, including Gates Foundation and SVP Seattle, will be blogging their response to the report. The SCC, of which Seattle Foundation is a proud member, hopes that the release of this report will spark a conversation in Washington about leadership and investments in the nonprofit sector which would best support nonprofit leadership.



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