In two earlier posts, I referenced The McKnight Foundation’s Strategic Framework. A core premise of the Framework is that the social and environmental issues we address are complex and dynamic. The systems we influence are also complex, interlocking, and often sub-optimal or dysfunctional in relation to our goals. And although we deploy a robust toolkit of resources, it is modest compared to the goals we pursue. Our ability to exercise credible influence depends on the quality of our relationships with a diverse set of grantees and stakeholders.
Rather than a top-down directive, McKnight’s Strategic Framework grew out of innovative efforts already under way within the Foundation. Several years before we embraced adaptive leadership as an organization-wide approach, McKnight’s Collaborative Crop Research Program was already leading the way.
The CCRP is a multidiscipline, cross-sectoral, multinational applied research program, working on crop and food systems in economically and environmentally challenged areas of the world. In other words, complexity on steroids. In 2008, Jane Maland Cady became McKnight’s international program director, with a mandate to deepen and expand the CCRP. Given Jane’s background in developmental evaluation, she quickly enlisted two amazing thought-leaders/practitioners based in Minnesota to assist the CCRP in building out a strong adaptive framework: Glenda Eoyang, founding director of the Human Systems Dynamics Institute; and Michael Quinn Patton, pioneer of developmental evaluation. Glenda and an evaluation team worked with the CCRP leadership team to develop its theory of change, using adaptive leadership as its approach; Michael has been an advisor to the process since its inception. Read the rest of this entry »