Once the Advisory Committee co-created the overall vision and design of the Collaboration Lab, the next phase of the process was to translate the vision into a process that supports women’s funds to form their collaboration groups. Successful implementation of the Collaboration Lab was possible because our preparation planned with intention, brought on the right people, and set the women’s funds up for success. Along the way, we gathered feedback, listened to what we heard, and communicated often. We remained flexible and adjusted, but always focused on the vision.
Fenomenal Funds set a clear intention for strengthening the Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds as a collective: facilitate connection and collaboration so that women’s funds could co-create solutions to shared challenges. Once the Advisory Committee designed the vision and framework, an important step was to translate the framework into a participatory and dynamic process. Our move from concept to implementation was grounded by the vision and aligned with the guiding principles. A clear description of the steps of the process and timeline for each phase facilitated a shared understanding among all stakeholders. Guidance for the roles, especially for the Advisory Committee, clarified responsibilities and expectations. Remaining open to input and other perspectives supported us to further refine the plan. This openness built shared ownership and collective responsibility, which was essential to the success of the Collaboration Lab.
With a plan in place, the next step was to find the right people to make it all happen. The Facilitation team was critical to curating a brave and safe space for women’s funds. This depended on finding people with the ability to internalize the vision and be creative in skillfully designing a dynamic process. We sought feminists who could be fully present to this process. Their ability to hold space with intention, thoughtfulness, and care was essential. They had to have the acumen to support a group to navigate power dynamics and build trust so they can work together well. They also had to know how to give space to the things that need attention while letting go of the things that were not critical. And all the while keep the group moving toward what they needed to accomplish.
An orientation session engaged the facilitators in refining key steps and identifying the themes they were most interested in facilitating. That sowed the seeds of a community of practice. In the end we had an amazing community of feminists, who delivered for the women’s funds. Most of the collaboration groups formed strong bonds with their facilitator. Some invited their facilitator to work with them in the implementation phase.
During the planning, the Advisory Committee kept coming back to the questions: how do we want women’s funds to feel? What experience do we want them to have? We maintained this line of sight in the process of operationalizing the Collaboration Lab. We surveyed women’s funds and gathered intel from their Resilience Grants to inform the selection of themes. We created profiles of the facilitation team so that women’s funds would know who they are. We also held an information session so that they understood the process and met the facilitators prior to the start of the Collaboration Lab. We provided an information packet – translated into three languages, so that they knew the process, the components of their plan, and the guidelines that the Advisory Committee would use to review their plans. We remained open to questions and to providing support as they prepared. As best as we could, we worked with the intention to set them up for success.