It Has a New Fancy Name, But We’ve Been Doing It Forever!

Last week, I facilitated a two-hour discussion on Strategic Co-Funding. For those of you who may not be familiar with the concept, it is when two or more funders work together towards a clearly articulated social mission goal that has an accompanying funds-generating goal which is based on analysis of the total funds and time required to achieve the social mission. It focuses on a long-term solution and not a short-term initiative. To add to the complexity of the topic, there are three distinct types of co-funding, and you can easily combine them to meet your needs.

The group talked a bit about how co-funding is different from collaborative funding and collective impact funding. And then a gentleman raised his hand at the back of the room. He suggested, “We, as funders, have always been doing this. We’ve always worked together. This just seems to be a bunch of fancy new terms.”

I couldn’t argue with him.

In fact, I agree. As someone who believes in collaboration and partnership to my core, I, too, agree that the various types of co-funding have been around for scores of years. We simply said to each other, “We’re working together.” It was structured and it usually happened organically. Now, we’re just trying to “normalize” the idea of co-funding. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s recognize it for what it is: working together to make our community better.

And you could say the same thing for collective impact, design thinking, frameworks, impact and all the other “buzzwords” that we easily incorporate into our everyday language. We’ve done it all the time – but we’ve used other words. That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’ve done all of this before, and we’re doing it all again—but with a new vocabulary! We’re not necessarily learning something new; we’re tweaking what we’ve already done in the past!

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