Aug
15
2012

Make failure matter
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It seems like there is a holiday for everything these days, and sure enough, we discovered a new one today: it’s National Failures Day. What is there to celebrate? Plenty!

In our recent report “To Be Fearless” we outlined five key characteristics of a fearless approach to creating lasting social change. Before our landscape assessment and focus groups, we knew the concept which Lucy Bernholz described as “Failing Forward” had to be at the top of the list. Entrepreneurs, athletes and even politicians all know that recognizing, analyzing and proudly learning from failure is critical to success. While it has taken quite some time, we’re delighted to see some signs that the nonprofit sector, and those of us that invest in nonprofits, are becoming more comfortable with this concept. At this year’s Public Allies national leadership institute, Darell Hammond, the dynamic founder of kaBOOM, told the audience that kaBOOM staff are encouraged to make and share mistakes quickly so they can start making new mistakes that will lead to big wins.

In our new report, “To Be Fearless,” and below, we highlight a few examples of people and organizations whom have made failure matter. Take a look and then take the pledge to Be Fearless and make failure matter today!

  • Read the Make Failure Matter section of our To Be Fearless, starting with this excerpt: “With innovation and big bets comes the risk of failure. Every great innovator has experienced moments of failure, but the truly great among them wear those failures as badges of honor. When the philanthropy and social sectors are fearful, they increase the danger of depriving themselves and others of needed lessons. As innovators in the social good space, sometimes it's easier to back away when it looks as if things aren't going as planned. But it's important to have faith and fail forward–to stay the course and to pivot when it's needed. It's the way you respond to failure, and not the failure itself, that matters.” Read more about making failure matter in the full report.
  • Philanthropy expert Lucy Bernholz has been a leader in encouraging our sector to fail forward.
  • Senator Mark Warner shares his moments of failure that led to his successes at our Be Fearless launch event (video).
  • Ben Duda, Executive Director of AmeriCorps Alumns, shares his journey as a social changemaker and how he’s made failure matter.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has devoted several chapters to their “To Improve Health and Health Care” anthology to learning from failure.
  • In 2010, I blogged about the painful acknowledgement of coming up short as it related to some of our clean drinking water investments in Africa. 

Do you have moments in your journey to be fearless where you built big success on top of a big failure? How have you made failure matter? Share with us here, on our Facebook page, or @CaseFoundation on Twitter using #BeFearless..

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