One of the principles that has guided our work in Fostering Change is that wisdom resides in community. As a funder, this can be an easy principle to speak, but not always an easy principle to live. At our Fostering Change Grantee Learning Day yesterday, I saw this principle in action.
Over the three years that we have been working on learning and evaluation in partnership with grantees, we have not always known the best way to honor that wisdom, draw it out, and share it among our community. At first, we were a small working group, adults only, focused on sharing what we were learning with a small group of multi-year grantees.
Over time, our learning and evaluation umbrella has grown. When we moved to large, inclusive grantee learning days, it was challenging to figure out the “right” way to engage people, and the “right” way to have young people show up. Should we have a separate youth stream? Would youth be able to/ want to engage for the whole day alongside adults?
There were certain things that, as the funder, we felt we “needed” to have addressed on learning days. How open could we be to what was emergent in the room? Did people have enough context and background to jump right in and participate?
Working with a small group of grantees and young people, we developed invitation language and documents to help people understand the intent behind the learning days, who should come, and why they should come. Working with a skilled facilitator/host, we also began to use methods that are universally accessible such as stories, hands-on experiential learning activities, open space, and more.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for change
And slowly, more and more young people have been coming to our learning days. We don’t pay them an honorarium (although many of the organizations that they work with do), we don’t have a “special youth stream”, and we don’t differentiate in any way between the participants in the room. Except that there is a CLEAR recognition of the wisdom that those with lived experience of the foster care system bring to the table. It is profound, and it is largely unspoken. It just is.
You’ll be able to read and see more of that wisdom in the coming days as we share more of the the graphic recordings and harvest documents from the day.