PSO Community of Practice: Learning to Listen

From June 13th-16th, Glenisse Pagán Ortiz and Anja Paonessa Braffet, our Executive Director and Membership & Operations Officer, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to meet with the Fund for Shared Insight Community of Practice, a meeting to strategize and engage with each organization’s work.

See some of their takeaways and lessons learned from this wonderful experience!

What is a community of practice and what does it mean to be a part of one?

A. Paonessa: The benefit of belonging to a community of practice is having the opportunity to listen and collaborate with individuals with likeminded goals. It’s a space where you can feel comfortable having uncomfortable conversations in order to reach collective solutions.

G. Pagán: The Fund for Shared Insight community of practice is a group of 7 PSOs that have met regularly for the past two years to learn from each other and collaborate. And I would add be of service to each other. We met quarterly under facilitated sessions where we shared the progress of our projects, where we stand within our organizations and the aspirations we had and we came together to think about how to change the philanthropic ecosystem to listen to those affected by what they want to support.

First of all I really like the name community of practice. I would call them peer groups, masterminds….but community of practice makes it feel very belonging. And I think it sets the tone for the work we do together. This was the first time we met in person and it was great!

What did this event add for you personally?

A. Paonessa: This cohort was built to support foundations in better practices of feedback and listening. I think I’m more aware of the importance of using these practices on my day-to-day and making them part of my personal growth in order to implement them with others. Add, don’t take away.

G. Pagán: I came back with a clear narrative for FiPR and with many ideas to make our L2L toolkit more actionable and impactful. And I think I made a couple of new friends. Oh! and I came back with a love for Old Bay Seasoning!
What were your expectations and how did they differ from what you found?
A. Paonessa: Since it is my first time being part of a community of practice, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and honestly was a little nervous. My main focus was to connect, learn about their projects, what has worked for them as PSO’s and expand my knowledge in different areas, and of course connect and bring better and effective practices to our membership. This community of practice helped me better understand our position as a philanthropy serving organization and personally helped me find my own voice.
G. Pagán: I truly had an intention for the trip to Baltimore – I wanted to get feedback on innovative ways to distribute our toolkit. I wanted to learn more deeply about what I could leverage from my peers to bring to our membership. And I wanted to hear about their future plans, so I could be inspired with new ideas to implement in FiPR. We did internal work, we integrated our efforts as PSOs in the field and we deepened relationships.
How did your approach towards the Learning to Listen project change after the event?
A. Paonessa: It for sure made me prouder of the project. We’ve been working on it and talking about it for two years but to actually explain it and realize the importance of it in a larger context was amazing.
G. Pagán: It was a good moment to recognize all we had accomplished with L2L. The trip helped me give myself a pat on the back and say “we did good”. Now the focus is on finishing the toolkit and bringing it to life, we are not thinking about disseminating, we are thinking about adoption. How can philanthropic entities adopt these practices completely and partially?
If you could have one takeaway from the event, what would it be?
A. Paonessa: Bringing people together to collaborate. Solutions are found in collective wisdom.

G. Pagán: What you put in you get out. In cohorts, community of practice, mastermind groups, peer groups….you get out of it what you put in. If you go with an intention, participate, engage, focus on being of service to others – you will get so much out of it. If you participate without a clear intention and without an attitude of service, you will cut yourself short of the experience. We got to be All IN.

This experience will continue to nourish  FiPR’s vision and mission in respects to Participatory Grantmaking and the power of learning from a cohort in order to build a more sustainable and equitable ecosystem. This Community of Practice was a huge stepping stone in our journey of learning, listening, and adapting!

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