I have been reading a lot about “Project Streamline”, the proliferation of non-profit “labs”, and the recent announcement by Pew to rent office space to non-profits in the DC area.  These developments, along with the increase of coworking spaces, beg the question, what would happen if a number of philanthropic foundations shared office space?  Such a set-up may create a dynamic “lab” in the philanthropic world and may temper some of the redundancy, inefficiency and silo-ization present in the philanthropic sector.

Imagine 5, 10, 20 (!) foundations sharing office space.  Each foundation keeps its own mission, goals and portfolio, of course.  But there is a commitment to getting to know colleagues from “neighboring” foundations, sharing ideas, asking for feedback, and maybe even collaborating on projects.

Such a “lab” may be a win for foundations and for grantees.

For foundations (especially those with small staffs) a shared office space may foster an atmosphere of collegiality, knowledge sharing and diversity.  Working in a small foundation, I oftentimes feel isolated from colleagues in the field and need to make a concerted effort to network with other foundation professionals in order to keep up with trends and issues in the sector.

For grantees a shared office space may mitigate some of the confusing/time-consuming aspects of the grantmaking process.  One location – i.e. one address – may provide grantees with access ro a larger network of foundations.  What’s more, perhaps the foundations in this “lab” will be open to using similar grantmaking processes.  Such a step may lead to a “streamlining” of certain bureaucratic steps in the application process.

With the steep increase in small foundations and family foundations rising, a “lab” of small foundations would be an interesting experiment.  It would have to include a mindful, clearly laid out process but a fascinating one, to be sure!  Any takers?

Gali is Chair of VPF’s Grants Committee.