The 2019 Solutions Collaboratory

Voices of the nonprofit sector

For our 27th annual fall conference in Phoenix, we wanted to try something new, something collaborative, something that leveraged the energy and ideas of the hundreds of nonprofit professionals gathered in one ballroom.

And so we conceived The UnConference: CommYOUnity Solutions, a space to give voice to the key issues in our nonprofit and philanthropic community and to collectively find real solutions to these shared challenges.

During the morning-long Solutions CollaboratoryJeff Snell, the Sr. Fellow for Social Innovation at the ASU Lodestar Center, guided the UnConference participants through an interactive exercise designed to surface the major, shared issues in the sector – and, critically, to talk through ideas for solutions. Snell posed six big-picture questions, handed out sticky notes and tasked everyone with writing down responses. Student volunteers at each station then grouped the notes into categories that guided the discussion; afterwards, participants used brightly colored stickers to vote for the answers that most resonated.

All of the responses that received votes have been reproduced below, a snapshot of our sector's hopes and fears, triumphs and failures, opportunities and challenges.

To close the Collaboratory, David Bornstein of the Solutions Journalism Network and The New York Times shared his thoughts on the day's key themes. Bornstein's work looks at how people and organizations respond to social problems, providing insights and evidence of results that others can use. He encouraged attendees to continue this process – of confronting problems and seeking solutions – at their organizations. "The last thing we need is more leaders who are not self-reflective," he said.

And now, here are the results of the ASU Lodestar Center's 2019 Solutions Collaboratory.

2019 UnConference logo vertical

2019 Solutions Collaboratory

Question #1

"When I think of my organization's work in the community, it would be great if..."

Collaboration and partnership

Votes

8

Community partnerships were easier to navigate
Votes

7

We could collaborate more to maximize impact
Votes

5

Didn’t see each other as competition but collaborators for greater impact
Votes

5

Collaboration working together to expand and grow
Votes

3

We created more win/win partnerships
Votes

2

More collaborative partners
Votes

2

We had more partnership and collaboration to move the needle on policy
Votes

1

We collaborated and used each other’s strengths
Votes

1

Be less competitive and more collaborative
Votes

1

More collaboration, more "water cooler conversations"

Pages

Lobbying and advocacy

Votes

12

We could lobby together to better address root causes on a policy level rather than create programs that address symptoms
Votes

2

We were involved in more advocacy together

Mergers

Votes

6

Similar organizations would merge together
Votes

4

Nonprofits merge to achieve economies of scale
Votes

4

Organizations would consolidate to concentrate impact

Accountability

Votes

5

The “that’s not my job” mentality was gone
Votes

1

There was more personal accountability

Fundraising

Votes

3

Nonprofits were taught how to spend money
Votes

1

Fundraising worked together
Votes

1

We had the funds to grow and achieve our core values

Other responses

Votes

2

We could focus on our assets
Votes

1

We could eliminate homelessness
Votes

1

Abide by best practices
Votes

1

They invest