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SVP Portland + SVPI: The Learning Lab

Posted by Sagarika Ravishankar


From October 20–21, SVP Portland engaged Social Venture Partners from near and far to attend a two-day Learning Lab, co-hosted by SVP International (SVPI). The event was a deep-dive learning experience based on SVP Portland’s quest to achieve greater community impact.

Portland was chosen as the host for the Learning Lab because our model is different. While all SVPs invest in key community partners, SVP Portland pioneered the adoption of a singular, pressing, and time-bound community goal: ensuring all children in the Portland metro area enter kindergarten with a foundation for learning and life success. That goal has been transformative for our strategies, infrastructure, staff, Partners, and culture.

Extra special thanks to the Children’s Book Bank for hosting us!


What we learned:

The three learning goals for the conference were to to convey:

  • How to determine the readiness of an SVP affiliate to evolve the traditional venture philanthropy model to achieve increased community impact.
  • How to articulate the organizational changes and key learnings that would allow an SVP to become a more effective agent for social change in their community.
  • The major implications for organizational composition, strategy, and resources.

We started with the story of SVP Portland’s transition from classical venture philanthropy to our Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG). Before our focus, we were a successful venture philanthropy group—making investments, developing the capacity of our investees, managing relationships, and growing the Partnership. Eventually, that wasn’t enough for us or our Partners because, while our efforts made a ripple, we wanted to make a wave. That’s when we developed our BHAG and entrenched ourselves in a singular focus with absolute dedication.


Who we learned from:

  • SVP Portland staff and Partners who developed the goal and helped shape, implement, and guide it.
  • Our Community Partners/Investees, each with unique visions of impact and goals to achieve.
  • Community collaborators from government, neighborhoods, and families that have been a part of the journey as participants and/or advisors.


Who was there:

We weren’t just joined by SVPs from all over the country—we were joined by brilliant Venture Philanthropists from all over the world. The affiliates represented included:

We were honored to host and engage so many brilliant and dedicated venture philanthropists, and can’t wait to see what comes out of our Learning Lab.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

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