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What If a Vision Is Even More Powerful 15 Years Later?

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Well, it was actually almost 16 years ago … I went to a get-together at The Ruins in Seattle where 5 people told about a hundred people about this new approach to philanthropy called Social Venture Partners.

Seemed like a great idea and it was. We took off fast in Seattle … and then Jerry Hirsch from Phoenix, Rich Osborn from Vancouver, Karen Rodman from Dallas, Brad Zumwalt from Calgary, Darcy Bingham from San Diego (you get the idea) called and said they’d like to do an SVP in their town. Because of them SVP became a model, not just a program in a city.

What resonated back then was the idea of being engaged in philanthropy beyond your money, bringing your human capital to the table too, and building the capacity of nonprofits. Paul Brainerd & Scott Oki and co. were right … it was a powerful model and it did bring in a new generation of philanthropists and it would’ve been neat if the story ended there ….

… but it didn’t. There is a story unfolding today around the world, quite literally, that some of of you have probably heard bits & pieces about, but just a few of us have been lucky enough to see the “whole elephant.” It’s pretty remarkable and speaks to a vision that is even more powerful today than  it was 15 years ago.

If you were at the 15th Anniversary, you got a few pieces of the story from Arathi Laxman and Lance Fors. If you would’ve been with me in Portland for dinner back in November, that’s when it started to come into full view. Here’s the deal … in the last year, SVP has launched in not just Charleston and Chicago, but in Bangalore, with more on the way in India (the hyperlinks really help tell this story). We launched last week in Melbourne and will finalize an agreement shortly to launch SVP in China, starting in Beijing. Are ya still with me?!

Within the next 12 months, we will launch not only in Houston, but in Dublin and London and …. somehere else, I’m sure. When we meet for the next SVP Network Conference Oct 17-19 in Palo Alto (BE THERE!), we will have members from around the world. I assume you are starting to catch on at this point … this is all transpiring because more people are finding SVP, we are proactively seeking out leaders in cities and countries, we have phenomenal Staff (Ruth, Rona, and co.) and Board (Lance, Nancy, Kevin and co.) leadership, and we’ve rolled out a global SVP brand – check it out!

Back on April 17, there was an email string that went like this – about a year ago, someone in Calgary referred a partner to Seattle, who is now going back to Calgary. I shared that story, after which Toronto chimed in and said she has contacts in London (and Hong Kong), where we will be starting up an SVP. The Network office responded and pointed out other places / nodes where SVP’s will be starting up. Waterloo is paying attention and says she and Toronto need to talk, but also lets us know that she’ll be headed to India, also has connections to Melbourne, where another SVP just started. And Waterloo has a partner that moved to Dublin.

That was just one email string in less than 24 hours, sometimes connected to the message before, sometimes a new thread starting up because the previous messages sparked a thought. That’s what happens when a network really takes off and reaches a tipping point …

… and when it hits you that a Vision has gotten even more powerful 15 years later! SVP is cutting across not just geographies, but across political beliefs and cultures. There is something universal in what each and all of us are doing and it resonates around the world … it’s about the connectedness of doing philanthropy collectively, the power of a local / regional / national / worldwide network, and it’s about people unlocking their own potential to change their neighborhood or their world. I’m not sure if those 5 people knew how powerful their vision was almost 16 years ago … but it doesn’t really matter, does it? It just is … that powerful.

When we got together at MOHAI back on March 23rd, the main theme I tried to convey was that we are just getting started, we are not yet who our community, our world needs us to be. I would have meant that if we were just talking about Seattle, but when you start thinking about the world, well … I’ve wanted to write this note for weeks now, almost desperate for everyone to really grasp what is going on, what you are a part of.

No one can say they aren’t helping to create this worldwide movement, because without each of us and all of us, there is no SVP worldwide movement. That’s one heck of a vision 15 years later ….

What will we be saying about that Vision 15 years from now?!


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