This Valentine’s Day we share a curated kind of love
There was a lot going on last year, that unprecedented year whose numbers I dare not speak, and so you may have missed that Candid launched a new knowledge preservation service. This Valentine’s Day I’d like to take a moment to give some love to the Legacy Collection Service, which aims to honor legacies, and to the organizations that have used it to capture lessons learned and support continued learning in the field. There’s a lot to love here. Let’s get to it!
We created the Legacy Collection Service for foundations and social sector organizations that are ending operations. Through funding, commissioning, or creating original works, many of these organizations developed rich content, which they usually made available on their websites. But what happens to these websites—and these works—when an organization ceases operations? Although some organizations make their sites available for a specified time after closing their doors, many do not. And when the websites disappear, all the knowledge contained within them, knowledge that was never captured in a formal publishing system, disappears, too. It pains me to think about how much work it would take to locate and secure this knowledge. No, really! I’ve had to search for this very type of orphaned and forlorn content; it is painstaking, painfully slow work, even when you have clues.
Two organizations that closed their doors at the end of last year decided to go down a different path with the knowledge they produced themselves, funded, and/or collected over the years. Their decision to work with Candid to keep this knowledge in play was fueled by a determination to share their legacies of learning long after their organizations exited. I’m excited to highlight these examples that so clearly illustrate the intent of the Legacy Collection Service.
The BMA Legacy Collection
Valentine’s Day falls smack dab in the middle of this year’s Black History Month, so it feels appropriate and righteous to lift up the Legacy Collection left behind by the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). CBMA started as an initiative of the Open Society Foundations in 2012 and became an independent 501(c)(3) entity three years later. The organization closed its doors after 12 years of applying its #LoveLearnLead ethos to researching Black male achievement (BMA) and tracking philanthropy’s investments in same.
A joint effort of CBMA and Candid, the BMA Legacy Collection has been many years in the making and is a gorgeous expression of knowledge curation with passion and purpose. Shawn Dove, CEO of CBMA, said this about the collection in a recent Candid blog post:
We are the iconic leaders that we have been waiting for; curators of the change we’re seeking to see. Our curator role is critical in this moment, as we really don’t need another research report on Black men and boys as much as we need the curation and implementation of recommendations and strategies that have already been studied and produced.
As far as I’m concerned? This statement is everything. We already have vital information, insights, evidence—a roadmap—that can assist us in our pursuit of racial equity and racial justice. If you doubt that, please have a look at this lovingly curated collection. It includes 250+ full-text works by 175 publishing organizations spanning 25 years. CBMA’s original reports and its last publication, a timeline of philanthropic support to BMA efforts over the years, are front and center, as they should be. In his collection statement, Shawn writes, “We hope this collection strengthens future generations in their commitment to continue the work.” Me, too. It’s why we created the Legacy Collection Service.
S. D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation Legacy Collection
In 2009 the S. D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation decided to spend down assets. At the end of last year, it ceased operations, concluding 64 years of grantmaking. Ashleigh Halverstadt, former senior evaluation and learning officer, led the effort to curate knowledge funded or published by the Foundation during its last decade. As Candid’s lead on this project, I worked closely with Ashleigh for many months and can attest that this was a labor of curatorial love.
The Foundation invested over $80 million in research and evaluation during the 11-year spend down phase of operations. That the Foundation even attempted to create a Legacy Collection while managing the many tasks it needed to accomplish during its last months—while navigating a global pandemic, which enforced a work-from-home distributed staff—is to be marveled at and applauded! According to Ashleigh, it was a necessary endeavor:
We knew our website wouldn’t live forever (it is currently expected to remain live for at least one-year post-sunset) and that we wouldn’t be around to support the ongoing knowledge dissemination efforts of our partners. … We felt a responsibility, however, to create a permanent, publicly accessible home for our knowledge products.
The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Legacy Collection supplies access to 223 full-text works. Most of the available content is published by around 30 of the Foundation’s partner grantees. The collection also includes original writing by Foundation staff, much of it reflecting on grantmaking over the years. In addition, the collection documents lessons learned through the experience of spending down, including the series “Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey.” My guess: in a year, it will be mighty difficult to find this series anywhere outside of this collection. I’m so glad we have preserved it and will continue to distribute it—and everything else in this collection—in perpetuity.
Ashleigh worked diligently and tirelessly to create this collection. I can attest that the curatorial work she had to manage and master as the Foundation’s point person was … a lot. If you are curious about the nuts and bolts she had to assemble and wrench tight, the details are in her terrific blog post—a parting lesson shared by the Foundation. Here’s how Ashleigh sums up the experience:
Was it worth all the trouble? The answer is a resounding YES! Sure, we encountered a few bumps along the way, but the time and resource investments were minimal compared to the benefits of preserving the knowledge we’ve built during our spend down.
Shawn Dove shared his hope that the BMA Legacy Collection would continue to inspire and inform BMA-related work to come. Laurie Dachs, president of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation shared a similar aspiration in her final reflection:
We finish operations hoping that our story and strategies will have value beyond our end date—and knowing that our grantees, peer funders, and staff alumni will continue to discover new possibilities, improve practices, and grow impact.
We’ve all heard that knowledge is power. I submit that knowledge curation is a powerful act of responsible, and responsive, love. I hope you’ll take some time to check out these two collections and witness the love that went into their creation, and the love of wisdom that their creators and we long-term stewards intend to impart.