Newsletter: Great Reads for a Good Friday

There was good intention somewhere in the back of my head to do a March Madness-themed newsletter. It turns out that March is already over, my squad lost even though it outplayed one of the best college teams of all time for 38 minutes, and a bracket contest of the top 64 philanthropy reports of the year maybe wouldn’t have as much appeal as your friendly NCAA office pool. 

So, April it is. Onward.

Product Placement

This week, The Colorado Trust released a new report, From Paper to Practice: Key Lessons for Funders Deploying Complex Strategies, which I co-authored with Jewlya Lynn from Spark Policy Institute and Phil Chung, former evaluation officer at The Trust. The report considers implementation lessons for complex strategies through the lens of The Trust’s experience with Project Health Colorado, a three-year, $9.6 million grant strategy to build public will to achieve access to health for all Coloradans, which included a $2 million contribution from the Colorado Health Foundation.

As funders increasingly grapple with designing and deploying effective shared approaches to instigate change, it’s imperative that the lessons and insights drawn from lived experiences be employed going forward, that learning is put to use, and that – as my old man is fond of saying – if mistakes are made, they are new ones, not the same ones again. Project Health Colorado provides a good learning opportunity for the kinds of tactical, strategic, and organizational considerations essential to foundation efforts. 

Other new products to check out:

My friends and consulting partners at the Center for Evaluation Innovation recently put out an Advocacy Strategy Framework, which provides a useful tool for funders considering public policy advocacy strategies. As the Center notes, thinking through - and being able to articulate - the why and how and to-what-end of a change theory can be an arduous task, but it’s very necessary to build out effective advocacy strategies. The Center also put out four assessment tools that can help better gauge grantee contribution to advocacy efforts, which is notoriously tricky area to measure.

I’m not saying you can’t have fun without smart frameworks and helpful tools, I’m just saying why risk it.


Two friends have new books out this spring that are definitely worth the read:

Exposed: Tragedy & Triumph in Mountain Climbing

by Brad McQueen with Melissa McQueen

Brad McQueen, my Leadership Denver classmate, and his wife Melissa share their personal account of a high mountain hike gone bad, after they were stranded on Mt. Evans overnight during a freak blizzard in 2001. It’s a terrific story about adventure, consequences, and overcoming. Half the proceeds from book sales go to four non-profit organizations, including the rescue organization that brought Brad, his dad, Melissa, and their golden retriever to safety. 

rEvolution: Turn Crisis into Clarity and Ignite Growth

by Tim Leman with Larry G. Linne

rEvolution is “true, must-read story of a leader’s transformation as a first time CEO into the head of thriving professional services firm. rEvolution provides personal insights and practical guidance on how to utilize a business crisis in order to bring about change, evolution, and growth.” If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, team leader, or part of any kind of growth organization, you’ll want to check this book out. Tim succeeded my dad, Greg Downes, at Gibson, where he worked for more than 30 years. 

You're Doing It Wrong

Mike Pence. Even your fix isn't quite right

Good Reads

Barack and Me. Rembert Browne on traveling to Selma with the president for 50th anniversary of the march. 

Where the Bodies Are Buried. Patrick Radden Keefe on Northern Ireland and the Troubles and old wounds.

A Bigger Deal Than You Think. Josh Marshall on Indiana and the fight over the RFRA.

Away. Chris Jones on the year in space that Scott Kelly just launched. 

What Indiana Basketball Is All About. Bob Kravitz on how Notre Dame and Butler left it all on the court.

Stop coddling your dog - he's 99.9% wolf. Are we sure about this? Does this guy look 99.9% wolf to you?