Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

May 2013  


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


Collaboration and the Need to  

Tear Down the Walls

 by: James Higa, Executive Director, PVF  


A recent visit to the FabLab@School  got me thinking about 'collaboration'.  


Assistant Professor Paulo Blikstein's digital workshop at the Stanford School of Education is crammed full of laser-cutters, milling machines, 3D printers, and programming tools. It is one of more than 150 workshops scattered around the world that are accessible to inventors and entrepreneurs looking to tinker and create.


The FabLab@School works with high school students from East Palo Alto Academy. On my visit, students were working on a self-produced clay animation movie but with 3D printed characters and sets. Laughter, energy, and concentration filled the air.  Wonderful things are happening here.


What struck me, however, was that it was hard to tell who were the high school students from the surrounding communities and who were the Stanford graduate students.  There were simply groups of inventors, working together as equals, to just figure it out.  Collaborating.  

When the walls come down and there is a coming together, true collaboration begins.
High school and graduate students hard at work at Stanford's FabLab@School.

I don't see enough of this type of collaboration in our philanthropic space. In my short time in the philanthropy field, I have noticed that many organizations have an internal process of learning and seeking out new ideas and then presenting their fully-formed solutions to the community.  Our communities are not at the table with us when ideas and solutions are being invented.  We need to fix this and bring the spirit that is present at places like FabLab@School into philanthropy.


At PVF, we want to tear down the walls between communities, foundations, academia, social entrepreneurs, and find a way towards radical collaboration.  Let's all sit and roll up our sleeves around the same lab bench.  It is in this Commons where inventive innovation will take root.

About PVF 


PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and conducting innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.


About the Editors 
James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director
James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley to PVF, working alongside Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many breakthrough products and services at Apple over the last three decades. James has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts during the 2011 Tohoku and 1995 Kobe Earthquakes in Japan.

Bill Somerville, President & CEO
Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

Connect With Us 

PVF Excursion Grant Supports Fun & Learning at Children's Fairyland
Imagine a hidden oasis in the heart of a concrete jungle just for children, where fairytales come to life. No, this is not Disneyland or some state-of-the-art facility. It is Children's Fairyland, an Oakland landmark perched on the edge of Lake Merritt that is still as exciting and relevant today as it was when it was established in 1950.

PVF was recently invited to visit for a Head Start Event, in which more than 1,000 children in the Head Start program attended Fairyland for a day of fun and more here!


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland CA 94612-1201

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