The Story of a Co-Lab Sprint: Collaboration, Co-Creation and Community

January 2022

The Better Giving Studio’s mission is to accelerate innovation in the every day giving space and provide everyday donors with tools that will help them give more and give better. To this end, we have sought to create non-competitive environments in which different members of the giving ecosystem can collaborate and co-create. What has emerged as a result of these efforts is something we call the CoLab Sprint, which brings together intensely smart and passionate people from different fields, with the goal of solving systemic problems. The Fall CoLab Sprints, the second of two such sprints in 2021—you can read all about the first one here—focused on two particular areas: Equitable Curation and Hyperlocal Volunteering.

New Ways of Working

The sprints started in October 2021 and took place over the course of four weeks. This allowed participants to balance their day jobs and push on the ideas more deeply. We incorporated new exercises and experiences to keep energy high in the virtual environment and break the fourth wall, which is to say we did our best to create activities that people could do together in real time, if not in real life. We hosted a buildstorm with the IDEO Play Lab, sent every participant an elaborate sprint kit box complete with hidden compartments, and held a Science Fair to present all of our ideas. We also recognized the responsibility and power we held in our role as the convener, and designed an Advisory Council of diverse leaders in the giving space to guide our work from brief design through concept development.

Co-Creating Products

New nonprofits and opportunities for charitable giving come online every day, adding to an already plentiful pool. To combat the overwhelm of donors having too many options, many giving platforms have explored new ways to organize and simplify choice through curation, which can show up in different forms. At the end of the day, however, it’s always about making decisions around which opportunities to include…and which to disclude.

We explored the topic of Equitable Curation through the question: “How might we build tools and resources that support equitable curation during key moments (defining search criteria, running the search, accountability mechanisms), in order to enable equity in charitable giving?” To help us answer this question, we invited platforms large and small, for-profit and nonprofit, to work with us. Everyone involved was grappling with how to lead with equity in their curation, and had identified it as an area for growth.

Hyperlocality is a growing trend across industries that has accelerated in the past year. People are spending more time close to home and are increasingly looking for ways to engage with their immediate communities. Our Hyperlocal Volunteering brief’s overarching question was: “How might we strengthen the infrastructure that connects people to hyperlocal opportunities to increase volunteering?” We were excited to bring together different players in the volunteering space to catalyze new features and products that more efficiently and effectively connect host organizations with volunteers looking for opportunities close to home.

What We Mean By “Equitable Curation”

A breakdown of our thinking around equitable curation and how our CoLab Sprint ideas embodied the concept.

In a Nutshell: Hyperlocal Volunteering

Learn all the ins and outs of hyperlocal volunteering and how it can change the giving landscape.

Four Weeks, Seven Concepts:

Equitable Curation

Digital Upgrade: Elevates the digital presence of nonprofits while building deeper connections with organizations working in the same cause area. This concept is a big step in the direction of re-balancing the power between nonprofits and platforms, as well as a way to support smaller organizations and help close the gap to funding BIPOC-led organizations.

Peer: Explores the world of giving through a powerful network of peers. Peer is a friend-to-friend platform centered around giving. Among this concept’s many strengths is that it empowers communities as advocates, which means that smaller organizations with fewer resources can do less of the heavy lifting.

BlankFiller: Creates just one profile that plugs your charitable organization into all giving platforms. BlankFiller makes tech easier for small, less-funded, and BIPOC-led organizations means they have the bandwidth to create fundraising profiles and compete with better funded, mostly white-led organizations.

Movementum: A community-owned, cause-driven platform that brings small organizations together to elevate voices that aren’t typically heard. Uniting these organizations and aligning them on messaging and goals amplifies their voices and increases their collective impact.

Hyperlocal Volunteering

Quilt: Shows the micro-actions and connections that stitch us all together, and gets people more involved by revealing how they’re already connected to their communities.

HandPickedAI: Matches the right volunteers with the right opportunities using smart connections and artificial intelligence.

Empathy Library: A curated digital library of community knowledge that local organizations can use to educate, build empathy, and mobilize volunteers.

Learning Together in Community

At its essence, the CoLab model allows a diverse group of passionate and extremely smart people to work together on some of the world’s greatest challenges. As conveners of these kinds of groups, we recognize the power of our role and designed accordingly, including, among other things, creating an Advisory Council of different leaders in the giving space to steward our work from brief design through concept development. We also crafted a framework to guide us in our curation of the room, making sure the makeup of the team was an accurate reflection of the U.S. population today.

Making Meaningful Connections

The CoLab approach to problem solving is not something that happens very often in business. At a time when opportunities for meaningful connection have decreased and/or been curtailed, the CoLab model creates the space and conditions for relationships to blossom and ideas to come alive. In a world where Zoom is the room we spend so much of our time in, being in that room with passionate, dedicated people is both a gift and a game changer.

If you or an organization you know could benefit from participating in future events or CoLab sprints, sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop about upcoming programming or email us directly at [email protected].

Other News

February 2021

Dive into the Evidence

The Better Giving Studio aims to bridge the gap between research and real world innovation by getting better products into the hands of everyday givers. Contained in this post are evidence citations that support the concepts on this site.

Giving Multiplier was a finalist in the most recent Better Giving Studio OpenIDEO challenge. In this LA Times Op-Ed, two of the founders of Giving Multiplier -- Lucius Caviola and Joshua Greene -- break down some of the reasons that charitable giving isn't more evidence-based, and how digital products like Giving Multiplier are working to overcome this challenge.