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Pilot to Program: The Genesis of the Innovations Lab

Mary Ellen Calvert
Mary Ellen Calvert
Consultant
MS Alliance

All of us have been given a unique path to follow as we live our lives.  We have met others on our way as our journeys converge in reaching a common point where we share experiences, relationships, and success or failure. The Mississippi Alliance Innovations Lab was one of those distinctive experiences on my path that was unexpected, exciting, scary, and fulfilling in my life’s purpose to help people and communities in Mississippi.  My role as the Innovations Lab Pilot Coordinator and team member is not the critical piece of this journey; the people and communities of Mississippi are.

The Innovations Lab idea began with these questions:  Could The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy bring funders and nonprofits together to solve community problems?  Could the Alliance help both funders and nonprofits tell their stories in engaging ways to demonstrate how their work has impacted lives using data to illustrate that impact? The MS Alliance was just beginning when we visited other communities across the country, from Chicago to Boston to Fort Myers, Florida, to find any other community trying to answer these questions. Some had developed pieces of the process, but we could not find other nonprofits and funders working together in the way we envisioned.  

The results of the Innovations Lab Pilot, which concluded in In July 2018,  provided a positive proof-of-concept for the process. The pilot clarified what the Lab could do to help funders and nonprofits achieve their goals by working together as partners.  Some Pilot participants found that the Lab process opened new paths and ways to collaborate; others found new perspectives from which they could do their work more effectively.  Some Pilot participants wrote and received more significant grants; some funders explored other avenues to fulfill their missions.  All Innovations Lab Pilot participants found that the paths taken throughout the process helped them invest in their work to assist the people and communities they serve. So, where are we now?  The Alliance Team is launching The Innovations Lab in 2022, and we invite nonprofits and funders to join us. The Alliance will help you navigate the journey every step of the way. Bon Voyage!

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