From the Foundation Team

Scaling Impact in the Jewish Community: A New Masterclass Powered by Jewish Federations

– by Rachel Shamash Schneider

June 6th, 2023

What does it mean to scale impact? Many of us equate growth and scale. However, the difference between these approaches to achieving greater impact is worth understanding.

  • Growth = Adding resources at the same rate that you’re adding reach
  • Scale = Adding incremental time and resources for exponential impact (increase impact without resource investments). Also known as the J curve

Thanks to a strategic partnership between Spring Impact and the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative (Funder Collaborative), powered by Jewish Federations of North America, there’s a new opportunity for professionals in the Jewish community to amplify this critical knowledge, skill set, and ultimately, their impact.

The Funder Collaborative, an innovative philanthropic experiment launched over a decade ago, unites national and local funders and practitioners to create, nurture, sustain and scale contemporary approaches to Jewish teen education and growth. From the beginning, the Funder Collaborative committed to sharing frameworks, tools and learnings openly with the goal of helping to advance the entire field of Jewish education and engagement. In 2019, the Funder Collaborative entered into a strategic partnership with Spring Impact, a global organization that specializes in scaling social impact that has worked with over 250 organizations. Today, the Funder Collaborative has become the go-to expert deploying a methodology for scaling impact in the Jewish community.

What does this mean? Think a step-by-step disciplined Methodology to Extend Impact, online toolkits, courses, 1:1 coaching with scaling experts, cohort experiences, and in-person gatherings focused on this content. With new innovations blossoming out of pandemic necessities, and pressures for increased efficiency and expanded impact, there is growing demand for the know-how that can guide this sort of exponential reach. After a few online Scaling Masterclasses, two dozen alumni, including from Hazon (now Adamah), Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Moving Traditions, and Dorot/UJA have each internalized the lessons to scale to new communities. These successes emerged specifically from the Funder Collaborative’s work, and now there is the opportunity to take this methodology to the broader Jewish community. The Funder Collaborative selected organizations to join its first in-person Masterclass in Scale this past April in Silicon Valley.

The signal and invitation were clear: if you have a program or organization that is ready to scale (based on a readiness assessment), come spend two days with like-minded professionals from across the Jewish community’s education and engagement field and create an action plan to expand your impact. Right-fit organizations participated in an online orientation, received 1:1 coaching, and gained access to an online classroom.

I was fortunate to attend the Masterclass in Scale and witness the impactful experience first-hand. Leadership teams from 12 organizations (including Jewish Kids Groups, Jewish LearningWorks, and Hillel International) came together for a masterclass convening that provided a deep dive into nearly all things scaling, guided by the following learning principles and objectives:

  1. Understand the spectrum of scaling models and select a resonant model
  2. Connect the scaling methodology to Jewish context and conversation on growth, expansion, and adaptation
  3. Learn the multi-step process of scaling in a practical step-by-step way
  4. Identify and articulate barriers and explore collaborative solutions
  5. Be inspired by tangible examples of successful scale
  6. Share an experience and connect with a  cohort designed to offer support and opportunities for cross-promotion

Together, participants learned about different approaches to scaling, the roles and responsibilities that must be accounted for, various stages to anticipate, and more. Participants chose a pathway to scale (from the nine pathways below), and built in time for pitching, action planning, and brainstorming as an organizational team and cohort. The convening married theory and practice, creating a scaling lab with coaches, teachers, and the cohort colleagues on hand.

As a funder representative and believer in this work, the benefits of this Masterclass were clear. Here are some learnings from the experience:

  1. Theory and Practice Are Essential. The Masterclass provided a valuable space for learning and building connections. An in-person setting is most conducive for action planning and relationship building – skill building and cohort building go hand-in-hand for impact.
  2. Thoughtful Convening Design. Event designers took this training to the next level by infusing connection time and gathering best practices. Pre and post meetings helped make the most out of the in-person time together.  
  3. Belonging Matters and Creates Momentum. Professionals from the 12 organizations expressed a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the diversity of people and programs represented. Participants craved more learning and social together time in person and partnerships are already being explored.
  4. Next-level Professional Development. Participants praised the PD experience as unique in the ecosystem, many of them creators of training programs themselves. They enjoyed opportunities to learn from others and the real-world stories that validated all the effort it takes to plan and scale effectively.
  5. Field and Funder Education is Needed.  There is a significant opportunity and critical need for our field to understand the difference between scale and growth and provide the resources to extend impact accordingly.
  6. Scaling does not get the credit it deserves in the innovation ecosystem. Building from scratch is important, and so too is not reinventing the wheel and successfully spreading all the good ideas already out there.
  7. Relevance Beyond Programs and Across Organizations. Scaling methodology is relevant for organizations of all shapes and sizes and at different points in the lifespan. From synagogue programs to regional afterschool programs to Hillel International, this content and experience was valuable for everyone. Though the training is designed for program scaling, it offers value to the entire organization’s way of thinking and doing.
  8. Organizations Need Technical Assistance. Organizations receive funding to scale but often don’t have the skills to get there. Their professionals  need to be equipped with more support and training, earlier in their scaling journeys.

As we continue to share learnings around scaling, with the Funder Collaborative leading these efforts, we also look to share “learnings around learning.” Throughout this year, the Foundation has shared insights around small convenings, large network conferences, and more. Masterclasses are yet another tool in our field’s toolkit to bring people together and share best practices.

We are especially excited to see the concept of scaling continuing to make inroads in our field.  Innovation and experiments with new initiatives are of course important. But so too is understanding how to scale effective programs, whether new or legacy, that have proven, positive outcomes. We recognize the importance of education and thought partnership on this topic, with funding colleagues and grantee partners alike. If you are interested in learning more about upcoming Scaling Masterclasses, please complete this form and if you’re a funding colleague interested in supporting and elevating this work in your portfolio, please reach out to me, [email protected]

Rachel Shamash Schneider is a Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation.