Failure. Failed. Fail.
These aren’t words most people like to say, but we think it’s time to change that and embrace failing forward. If you haven’t heard of the concept of failing forward before, it’s a learning tool that allows you to examine and share your failures, and critically think about how you can build upon them to fuel future success.
While many of us are happy to examine our experiences of failure, we often feel apprehensive about sharing them. But it’s precisely the act of sharing failure that’s critical to an organization’s learning, innovation, and growth. That’s why we recently invited our nonprofit partners to share a time they failed with us and their supporters in our annual Fail Forward Contest.
Deepak Sharma, who works with Rajasthan Samgrah Kalyan Sansthan and took part in this year’s contest, summed up the spirit of failing forward perfectly: “Failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently, it is not opposite of success, it’s a part of success and we believe it.”
We loved learning from all of this year’s Fail Forward Contest stories and we hope you do too!
Fail Forward Winners
Photo from Sumando Manos’ “Pediatric Services In Remote Areas Of Argentina” project.
Winner, $1,000: Sumando Manos – “We learned that there is no short term or one time solution and there are realities that even we cannot imagine…We learned about ourselves, we learned to listen more, to be more patient and compressive, so we can understand the specifics of each situation, in each place, and meet the people and their needs.” Read More.
Photo from Yspaniola Incorporated’s “Literacy For Dominican-Haitian Youth In The Batey” project.
2nd place, $600: Yspaniola Incorporated – “We realized that for volunteers to truly learn and employ the complex host of professional and educational skills required by Summer Camp, more is not necessarily better. Rather than providing opportunities to as many young people as possible, we could better serve the community by putting more resources into fewer volunteers.” Read More.
Photo from Military with PTSD’s “Help 2,500 Disabled Veterans With PTSD” project.
3rd place, $400: Military with PTSD – “When we reflect on our choices and actions, we can see that yes, mistakes were made. It did not end us, so we look at what we can learn, where can we improve, and we laugh at ourselves. In the end, we spent much more on the cost of the program than we received monetarily, but learning how to evaluate ourselves and find areas to learn and grow is not something we can gain without the experience we went through. Which will better help us prepare and execute ‘Explosion of Kindness 2016.'” Read More.
More Great Fail Forward Stories
Photo from Awamaki’s “Capacity-Building For Rural Women Artisans In Peru” project.
Awamaki – “To measure economic success, we have started doing observational studies of the women’s homes to gauge wealth. We visit and observing the number of household appliances, the material the floor and roof are made of, whether there is a bathroom, etc.). We have also started running focus groups to approach the answers we sought from the Well-being Survey. We plan to invite a small group of women to the office, serve food, ensure a comfortable environment, and have a general conversation among the women instead of a direct interview with each individual. We think that these issues will be easier to address in a low-key group setting, rather than a rushed interview that puts each individual on the spot.” Read More.
Photo from Smiles Forever’s “Send Homeless Bolivian Woman To School For A Year” project.
Smiles Forever: “For nearly all of our 15 years of serving the indigenous women of the Cochabamba, Bolivia area, we have inadvertently excluded young mothers. Last year, we listened when young mothers knocked on our doors. They wanted a better future for themselves, so that in turn their children’s lives would benefit. These mothers had extra incentive to succeed in a career. We no longer turn away women who have children. We have discovered another calling in educating these women who already understand responsibility. Our students who are mothers act as role models!” Read More.
Cycle of Learning
One of our core values at GlobalGiving is Listen, Act, Learn. Repeat. But sometimes the first three steps — Listen, Act, Learn. — teach us that we shouldn’t Repeat, at least not in the same way. And that’s a good thing. A solution is more often than not an iterative process. So we encourage you to keep that cycle of learning going by continuously listening, acting, and learning — and don’t forget to share your findings with your supporters and constituents to show your pride in trying new things, and your tenacity to try again in a different way.