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Outside Voices

Via “Helping Nonprofits Benefit From Fresh Ideas,” published on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Mission: Innovation blog yesterday:

Nonprofits that are tackling big questions about their mission benefit greatly from seeking ideas from people outside their organization — including those who work in other fields, says Jeff Leitner. The former advertising executive has started a charity to help organizations do just that.

Insight Labs, in Chicago, brings business executives, scholars, government officials, and others together with a charity’s leaders for a three-hour strategy session to thrash out possible solutions to a tough issue the group faces.

“If you take a roomful of people who aren’t directly invested in the solution, that don’t have a connection to either the problem or the solution, you get pretty interesting places,” says Mr. Leitner.

Recently, Insight Labs organized a session for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to discuss its direction, now that the physical creation of a memorial was accomplished. The strategizing participants included “a partner at a management-consulting firm, the head of a national network of nonprofit theaters, and an influential lobbyist.”

Mr. Leitner encourages others to take his concept and “go crazy.” And in essence, the idea really can be utilized and adapted by a range of nonprofits at a range of income levels. How might you solicit honest, diverse feedback as you plan for the long (or short) term? And who might be some qualified, yet out-of-the-box people from whom you could solicit it? Then, why not ask them?

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