The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s mission is to transform the lives of children living in urban poverty through better education, health, and family economic stability.
Janet Mountain has been the executive director at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for the last 15 years. Their headquarter is in Austin, Texas, but their work spans the globe.
Their work focuses on making a meaningful difference for children and families in urban poverty. When you think about pathways out of poverty, the work includes areas such as education, college success, job placement, and financial coaching. Janet describes the work this way: “The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.” But, that’s a big task. According to Janet, “No matter how hard the work gets it is always worth it when it comes to children living in urban poverty.”
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is creative in using financial services such as grants, debt, and equity. But their work does not end there. They also provide hands-on services and consulting.
One of the foundation’s recent publications is A Philanthropist’s Guide to the Future. One important aspect is that it is important for foundations to constantly audit the work that they are doing to ensure that it is both achieving measurable results but also that the work is evolving with the environment. What the report revealed is that money is certainly an important component in making a difference. However, it ultimately doesn’t solve problems. It is the humans that are involved in applying those resources that change human lives.
The foundation uses eight social impact principles that guide their work.
- If it looks easy, look closer. The only way to solve the surface-level challenge is to address what’s happening underneath. Use your passion and skills to dig deep and find the roots of the problem.
- Take the risks your challenge deserves. Our greatest challenges require doing some things differently. Push the boundaries and be willing to take risks where others won’t.
- Stay the course. Behaviors change slowly. Time is often the most important investment you can make. It’s going to take more than one try to make an impact, and it’s going to take more than one success to make a difference.
- Money alone doesn’t solve problems. Money doesn’t solve problems, people do. A combination of talent, ideas, resources, and execution is the only way to create solutions that last.
- Invest in people. Collaboration among unlikely partners amplifies impact. Find people who challenge your thinking and invest in them.
- Measure mindfully. Evidence is the only way to know whether you’re making a difference, but not all data is created equal. Always measure, but be smart about what you measure, and how.
- If it doesn’t work, tell everyone. Your outcomes, both good and bad, are opportunities for others to learn and do better. We all win when we learn together.
- This is worth it. No one ever said that creating lasting change was easy. The work ahead is incredibly challenging. When you see the real-world impact your work has made, you’ll know the effort was worth it.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Janet Mountain
“The work we do at the Foundation is about creating and accelerating human opportunity.”
“As long as you’re doing charitable work, the range of organizations can be very broad.”
“The report is an outcome we didn’t start with.”
“We all need partners in this work because it’s really, really hard.”
“When something doesn’t work that’s truly the most crushing part of this work.”
“Measurement is the only way to know if what you’re doing is making a difference.”
“That change won’t happen in 5 or 10 years if we’re not doing things in the moment to push that change.”
“Remembering the fact that it is going to take more than one try to make an impact is an important mindset.”
“Be ready to stick with it and stay the course.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF): https://www.msdf.org/
- MSDF report, The Future of Philanthropy: https://impact.msdf.org/
- MSDF on Twitter: https://twitter.com/msdf_foundation
- MSDF on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dellfamilyfoundation
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: http://tonyloyd.com/book