Arriving at a Breakthrough Idea

It's common practice to be given a set of directions. A manufacturer provides steps to put together unassembled furniture; a chef documents recipes for signature dishes; an accountant makes a step-by-step guide for filing taxes. Some are unwavering, leaving little to no wiggle room. Some serve as guideposts, holding the hand of the maker to help them find the right answers. 

Those are the constructs we’ve become accustomed to, and nonprofit grant applications are traditionally no different.

Many of Foellinger Foundation’s grant opportunities are specifically earmarked, like our grants for capacity building and early childhood, family and youth development.

But our Breakthrough Fund is different.

 Breakthrough-level ideas address social issues in a way that hasn't been done before.

Breakthrough-level ideas address social issues in a way that hasn't been done before.

We were intentionally broad, giving you room to stretch your toes (and maybe even do a few jumping jacks).

It’s tempting to gravitate toward the safest, most predictable solution, especially when resources are limited. We stray from the unknown, and adhere to what feels safe, comfortable, and well…familiar.

And a breakthrough idea is anything but.

In our first blog, we encouraged big ideas and embracing failure to create success in sharing Astro Teller’s TED Talk. At the end of our last blog, we suggested checking out lateral thinking as a way to gain a new perspective in problem solving.

Lateral thinking forces you to think differently about a problem you’re trying to solve. It removes the assumptions and employs the unconventional.

 The Breakthrough Fund encourages and supports ideas that help Allen County Residents lead fulfilling and connected lives.

The Breakthrough Fund encourages and supports ideas that help Allen County Residents lead fulfilling and connected lives.

That’s what we’re looking for in applications for the Breakthrough Fund. Breakthrough-level ideas address social issues in a way that hasn’t been done before, and arriving at ideas of that caliber can be challenging. When we place too many guidelines on these ideas, we run the risk of stifling creativity in addressing these crucial issues.

So, we’re giving you some room to explore by not providing strict guidelines to adhere to. You’ll still follow the same application and reporting process, but the nature of your breakthrough project is yours to define.

We encourage you to explore every and any angle to arrive at a solution—and you may find that, after you refine your idea, that solution may not end up working. Or you may arrive at twenty potential solutions before you narrow it down to the one that will be most effective.

That’s okay with us.

What we learn from celebrating failure and lateral thinking is that we don’t arrive at the best solution for any problem easily or quickly. We may need to fail to get there, and it’s better to fail sooner rather than later. But if we chase innovative ideas using customary processes, we may never arrive at the idea that changes the lives of our Allen County residents.

Learn more about the Breakthrough Fund.  
Read our blog post: Breakthrough Resources for Breakthrough Ideas.
Read our blog post: Think Bigger, We Dare You. 
Contact us for more information at 260 422-2900. 


Like the ideas of celebrating failure and lateral thinking? Check out this TED Talk by Adam Grant.