“Be an Octopus. Reflections from an engaged donor” by MAVA Foundation

Be an Octopus. Reflections from an Engaged Donor Produced with MAVA Foundation, Sep 27-Oct 1, 2021

At the end of September we sprinted for the second time this year with MAVA Foundation, only that this time we did not meet online, but on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva in a castle surrounded by vineyards. It was the first onsite sprint in a long time, and even though we have had a lot of good experiences with the new online format and are convinced that it has its own advantages, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by walls full of post-its and drinking a glass or two of wine together after a long day at work. The result is a short 20-page beautifully illustrated booklet entitled “Be an octopus. Reflections from an Engaged Donor “. 


Fig 1: Onsite Book Sprint with MAVA Foundation at the shore of Lake Geneva

Reflections from an Engaged Donor

       Fig 2: The cover of the booklet

The MAVA Foundation is a family-based philanthropic foundation based in Switzerland. It aims to conserve biodiversity by supporting the effectiveness and resiliency of its partners so that they can build a dynamic conservation community.  Based on 27 years of experience partnering with hundreds of non-profit organisations, the booklet shares reflections regarding the pros and cons of MAVA’s relatively high level of engagement.

MAVA strongly believes that, as a donor, supporting a cause means more than funding projects. Just as an octopus can adapt to the environment, solve problems, and use different arms simultaneously, so do we have additional and unique capabilities beyond signing cheques. Neglecting to make use of these opportunities would decrease our potential impact on our mission. Applying all these capabilities is what we call being an engaged donor. [extract from the booklet]

In just five days, the four authors – Simon Mériaux, Thierry Renaud, Holger Schmid and Julien Sémelin – went through a process of developing a shared vision, outlining the content, drafting the text and editing each other’s work with the guidance of our facilitator Karina Piersig. Parallel to the writing, Simon translated the group’s ideas and concepts into detailed sketches, which our designer converted into hand-drawn illustrations according to a visual style guide that was specifically created for MAVA’s booklet.

Fig. 3: Illustrations – before & after

It was a pleasure to work with you – Julien, Holger, Simon and Thierry – and to enjoy the view on the lake and the Alps, take a walk in the sun, listen to Julien play Radiohead on the piano, etc. etc. etc.

Fig. 4: From left to right: Head of Content, Head of Accuracy, Oberhead, Head of Style and Head of Flow

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