Grantbook's Response Framework: How We're Framing and Channelling our Energy in Response to COVID-19

Foresight practices are amazing things. 

Principally, they can help organizations think through, discuss and feel-out different future states, allowing them to bet on the next best steps in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. While sometimes our world’s VUCA-ness can seem a bit more distant, almost a novelty, COVID-19 has drawn it much closer, regardless of industry or sector.

The problem in reacting to VUCA is we are adapting to a disruption that has already happened. At that point, we are just feeling the sting of a paper cut that always follows a few seconds behind. We are stopping the bleed, trying to find the nearest band-aid or tissue to treat. We are a little panicked, running on adrenaline, our lizard brains taking over to respond fast.

But what comes next? 

Philanthropy is a long-term player and, in many countries and jurisdictions, a pillar of the social sector.

In the weeks and months ahead, trends and future states will begin to emerge as society continues to balance around a new equilibrium. Some inequalities will be exacerbated and new ones may arrive unnoticed, industries may be displaced and workers may need to be retrained en-masse, how students learn may change, and loneliness may affect our collective mental health. In short, beyond COVID-19’s most acute impacts, philanthropy will need to prepare for what comes next.

To help digest this, Grantbook is starting to experiment with a framework to sense what the world needs from philanthropy and how philanthropy can respond as we embrace VUCA in its whole nature. Our framework creates permeable categories around questions philanthropy will need to ask of itself around its culture, operations, digital and grants/program strategy and how it can navigate these lines of inquiry. When we find something that drives us, we will create additional resources and media to help shape the discourse.

Three layers of your organization that can be leveraged during crisis response.

An emerging response to COVID-19 and our emerging future will require efforts in pursuing your organization's culture/values, adapting how you operate and the tools you use to support your work. Granting and program strategy cuts across and integrate these elements together. Organizations will also need to consider which stakeholders are impacted in developing and changing each of these strategies and engage them in this process.

Our first update to this framework (below) reflects higher fidelity responses around the next 3-5 months of philanthropy’s response while planting seeds to think about how to start collecting insights and information for the 6-12 month period.

An emerging response framework that looks at Cultural, Operational, and Digital concerns.

In our first supporting resource, we’ve chosen to focus on answering the question about time-frames, what we’ve learned from past disaster responses and where philanthropy may need to head in the coming months and years. Our blog post on that is coming soon: and we’ve recorded an audio version via our podcast for those who prefer to listen to learn.

We will endeavour to update this every few weeks or so to show our most recent digestion and reflections and hope that you will join us in this collective conversation.

Foresight practices are amazing things.

They’ll let us treat the challenges of now with respect, community, and care as we look forward together.

In solidarity,


Grantbook COVID-19 Response Team

Grantbook’s COVID-19 Response Team is a group of Grantbookers who are collecting insights and resources from the whole Grantbook team, the philanthropic sector, and other peers, associations, and collectives within the social sector. We are working to curate and create supportive resources to help grantmakers everywhere respond rapidly to changing needs, and fulfil their missions in these difficult times.