capacity consulting

The Glazed Doughnut represents a values-enriched alternative to the Frosted Cake – the dominant and paradoxical structure that confounds our pursuit of change.

All of us involved in social change – people, organizations, academics, consultants, government, philanthropists – interact in the Frosted Cake. This is where the resourcing of social change happens. Regardless of our role, we are either acquiring or allocating money in order to advance social change. 

The tools at our disposal (for this money-for-social-change transaction) include strategic plans, proposals, research, needs assessments, evaluations, data collection, reports, and so on.

Our place in the Frosted Cake is stratified by layers – indicating our proximity to or distance from money. In spite of our pursuit of social change, we are situated in a hierarchical power structure.

The Frosted Cake confines us in a rigid square. Not only is the cake baked with a power imbalance, it also boxes us in to convention.

Covering the Cake is a thick frosting. Its sticky composition holds the Cake together (and hides what lies beneath). Its opaque coating conceals us in incongruence. 

We are covered in contradictions.


The frosting of deficiency (of time and money, and relatedly, capacity) limits our dreams, planning, and action. 

We are obscured by scarcity.

The frosting of exclusion views complex, messy, and slow participatory approaches as prohibitive. Insular decision making prevails. 

We descend into extractive practices. 

The frosting of compliance binds us to unrealistic (and even inhumane) timelines and expectations. An endless array of confusing (and potentially harm-producing) terminologies misguide us. 

We are stuck in a seemingly arbitrary and obligatory cycle of tasks. 

Despite proven failures and blatant incongruence with social change values, the Frosted Cake appears unchangeable. But it is not. I invite you to join me in the Glazed Doughnut, where we model the change we seek.

The Glazed Doughnut is transparently glazed (rather than opaquely frosted) to elicit pride in a practice that reflects values of social change. 

It reminds us to be intentional about how we allocate our time (rather than perpetually fall into a deficiency trap). 

It demonstrates our holistic nature, where inclusivity is considered imperative (rather than unreasonable). 

It guides us with clarity and vitality (rather than fulfilling an obligation). 

We are dignified with congruent values.

The Glazed Doughnut is horizontal (rather than vertically layered) to illustrate everyone’s place alongside each other.

We are democratized in side-by-side partnership.

The Glazed Doughnut is circular (rather than square) to emphasize continuity and interconnectivity of purpose and practice.

We respond to constant change

The Glazed Doughnut is spacious (rather than solid) to liberate us with creativity and pursuit into the unknown. 

We harness our imagination.

The Glazed Doughnut offers a nourishing (rather than depleting) practice that uplifts the true meaning of 'philanthropy' – 'love of humanity'. An inherent aspect of our humanity is the appeal to share and learn from stories. 

The Glazed Doughnut taps into these instincts with three interconnected stories of hope, voice, and action. 

These stories are encompassed as a practice, a way of being (rather than a linear and momentary development of products, such as a strategic plan, evaluation, or report of findings). 


Graphic representation of a Story of Hope

Graphic representation of a Story of Hope for Calala Fondo de Mujeres

Graphic representation of a Story of Hope by Lulu Kitololo

Graphic representation of a Story of Hope by Sergio Herrera and JC Gonzales


Story of Voice with sandplay

Story of Voice with a wish tree

Story of Voice with collage

Story of Voice with a flower map


Artists Ink elevate their Story of Action

Youth Voices inform the Story of Action for The David & Lucile Packard Foundation

Parents transform their Story of Action into reality with Pájaro Bright Beginnings

Parents inform a Story of Action for Salinas Bright Beginnings