The Family Diagram: A tool for building engagement and resilience in family foundations

“The family foundation was created to keep us all together and working on something we all care about…so why isn’t it working?”

At 21/64, we hear sentiments like this often from families who are looking for help engaging family members in their giving.  Next-generation family members have grown up with access to broader opportunities fueled by information technology, increased diversity and global connectedness. The questions they ask, language they use, and even their values and priorities change the way the family communicates. The goal of our work is to help a family see that “involving the kids” does not only mean adding children to an existing system, but rather shifting the family paradigm to become multigenerational.

Researchers Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robin Fivush’s work demonstrates that creating a multigenerational sense of identity with information about the positive moments, as well as difficult ones in the family, increase the odds that a family will thrive for many generations to come.  The Family Diagram, the newest 21/64 tool we developed in partnership with Relative Solutions, was designed as a resource for family members and their advisors interested in exploring family histories in order to gain deeper insights into the roles and relationships operating in the family system today. It is a powerful way to gather, document and visualize multigenerational family narratives, connecting users to the richness of family history and identify recurring patterns. With this awareness, comes the ability to make more conscious, thoughtful choices and be better prepared for the next phase of the foundation’s evolution, as well as for meeting the needs of the 21st century.

About the author(s)