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The Foundation Review

Systems change

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Reconciling Philanthropy’S Role In Disruption And Revolution: Hard Lessons From A Community-Driven Power-Building Strategy To Achieve Health Equity, Kien S. Lee, Courtney Ricci, Mia Ramirez Dec 2023

Reconciling Philanthropy’S Role In Disruption And Revolution: Hard Lessons From A Community-Driven Power-Building Strategy To Achieve Health Equity, Kien S. Lee, Courtney Ricci, Mia Ramirez

The Foundation Review

This article shares The Colorado Trust’s experience with Community Partnerships for Health Equity (CPHE) after initiating a resident-led strategy for systems change and encountering the myriad challenges to its implementation that ultimately led to exiting the initiative.

The CPHE strategy intended to fund community members directly instead of working through the nonprofit sector in the state, and thereby shift power from nonprofit organizations to residents. It eventually involved more than 20 communities across Colorado and created change in certain communities — from filling service gaps and creating local partnerships to shifting local systems.

The Trust had good intentions in its …


Systems-Change Philanthropy: It’S Essential, And It’S Our Responsibility, Emily Bhandari, Alison Mohr Boleware, Octavio N. Martinez Jr. Jun 2023

Systems-Change Philanthropy: It’S Essential, And It’S Our Responsibility, Emily Bhandari, Alison Mohr Boleware, Octavio N. Martinez Jr.

The Foundation Review

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health’s mission is to transform how communities promote mental health in everyday life. Policy engagement — fundamental to improving the social and structural determinants of mental health — has always been a strategic priority for the foundation, which has become a trusted resource for mental health and substance use policy issues in Texas. Yet, the state’s mental health and substance use policy community is limited in size, capacity, and training.

To address that reality, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Policy Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative was launched to invest in a mental health policy …


Immediate Needs And Systemic Solutions: Harnessing A Collective Crisis Response By Regional Philanthropy Alongside Systemic Change, Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Nancy M. Blaschak Jun 2022

Immediate Needs And Systemic Solutions: Harnessing A Collective Crisis Response By Regional Philanthropy Alongside Systemic Change, Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Nancy M. Blaschak

The Foundation Review

On March 13, 2020, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo invited the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York, and United Way of Buffalo & Erie County to convene all funders in western New York to respond collectively to the impending COVID-19 crisis. Funding was raised swiftly and, using a racial equity lens, more than $14.2 million was granted in 18 months to more than 400 nonprofits of all sizes serving on the front lines in eight counties.

While emergency funding was the first priority for the collective group of more than 60 foundations, …


A Case Study On The Use Of The Sdgs With A Collective Impact Initiative In Southwest Florida, Tessa Lesage, Aysegul Timur, Dakota Pawlicki Dec 2021

A Case Study On The Use Of The Sdgs With A Collective Impact Initiative In Southwest Florida, Tessa Lesage, Aysegul Timur, Dakota Pawlicki

The Foundation Review

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be a useful framework on which to design, evaluate, and communicate collective impact initiatives. Using as a case study the FutureMakers Coalition, a collective impact initiative launched by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to transform its region’s workforce, the field can gain insights into how the goals can strengthen collective impact work locally and nationally.

This article will discuss how the foundation facilitated the setting of a common agenda and the use of the Sustainable Development Goals to help build consensus among 251 active partners on how to measure progress toward the coalition’s …


Lost Causal: Debunking Myths About Causal Analysis In Philanthropy, Jewlya Lynn, Sarah Stachowiak, Julia Coffman Sep 2021

Lost Causal: Debunking Myths About Causal Analysis In Philanthropy, Jewlya Lynn, Sarah Stachowiak, Julia Coffman

The Foundation Review

What if philanthropic evaluations told us that changes in the world had occurred, as well as how and why they occurred, including in what ways foundation funding and grantees contributed to those changes? What if evaluations made change pathways more visible, tested hypotheses and assumptions, and generated new insights based on what happened in the “black box” of systems change strategies? This type of learning comes from causal analysis — inquiry that explores cause-andeffect relationships.

Yet currently in philanthropy, particularly for strategies and initiatives that feature high complexity, few evaluations use robust techniques for understanding causality. Instead, philanthropic evaluation tends …


Learning Amid Disruption: Bouncing Forward Into A Changed World, Rachel Reichenbach, Jewlya Lynn, Jen Heeg Sep 2021

Learning Amid Disruption: Bouncing Forward Into A Changed World, Rachel Reichenbach, Jewlya Lynn, Jen Heeg

The Foundation Review

The philanthropic sector has come to recognize the importance of bringing a systems lens to its work, seeking to influence upstream drivers of complex problems, and being adaptive in its approaches instead of implementing static, multiyear plans. Yet, integrating these concepts into practice continues to pose a challenge.

Humanity United — a foundation dedicated to cultivating the conditions for enduring freedom and peace — had been grappling with this charge when the disruption caused by COVID-19 led it into a crisis response mode in 2020, similar to many other philanthropic institutions. That disruption also challenged our old ways of being, …


Shifting Power In Maine: Findings From A Six-Year Community-Based Health Initiative, Susan Foster, Teresa Doksum, Charles Dwyer Jun 2021

Shifting Power In Maine: Findings From A Six-Year Community-Based Health Initiative, Susan Foster, Teresa Doksum, Charles Dwyer

The Foundation Review

Between 2013 and 2019, a Maine Health Access Foundation community-based initiative provided place-based funding to communities to address system gaps and inefficiencies that impede the ability of Maine’s most vulnerable individuals to obtain essential services and supports. To rebalance power between the funder and grantees, the foundation introduced grantmaking practices such as long-term, flexible funding and new ways of relating to and supporting grantees. The theory of change guiding the initiative was that systems change is more effective and sustainable when communities develop cross-sector partnerships and engage community members in planning. The foundation guided the evaluation team to conduct a …


Investing In Leadership Development: A Tool For Systems Change In The Community Health Center Field, Michael P. Arnold, Natalie J. Blackmur, Brenda Solórzano, Carolyn Wang Kong, Bobbie Wunsch, Sunita Mutha Mar 2021

Investing In Leadership Development: A Tool For Systems Change In The Community Health Center Field, Michael P. Arnold, Natalie J. Blackmur, Brenda Solórzano, Carolyn Wang Kong, Bobbie Wunsch, Sunita Mutha

The Foundation Review

Over the course of 12 years, the Blue Shield of California Foundation committed nearly $20 million to growing a pool of community health center leaders who were prepared to be effective agents of change in their organizations and in the safety net field. This signature investment, the Clinic Leadership Institute, was implemented in partnership with the Healthforce Center at University of California, San Francisco, in anticipation of a generation of California health center leaders beginning to transition into retirement.

During the institute's 10 cohorts, access to community health centers dramatically increased with the Affordable Care Act, and this — coupled …


Placing Bets In A Complex Environment: One Foundation’S Approach To The Opioid Epidemic, Jill Yegian Mar 2021

Placing Bets In A Complex Environment: One Foundation’S Approach To The Opioid Epidemic, Jill Yegian

The Foundation Review

Across the globe, foundations grapple with how to tackle complex, cross-sector societal problems. A major effort by the California Health Care Foundation to reduce opioid-related morbidity and mortality, launched just as opioid use was becoming understood as a problem that could reach epidemic proportions, presents an instructive case study of impact.

Starting in 2015, the foundation placed several “big bets” on initiatives aimed at stopping overdose deaths and preventing new addiction. That early investment had dramatic returns, laying the groundwork for scaling pilot projects statewide as hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding became available to address the crisis. …


Overcoming The Systemic Challenges Of Wealth Inequality In The U.S., David Peter Stroh Dec 2020

Overcoming The Systemic Challenges Of Wealth Inequality In The U.S., David Peter Stroh

The Foundation Review

The galvanizing public murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Hispanic people have put structural racism and its influence on wealth inequality in the U.S. into stark relief. As multiracial groups express outrage at these visible disparities, we risk missing the other side of the coin: that wealth inequality in turn fans structural racism. Moreover, as they reinforce each other, these two factors erode the social, economic, and political viability of our democracy. Understanding and then breaking this vicious cycle are essential to realizing our renewed commitment to a country that works everyone.

This …


Regional Inclusive Growth Through Systems Philanthropy In Essex County, Massachusetts, Lisa Payne Simon, Stratton Lloyd, Beth Francis Dec 2020

Regional Inclusive Growth Through Systems Philanthropy In Essex County, Massachusetts, Lisa Payne Simon, Stratton Lloyd, Beth Francis

The Foundation Review

In 2016, the Essex County Community Foundation forged a cross-sector coalition of business, community, and civic leaders to identify the Massachusetts region’s greatest challenges and to develop a strategy for action. Income inequality was identified as the county’s most pressing issue, and the foundation and its partners launched a systems philanthropy strategy to address that issue and stimulate inclusive growth.

The strategy involves a multipronged approach aimed at amplifying the county’s strengths, launching inclusive-growth initiatives, expanding workforce training and skill development to increase a broad target population’s earning potential and net worth, incentivizing and supporting small-business resiliency and growth, and …


Turning Changemaking Inward: How One Health Philanthropy Transformed Its Grantmaking Approach To Drive Deeper Impact, Christina Ellis, Laura Pinsoneault, Sarah Deering, Jesse Ehrenfeld, Erin Fabian, Cheryl Maurana Jun 2020

Turning Changemaking Inward: How One Health Philanthropy Transformed Its Grantmaking Approach To Drive Deeper Impact, Christina Ellis, Laura Pinsoneault, Sarah Deering, Jesse Ehrenfeld, Erin Fabian, Cheryl Maurana

The Foundation Review

In 2014, the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment made a significant shift in focus to supporting adaptive rather than programmatic solutions to address critical health issues, and adopted a new approach that emphasized engagement with key stakeholders, recognizing the importance of contribution over attribution and requiring a long-term perspective on outcomes.

The endowment identified three new “changemaker” roles for itself, alongside new funding mechanisms and a set of conditions where positive change could be supported to influence health. While changemaking began as a description of the endowment’s strategic direction, today this philanthropic philosophy permeates all that …


Assessing Change And Deepening Impact In Early Learning Systems: The Formal-System Self-Assessment Tool, Erika Takada, Clare Nolan, Meera Mani Mar 2020

Assessing Change And Deepening Impact In Early Learning Systems: The Formal-System Self-Assessment Tool, Erika Takada, Clare Nolan, Meera Mani

The Foundation Review

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is investing in a 10-year strategy, Starting Smart and Strong, that partners with three California communities to develop and test solutions to support parents, caregivers, and educators as they prepare children to be ready for school. Central to this strategy are community efforts to create comprehensive early learning systems that model quality teaching practices, secure and ensure adequate distribution of resources, and have capacity to improve, innovate, and scale.

One of the challenges in systems evaluation is identifying meaningful indicators of interim progress toward longer-term change. From the start, the evaluation has been learning …


Collaborating Within To Support Systems Change: The Need For — And Limits Of — Cross-Team Grantmaking, Chris M. Kabel, Anna Cruz, Annjanette Rosga, Theresa Esparrago Lieu, Natalie Blackmur Mar 2020

Collaborating Within To Support Systems Change: The Need For — And Limits Of — Cross-Team Grantmaking, Chris M. Kabel, Anna Cruz, Annjanette Rosga, Theresa Esparrago Lieu, Natalie Blackmur

The Foundation Review

To be responsive to the many facets of communities’ challenges and solutions, the Kresge Foundation works intentionally at the intersections of its seven grantmaking areas. One way it fulfills this intention is by awarding cross-team grants, which involve financial and intellectual contributions from multiple Kresge programs in order to enable cross-sector, multidisciplinary work among grantees.

As Kresge’s cross-team practice has grown and the field has increasingly expressed interest in cross-sector approaches to addressing long-standing challenges, Kresge partnered with the strategic learning firm Informing Change to explore how this approach to grantmaking and greater degree of internal collaboration is working from …


How Can Foundations Promote Impactful Collaboration?, Douglas Easterling, Laura Mcduffee Sep 2019

How Can Foundations Promote Impactful Collaboration?, Douglas Easterling, Laura Mcduffee

The Foundation Review

Funders are increasingly looking to interagency and cross-sector collaboration as a strategy to solve complex, large-scale issues, but many collaborative groups fail to generate an impact with their work. This is due in part to funders’ own practices, such as pre-specifying the problem to be solved or limiting their grantees’ ability to adjust their strategy.

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts has been intentional about facilitating the effectiveness of the collaborative groups it supports. Its Health Care & Health Promotion Synergy Initiative provides long-term funding and assistance with planning, evaluation and sustainability to groups that define the problems they want …


Evaluating For The Bigger Picture: Breaking Through The Learning And Evaluation Barriers To Advancing Community Systems-Change Field Knowledge, Thomas Kelly, Prudence Brown, Hanh Cao Yu, Marie Colombo Jun 2019

Evaluating For The Bigger Picture: Breaking Through The Learning And Evaluation Barriers To Advancing Community Systems-Change Field Knowledge, Thomas Kelly, Prudence Brown, Hanh Cao Yu, Marie Colombo

The Foundation Review

Foundations investing in community systems change often fail to prioritize field-level and cross-initiative evaluation questions in building initiatives. As a result, many of the documented evaluations of such investments lack translatable lessons specific and influential enough to drive related decisions and actions of others in the field.

This article developed from ongoing, multiyear peer learning across several foundations that collectively compiled recommendations for community systems-change funders and evaluators to implement more powerful evaluations. They are intended to help funders and evaluators engaged in these efforts build sectorwide knowledge capable of informing improved work across initiatives and communities. This article also …


An End To Business As Usual: Nurturing Authentic Partnerships To Create Lasting Community Change, Jeffrey Sunshine, Bernadette Sangalang Dec 2018

An End To Business As Usual: Nurturing Authentic Partnerships To Create Lasting Community Change, Jeffrey Sunshine, Bernadette Sangalang

The Foundation Review

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation created Starting Smart and Strong, a 10-year place-based initiative in three California communities, to develop and test solutions that support parents, caregivers, and educators as they prepare young children to be healthy and ready for school. The initiative brings together public and private partners to create comprehensive early-learning systems and ultimately scale what works.

This article offers key insights into the foundation’s experience, three years into implementation, with managing this complex initiative and how program officers were compelled to think differently about the best roles staff can play to support grantee communities and amplify …


By Us And For Us: A Story Of Early Childhood Development Systems Change And Results In A Rural Context, Lisa Payne Simon, Kirsten Scobie, Phoebe Backler, Catherine Mcdowell, Charles Cotton, Susan Cloutier, Clare Nolan Dec 2018

By Us And For Us: A Story Of Early Childhood Development Systems Change And Results In A Rural Context, Lisa Payne Simon, Kirsten Scobie, Phoebe Backler, Catherine Mcdowell, Charles Cotton, Susan Cloutier, Clare Nolan

The Foundation Review

Since 2007, the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund — a donor-advised fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation — has invested in early childhood development in Coös County — New Hampshire’s largest and most rural and economically disadvantaged county. Community providers from a range of disciplines formed strong professional relationships and agreed on common goals and evidence-based strategies to improve services for children and families.

This article describes how local community members joined forces with the fund to create an integrated early childhood development system for Coös’ children and families. It provides background on the investment and initiative strategy, summarizes …


Unpacking The Role Of Data In Philanthropy: Prospects For An Integrated Framework, R. Patrick Bixler, Marisa Zappone, Lin Rui Li, Samer Atshan Jun 2018

Unpacking The Role Of Data In Philanthropy: Prospects For An Integrated Framework, R. Patrick Bixler, Marisa Zappone, Lin Rui Li, Samer Atshan

The Foundation Review

This article reports qualitative research that explores the role of data in philanthropy and proposes an integrated framework. Interviews with charitable foundations in central Texas, including members of a regional evaluation and learning collaborative, reveal an orientation toward data that is becoming increasingly institutionalized.

The research suggests that data are generated and used in a multiplicity of ways, including identifying populations and geographies in need of investment, informing funding decisions for service delivery as well as policy research and advocacy; evaluation and learning; and measuring community impact.

This article discusses these thematic findings, notes specific practices, and presents six principles …