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This is Why Foundations Must Partner Up With You to Bring about Any Social Change in Your Community

Initiatives directed at the improvement of any aspect of a community, such as health, education, or homelessness, are almost always too complex and huge for one foundation. In fact, foundations as effective and empowered as Annenberg, Ford, and Pew Charitable have all ended their projects due to low achievement against planned impact.

Researchers John Kania and Mark Kramer have provided more evidence towards the same argument in their article, published in the winter of 2011 titled Collective Impact, stating that social change, especially when the problem is too complex and large-scaled, comes from a successful partnership and coordination between organizations belonging to different sectors of the community. Stand-alone efforts by foundations aiming to bring about a large-scale social impact usually end up in failure.

As a rule, health foundations are used to following plans conjured up by the upper management or consultants, plans which are devised in response to social issues. These plans are reviewed by the board and funding is subsequently approved, handing over complete control to the management. This often produces little to no large-scale social change, and hence these foundations have now moved towards modern methods, such as supporting effective and thriving efforts and ideas already existing in the community.

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Research has shown that when foundations work together with communities, they are able to bring about a much bigger improvement in them compared to simply launching programs without any community involvement in the program-designing stage.

They have also now become more open to collaboration with other foundations that have expertise in other sectors, supporting government policymaking, organizing awareness programs, and funding research to provide all institutions in the community with a better insight into the problems. In essence, these foundations are now playing the role of a catalyst is yielding social change.

However, this collaborative approach has brought forward a few problems of its own. For example, although some collaborative programs have been very successful in initiating effective service, technology, and facilities which promote the health of the population at large, others have failed due to the very reason they came together in the first place: dispute over the nature of the underlying social issue resulting in the acceptance of leadership from one sector. Such failed collaborations have also brought forward disagreements over the allocation of funds among agencies in different sectors.

What is the Cultivation Approach?

The cultivation approach entails that foundations should first seek out such already-existent change ideas in a community, and then offer them support by providing grants, technology, equipment, capacity building, encouragement, and leadership. They should then monitor the progress of such projects and take necessary corrective actions. This provides stability to community initiatives while substantially increasing their impact on the community.

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There are many excellent community programs which are working on a small scale due to lack of funding and/or exposure. Charity foundations must support these programs and scale them up, after analyzing the potential impact such programs can have, of course.

Many foundations, such as the Kate B. Reynolds Trust and CHF, have conducted successful projects with community support. They were able to bring about change by providing support to change ideas already working in and accepted by the community. Such an approach also helped them avoid all the research and validation costs, and also the time and commitment requirements from higher management to supervise, review, and approve plans.

Following are just a few examples of such projects which have worked beautifully under the community-foundation partnership.

Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI)

Clinton Foundation’s CHMI has adopted the cultivation approach and follows a standardized process whereby they gather leaders from the business, government, and non-profit sectors to present ideas circulating in their communities for the improvement of public health.

The resulting blueprint is then handed over to the director of the CHMI, who then analyzes and subsequently supports or rejects the ideas. This approach has been welcomed by local agents, as the strategy provided by the director has helped them scale up their initiatives.

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The CHMI by the Clinton Foundation is a great example of the foundation-community partnership.

Reynolds Trust

Reynolds Trust supports a group of African-American natives in the McDowell County region, who gather regularly to discuss their community’s long-outstanding issues. One of the biggest issues this community has been facing is the provision of affordable transportation for low-income households. Reynolds Trust officials have helped them by arranging missing resources to the McDowell County Department of Social Services to expand the transport network to the West Marion region.

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