Posts filed under ‘Public/Private Partnerships’
Grantmakers in Health (GIH), with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has awarded a $15,000 matching grant to a group of Ohio funders, all of whom are members of Ohio Grantmakers Forum.
The funders will use the grant dollars to offer grant writing support to the Ohio Department of Health as it implements the Affordable Care Act. The George Gund Foundation, The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Kaiser Permanente, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation and Saint Luke’s Foundation of Cleveland, Ohio submitted the proposal (with assistance from OGF) and are providing the match dollars required by the GIH grant.
Karen Hughes, acting director at the Ohio Department of Health, provided a letter of support for the grant request. She pointed out how welcome the funds would be – especially in the face of past and looming budget cuts that resulted in staff reductions – to help the department apply for various federal grants related to the Affordable Care Act.
The GIH grant is yet another example of public-private partnerships where government and private funders collaborate for the betterment of the state. It is also the first accomplishment for a larger, emerging coalition of OGF members, Ohio Funders Coalition Supporting Health Care Reform Implementation. The coalition began to coalesce last summer, when two foundations asked OGF to help convene funders from across the state.
There were two main reasons for bringing people together. First, funders wanted to educate themselves about the new health care reform law, the state’s plans for implementation and how it might impact their work. Second, they wanted to explore how they might work together to help implement the law in Ohio. The creation of this coalition in itself is an unprecedented effort among these health funders, with support from OGF: stay tuned for more about its work.
The relationship between philanthropy and government has always been complicated. At times philanthropy is welcomed as a needed complement to governmental programs – an important “value add” to society. But there are also periods when the public is suspicious of philanthropy – seeing it as a way the wealthy use tax-free dollars to advance their private interests. While it’s likely that both attitudes are always present somewhere, one or the other is usually in the ascendancy. Today’s economic crisis, with its dramatic increase in social sector needs, has created a mutual desire to leverage limited resources, evidenced by the increasing number of public-private philanthropic partnerships.
OGF members, recognizing the opportunity to do more with less, are taking advantage of the government’s current willingness to work with philanthropy to address community needs. For example, in northeast Ohio the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is the lead partner in a multi-stakeholder application for a federal 2010 Promise Neighborhood grant to transform the “Central” neighborhood of their city. In northwest Ohio, the Toledo Community Foundation is working to bring federal dollars earmarked for cities impacted by the downturn of the auto industry to their region. And of course, OGF itself, through our education initiative, has been very involved in the state’s recently successful Race to the Top application, bringing $400 million additional education dollars to Ohio.
In the midst of today’s relatively cordial climate, cautionary voices are also being raised. Is it in the long term interests of either philanthropy or government to be so closely aligned? Is the business of philanthropy to help government do its work or should we be setting our own agendas? Do these partnerships inhibit government’s ability to exercise its regulatory responsibility? And are we endangering our independence if we are so closely associated with the priorities of one party or the other?
In the weeks and months to come, the balance may shift yet again as circumstances and policies change or as philanthropy weighs the risks and rewards of public-private-philanthropic partnerships. For now at least, both sides seem to be getting what they want out of working more closely together, and communities all across Ohio are the beneficiaries of this arrangement.
Now that Ohio’s second round application for Race to the Top funding has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education it’s not only time to celebrate but to consider what was different this time.
There are a number of factors outside the state’s control that may well have been at play. However, one element of the process employed this time was markedly different than what was followed earlier this year – the active engagement of “outside” groups. When Ohio submitted its first application, state leaders did not deliberately seek input from external stakeholders as they prepared the grant proposal. Understandably, ODE and other state leaders relied primarily on their own expertise, together with assistance from a few specially selected consultants/advisors, to craft what they hoped would be a winning proposal.
Upon learning that they did not receive funding in the first round, the state decided to open up the proposal development process to input from a wide variety of interested individuals and groups. OGF and KidsOhio were asked to help coordinate this public engagement process, and over the course of several weeks helped facilitate small and large group meetings where comments from federal reviewers were shared, new ideas were tested and suggestions were received and often included.
In addition, OGF and KidsOhio helped broker conversations across the political divide, helping ensure that priorities of other elected officials and staff were discussed. Then, in partnership with The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and KnowledgeWorks Foundation, arrangements were made by OGF for the state to access the services of a nationally recognized consultant for proposal review and development and the preparation of the presentation team.
This is not to suggest that this particular “public-private-philanthropic partnership” was largely responsible for the outcome of the state’s second-round RTTT grant proposal, or even that additional external input greatly improved the application. (It is however, worth noting that both Governor Strickland and State Superintendent of Instruction Delisle singled out OGF and KidsOhio for their assistance in the process.)
More to the point is a lesson about the role foundations can play in helping stakeholder groups seek and find consensus around issues of common concern. Congratulations Ohio on winning the race! And thanks to the many partners who participated in the successful process this time around!
George E. Espy
I just finished reading an interview with Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that caught my attention from his first sentence: “Foundation philanthropy is increasingly sector agnostic.”
Ralph’s use of the term ‘sector agnostic’ questions the traditional, exclusive partnership between foundations and nonprofits by suggesting that foundations can succeed only if they search for solutions to critical problems wherever they exist. This calls for foundations to invest in a much wider range of partners than they have previously, in the public, private and social sectors.
Now, I’ve heard Ralph Smith talk before so I knew that whatever he had to say would be thought-provoking and get me thinking ‘outside the box.’ I wasn’t disappointed in this interview, with his call for a broader and deeper array of partnerships to solve critical problems. Naturally, one of my first reactions was “What does this mean for nonprofits?” Turns out, I needn’t have worried about this – Ralph indeed recognizes three long-term responsibilities foundations have related to their nonprofit partners: develop a “disciplined social-capital market,” deal with compensation issues of nonprofit leaders (especially those related to retirement security) and strengthen the nonprofit sector’s infrastructure at local, state and national levels.
I’m looking forward to hearing Ralph speak on sector agnostic philanthropy at our annual conference. In the meantime, what do you think? Are you engaged in sector-agnostic partnerships? What have you learned from them?
Claudia Y.W. Herrold
vice president, communications & public policy