Cultivating Promising Ideas To Improve Community Health

Health foundations are increasingly recognizing that their mission is not simply to award grants to deserving nonprofit organizations, but rather to play a catalytic role in improving the conditions that influence health, especially at a population level. They no longer rely on grant making as their sole strategy, but are now using capacity building, awareness raising, policy advocacy, convening, and research to move agencies, institutions, and communities toward more effective programs and more health-promoting policies.

As foundations have moved to more proactive strategies, many are taking the lead in convening interagency coalitions and supporting these groups in developing collective strategies to address complex community issues like homelessness and opioid misuse. A handful of innovative foundations launched collaborative initiatives in the 1990s. The approach gained more momentum with the publication of John Kania and Mark Kramer’s “Collective Impact” article in 2011. Foundations across the country have been inspired by their proposition that “large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”

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