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Reflections, Wisdom, Critical Questions, and Resources Denver On-the-Ground May 5-6, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Reflections, Wisdom, Critical Questions, and Resources Denver On-the-Ground May 5-6, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Reflections, Wisdom, Critical Questions, and Resources Denver On-the-Ground May 5-6, 2011

2 Introduction The following is intended to you help you reflect on your experiences with Grassroots Grantmakers’ On-the-Ground in Denver. We hope it helps you recall programmatic tweaks or practices that you would like to bring to your back-home work, resources that you want to explore, insights that the experience prompted for you, and colleagues who promise to be important learning partners. Thank you for learning with us.

3 Emerging from the bottom to influence the top surfaced as a major theme in The Denver Foundation’s learning journey with Strengthening Neighborhoods. The grassroots grantmaking program of The Denver Foundation, Strengthening Neighborhoods, was leading the curve at The Denver Foundation both in the relational approach they used for their business and in evaluation. The experience with the program helped the Foundation make a cultural shift in the way they approach evaluation; a shift to a learning-centered and partnership approach. “Leaders who have been on our Strengthening Neighborhoods committee have been transformed. The way they look at the world has changed forever.” – Rebecca Arno, VP of Communications

4 Many elements of Strengthening Neighborhoods’ grant processes have been adopted for use with other Foundation programs. Strengthening Neighborhoods evaluation processes have been adopted for use by other programs at The Denver Foundation. People who have served on the Strengthening Neighborhoods’ Committee have assumed other board and staff leadership positions at the Foundation and brought their Strengthening Neighborhoods experience with them.

5 Foundation donors who have been exposed to Strengthening Neighborhoods grantees have gone on to make larger grants from their individual funds to Strengthening Neighborhoods groups. Listening campaigns and community conversations now anchor planning at The Denver Foundation. The Foundation’s Theory of Change and Values have become aligned with those of Strengthening Neighborhoods. Foundation leaders (board and staff) have been transformed through their association with Strengthening Neighborhoods. Storytelling around Strengthening Neighborhoods helps the Foundation tell its story. “How you do your work becomes your product.” – Tom Dewar, Co-Director, Aspen Roundtable on Community Change

6 The importance of community organizing and community partnerships emerged as a theme. “Create relationships that will help you in the end.” – Gabriela Jacobo, Youth Organizer “It takes a lot of partners at the table, not just for ownership, but for success long-term.” – Aaron Miripol, Executive Director, Urban Land Conservancy “Start where people are.” – Gabriela Jacobo, Youth Organizer

7 “If you get, you give…What is it, that if you could do anything, you would do?” – Ruben Medina, Executive Director Moorhead Recreation Center

8 “It is a program of attraction, not promotion.” – Mike Green, ABCD Institute (about the Moorhead Recreation Center)

9 “I don’t get caught up in if the project was a success, but in what were the changes that happened to the individual and then how they can affect their community.” – LaDawn Sullivan, Assistant Program Officer, Strengthening Neighborhoods

10 Digging Deeper into Hot Topics

11 What does success or victory look like for funders who begin with residents? When you are using a definition of success that residents and funders have developed together and what you are measuring is tied to that definition. When you can see a redistribution of power, such as when residents are at the planning and decision making tables. When the funder brings more flexibility into their processes and policies in ways that create space for resident engagement and are in concert with the needs of resident-led groups. How do you make the case for funding community organizing with traditional funders? How do we build the capacity for our funding organization to fund and/or partner with community organizing groups? Communicate that community organizing is about leadership development and priming the pump so citizens are ready to engage. Do your homework and know your audience when discussing community organizing; remember that it can be a loaded topic that needs explanation.

12 What does sustainability look like in the grassroots grantmaking world? Sustainability is ultimately about what the community can do for itself without outside help. Sustainable solutions create a balance between resources you can realistically give and what residents can contribute, with care to never underestimate what residents can do if they are engaged. How can we work to involve donors directly with residents and resident-led grants? Use the power of stories and photographs to make the work real. Have open conversations about successes, failures, and challenges. Use tools such as annual donor/resident dinners, neighborhood tours, and personal mapping. How can we use the NeighborWorks’ Success Measures product to advance the work of evaluating grassroots grantmaking? Consultants work with groups to “ramp up” efforts around participatory evaluation. Tools include surveys, focus groups, one-on-ones, observational tools, resident accessible database.

13 Digging into Hometown Dilemmas

14 Getting internal buy-in from board and staff for grassroots grantmaking Target one champion on the board to pave the way ; work in partnership with that person. It is important to go beyond tours, to develop an understanding for the whole of what grassroots grantmaking means. Evaluating the impact of coaching and technical assistance Build the storytelling strategy that shares both sides of the coaching relationship. Capture examples of “good fit” between grantees and coaches. Look at the long term impact of coaching. Expand the coaching network, allowing grantees to bring in coaches. Building relationships across neighborhoods Make careful use of the funding organization’s clout to engage institutions. Use community organizing techniques to uncover self-interests and common ground. Build a resident base first and then partnerships with churches and other community institutions.

15 Changing the relationship between non-profits and citizens and improving the citizen voice Ask about past successes and help citizens learn to put these into a story telling narrative. Have residents of one community teach residents of other communities. Work to help people explore and deepen their understanding of “what is our role as a citizen?” Tracking the result of grants beyond the grant period Convene leader learning gatherings that include dinner to incent participation. Prompt the leaders to tell stories about their organization. Conduct a social network analysis of the grantee organizations to uncover the connections made possible through the grants. Use the foundation’s resident panelists to tell the story of the grants without creating a huge burden on the panelist; consider a stipend for this activity.

16 Critical Questions Posed How can grassroots grantmaking help my foundation tell our story? How can grassroots grantmaking transform the way my foundation listens to the community and consequently change the way my foundation operates? How do we begin to adjust our foundation’s priorities so that we work a more resident- centered way? How can the foundation influence other local institutions to operate in a more resident- centered way?

17 Participant Take Aways

18 I am bound and determined to find a way to stop counting. The connections formed within this network are amazing. I’m reminded that it’s important to be careful about using words like poor people, poor children and to remember that language can diminish how people feel about themselves. The end of the session conversations (Hot Topics and Dilemmas) were amazing. I didn’t want to stop talking.

19 The dinner topics sprouted ideas and reinforced current good work. I can’t put a price on this experience. I was looking for a big magical formula to plug into my work. It was important to hear that it is all about relationship building. We need to keep it up.

20 Strengthening Neighborhoods Take Aways “To prepare to have that honest conversation among a group of peers is intense; it causes you to examine your assumptions. It is a learning process. It is a hard earned gift, but a gift nonetheless.” – Patrick Horvath, Director, Strengthening Neighborhoods

21 “It is inspiring to be among a body of believers.” – LaDawn Sullivan Preparing to host the On the Ground provided the opportunity to revisit assumptions and review program strategies. Local partnerships were strengthened and new partnership possibilities opened up as Strengthening Neighborhoods (SN) asked partners to join the On the Ground team and share their work. The experience of hosting an On the Ground felt different than a funder’s site visit – more like a 360 o learning experience with people who already have the basics than a show and tell. Balancing the giving and receiving portions of the information exchange was challenging – presenting enough for people to understand SN’s work and learning journey, and listening deeply enough to take advantage of all the wisdom in the room. Insights from the On the Ground learning experience were immediately useful in a planning process that went into high gear shortly after the conclusion of the event.

22 Resources (mentioned by presenters or participants)

23 Sustainable Action: Planting the Seeds of Relational Organizing – How to work with congregations using relational organizing Communities for Public Education Reform - National initiative that uses community organizing to catalyze reform technical-assistance Community At Work - Resources and training for leaders around participatory practices Ideas to Action Resource Book by Reimagining Cleveland – A resource guide for community members reusing urban land

24 Appreciative Inquiry - The art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential A Practical Guide to Documenting Influence and Leverage In Making Connections Communities Offers practical guidance to capturing and documenting influence and leverage as seen in Annie E. Casey’s Making Connections communities World Café – A group facilitation method that creates an inviting environment to answer questions in a rotating group format

25 Walking School Bus – A process to engage parents to help safely walk groups of students to school Theory U - How groups and organizations can develop seven leadership capacities in order to create a future that would not otherwise be possible

26 Continue the Learning On the Ground – Atlanta September 28-30, 2011 Registration will open shortly @ Learning Circles Email Janis ( to inquire about current or to explore launching a new learning circle Grassroots Grantmakers’ Webinars Check to see what’s on the Document Bank & Resource Area Tap in & contribute at

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