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Making a Significant Difference: Harvesting Outcomes and Results of Community Leadership Investments
The Leadership Learning Community, the Bush Foundation, Clearway Minnesota, and Consumer Health Foundation hosted 25 funders and evaluators with deep knowledge about, and passion for, making a significant positive difference for people and communities through leadership investments.
One of our goals was to harvest learning about significant outcomes and results from community leadership investments. We used a modified “Most Significant Change” process with everyone creating a large stickie with a headline about their outcome or result (and one or two notes underneath to explain). We worked as a group to cluster the stickies into five topic areas for deeper discussion and learning.
- New voices and resources
- Relationships and social capital
- Policy and systems change
- Scaling impact
- Getting results
Here is a brief summary of the topic areas, headlines and lessons learned.
New Voices and Resources
Empowering new leadership voices, and getting new people engaged in making the community a better place to live, work, and raise and educate children was a big theme. Some of the outcomes included empowering new leadership, building a leadership pipeline, bringing diverse voices to engage in respectful community conversations, forming peer networks, developing the courage to lead, and building capacity for greater collective influence.
Relationships and Social Capital
The importance of forming trusting relationships, especially relationships that bridge across organizations, sectors, cultures, generations, neighborhoods, and communities was a powerful outcome in itself. (The group that focused on relationships spoke often of results, but the focus of attention was on the relationships). Focusing on relationship-building creates space for leaders to come together, share the same room with people that are different from them in perspective and life experiences, discover common values, find shared concerns, and self-organize around what matters. Relationships and social capital are the foundation for solving problems, and achieving greater equity, fairness, and sustainability.
Policy and systems change
Community voice and demands are more present in public policy decision-making spaces in some communities. There are shifts in system delivery that are occurring towards greater fairness and equity through small events and changes in perspective, practice, and policy. Diverse cultural communities are working in collaboration to lobby and talk to policymakers on health issues that affect their community, like tobacco.
Thousands of people in hundreds of communities were engaged in a poverty reduction initiative in the North Central United States. The investment reversed the tide of population and per capita decline in rural communities.. This region has become the most resilient in the country by growing the capacity to collaborate and align existing resources for greater community benefit.
Harvesting the results of leadership investments that have made a population level difference in the community, generated more resources, and reduced disparities demonstrates the community benefit of leadership investments.
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation through their results-based leadership work in Baltimore have documented a 28% reduction in kids in foster care, an increase in the number of babies born healthy, and an increase in the number of children entering school ready to learn.
- Small rural communities the North Central region have generated millions in funds for poverty fighting projects.
- Communities are improving heart attack survival rates and well-being for post-partem women and babies.
- The American Indian community formed a community foundation to build AI leadership capacity through small grants.
What are you learning from your community leadership investments about engaging and empowering new voices, building social capital, achieving policy and systems changes, scaling impact, and getting results? Where have you seen community leadership investments make a big difference?