Lead agencies sometimes have blind spots related to investing in the capacity of others. In cases where an agency receives a significant or multi-year grant to lead a healthy community initiative in a low-income community, the agency’s use of funds can signal to the community and potential partners who and what it values. It can also determine who is able to participate and at what level. Nonprofits and government agencies alike struggle with funding and have strong incentives to keep the money they raised. But they sometimes lose objectivity about where capacity may be needed most within a broader partnership and how others view them. There is often a large difference in basic, day-to-day security, resources, time and quality-of-life between white-collar, institutional partners with secure jobs and community partners struggling to keep fragile enterprises going or who are challenged by low-paid work and fewer choices to support their families. Leaders who can acknowledge and help bridge this gap by investing resources where greater engagement and capacity are truly needed increase the likelihood that their partnerships will thrive.
Money and in-kind support are important and flexible engagement tools for equity. An important part of putting equity in practice is providing people with the support they need in order to have an equal opportunity to contribute and benefit. When money is available, a partnership can increase and improve partner engagement and build overall capacity dramatically through distribution of resources. This may include providing mini grants to small organizations, contracts for important products and services, stipends to support the time of valued residents who are volunteering outside their jobs, food at meetings, and assistance with transportation, childcare and other routine expenses for those who need it.
Learning and leadership opportunities are valuable capacity investments to distribute. Leaders of partnerships sometimes get the opportunity to participate in learning networks, make presentations, attend conferences, join advisory committees, pitch to a new funder or assist other communities. These are important opportunities to develop and distribute leadership, deepen relationships, build knowledge and skills, and expand professional networks. Leaders who look beyond paid staff and offer these opportunities to key partners and residents are planting seeds for the future. They are often rewarded, sometimes immediately, with a stronger, more productive and sustainable partnership.
For Community Examples click here