It is about how and why we deeply invest in our communities’ well-being in the ways we do.
Since 2017, Healthy Communities Foundation has had a clear sense of purpose—to be good stewards of community resources towards advancing health equity for our region’s residents across 27 zip codes in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs of Cook County. We invest in the collective vision of what healthy communities in our region can and should be, and we believe in the power of community-centered grantmaking to lead the way.
When we embarked on our journey towards health equity as a foundation, we recognized the diverse health inequities and outcomes that communities in our region have faced for decades and the systems that have prevented them from having a complete sense of health and well-being.
If our region is to thrive, we need to reimagine our systems and policies and how we have community lead the way with solutions to address the root causes of inequities faced each day.
We strive to move beyond traditional programmatic restrictions in our grantmaking and place trust in organizations to use resources towards health equity in ways that meet the needs of their staff, programs, and the communities they serve.
We practice trust-based philanthropy, a framework that centers transformative grantmaking through how we engage, learn from, and collaborate with community. This approach also influences how we steward our Foundation’s resources.
The following four building blocks have supported and guided our health equity journey and grantmaking approach:
Our Foundation has evolved to be more responsive to community needs, given significant demographic and economic shifts and growing health inequities in our service region. The rapid changes fueled a renewed vision of health equity for our service area coupled with a community-centered approach to our grantmaking, operations, and culture.
In 2017, our strategic planning process brought our staff and board together on a learning journey that delved deep into detailed, hyperlocal health data. This data revealed a clear correlation between racial inequities and health outcomes experienced for decades and reinforced our mission, vision, and core values. Read our Strategic Plan here.
As a community-informed and engaged foundation, we strongly believe in developing and nurturing community and funder partnerships as part of our trust-based philanthropic approach. We listen to and amplify community stories around meeting tables and collaboratives with partners and peer funders to maximize our impact in the region.
We understand the value that lived experience brings to our work. Therefore, we intentionally recruit staff and board members who live in, have worked with, or have some type of connection with our service region. This philosophy is critical to ensuring our work is strategic and engages community to participate and change systems that impact their health.
We seek grantee partners that successfully utilize all of the organizational strategies below, regardless of which funding type they apply for:
We recognize that health equity issues are complex. Therefore, we look for partners that approach their work with the understanding of how individuals and communities with intersecting identities across race, class, gender, age, and/or ability may experience the compounding impact of structural inequities in various ways.
We recognize that community leadership and expertise are necessary to address health and racial inequities, as they are closest to the inequities they aim to address. We seek partnerships with organizations that have existing or emerging pathways where community constituents actively influence decision-making, strategies, and/or policies.
We seek partners who use data and internal systems to foster learning and encourage accountability in pursuit of racially equitable outcomes and continuous quality improvement. Partners must also demonstrate that their policies and practices reflect organizational and fiscal health.
We recognize that systems change takes time, and no single organization or strategy can entirely erase the impact of existing inequities. Yet, we seek partners with a strong understanding of how existing systems create and maintain those inequities with the ability to articulate how their work contributes to broader efforts in our local health ecosystem.
Our grantmaking priorities interconnect and influence each other as part of our overall mission to advance health equity in our region. Our grantee partners’ work continuously adapts to meet community needs, so we recognize that their efforts can be relevant to more than one of our priorities over time. Therefore, we consider the grantmaking priority that best aligns with their current efforts in our funding decisions.
to quality health services
Partners should demonstrate how they are innovating to remove physical, financial, and/or cultural barriers to care while highlighting and engaging on upstream solutions.
social determinants of health
Partners should demonstrate how they focus on creating more equitable, inclusive, and just communities while meaningfully improving community health by addressing social determinants of health.
for health-related policies & systems change
Partners should share how they center and cultivate the leadership, expertise, and solutions of communities and individuals most impacted by the inequities they seek to address. They must have a track record of cultivating deep, meaningful relationships in community.
knowledge through capacity building
Partners should share how they have developed intentional partnerships to ensure that public health data can live and belong in communities and how those relationships have led to community-led inquiry, improved data collection, and outcomes reporting.
All residents of our service region, particularly those who live with the greatest health inequities, should have access to resources and opportunities that improve their well-being and create a sustainable quality of life.
Systemic conditions, such as implicit bias and institutional and structural racism, impede those goals and disproportionately affect BILPOC (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color) communities. We commit to addressing these barriers by being a community-informed and embedded foundation.
We strive to be responsive to changing needs and circumstances in our region, and our grantmaking ensures that we address health inequities from a healing-informed and intersectional lens of racial and ethnic equity. We also believe that a mix of grantmaking and capacity building strategies that center community context creates a more functioning ecosystem in our region.