Since 2017, we have 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 centering community in all we do.
The COVID pandemic has deeply impacted our region’s communities, some among the hardest hit in Illinois. We understand that communities will not recover at the same rate nor in the same ways—the pandemic’s long-term health and economic implications depend on what we all do today.
As we learn about the impact of our grantmaking strategies, we will continue to evolve our approach to support our partners and region’s communities in nimble and responsive ways that leverage community assets and partnerships toward a more equitable and just recovery.
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.
Given the complexities and intersectionality of issues our communities experience, we think of ourselves as “weavers” that bring together multiple strands of our grantmaking to help strengthen the health ecosystems that exist in our service region. Our grantmaking strategies, when woven together, inform each other and our broad vision to improve the health and well-being of residents in our service region.
We seek grantee partners that successfully utilize all of the organizational strategies below:
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 issues and solutions. Our most aligned partners demonstrate how they actively center communities’ wisdom, expertise, and experience in the advising, planning, execution and evaluation of their programmatic work to build power and 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 seek partners with a strong understanding of how existing systems function to create and maintain current inequities. We recognize that systems change takes time and that no single organization or strategy can erase the impact of long-standing structural inequities. Our most aligned partners articulate how their work fits within broader efforts to address structural issues.
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 investing and 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 the ability to improve community health by addressing structural and social determinants of health in racially equitable ways.
for health policies & systems change
Partners should demonstrate the ability to meaningfully center and cultivate the leadership, expertise, and solutions of communities and individuals most impacted by the inequities they seek to address. Organizations must demonstrate deep and active partnerships in our service region.
local health knowledge
Partners should demonstrate 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.
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.
A significant part of how we show up in community is through the words and language in our communications and interactions with partners. Since 2017, we have curated and developed a list of terms we frequently use when talking about our grantmaking approach, strategies, and stewardship.