Evolving our listening practice
With an equity-focused mission, we are working to center those impacted by health inequities — and the organizations that serve them — throughout our strategic planning process. During the first half of the year, staff engaged with over 125 nonprofits and 200 community members from across Central Texas to better understand the needs and opportunities in our region and gather insights on how the Foundation’s resources can most effectively advance health equity in Central Texas. To learn with grantees and community members from across our five-county area we used two engagement formats:
- A series of Grantee Convenings to gather grant partners for early input related to the Foundation’s goal of advancing health equity through investment and action. We invited grantees to join us at one of three conversations connecting them to us, each other, and our new strategic vision and direction.
- A series of Community Conversations across our five-county geography to deepen our understanding of how our neighbors experience the data highlighted in Community Health Needs Assessment and ALICE. Across our five counties, over 85 people shared with us their community histories, aspirations, assets, and current issues. The structure of each conversation differed within each county, offering us the opportunity to more deeply learn about localized challenges and opportunities.
Our intent with these gatherings was to actively listen, recognizing the power of lived experience and the unique stories each community and organization holds. In that spirit, we committed to listening more than speaking, and we asked trusted friends to lead and co-create spaces and experiences to support our role as a listener and learner.
Through our community listening, we reconnected with grantees and celebrated being together to share our experiences and exchange viewpoints. We learned more personalized and nuanced perspectives into what we had learned from the broader Community Health Needs Assessment on the role the Foundation could play in addressing community health needs.
“I see this as a chance for us to better understand people’s aspirations for their community, the concerns they have and what they believe might make a difference in strengthening the community.”
Kate Sowell, Executive Director of Barnabas Connection in Wimberley, Texas in her invitation to co-host a community conversation with the Foundation
What We’ve Heard
Across the conversations, we heard that increased transparency is a key ingredient for trust. We heard about roles the Foundation can play beyond funding to remove barriers to better living today and change systems and conditions to improve outcomes for a healthier community tomorrow:
- The Foundation has a unique vantage point across organizations and sectors, giving the Foundation an opportunity to be a convener and co-creator for systems change in which organizations can connect with each other to explore holistic solutions.
- The Foundation has connections and influence among other funders and systems leaders to make systems more equitable as a thought leader.
- The Foundation can be a leader in practicing equity-focused philanthropy by shifting its own practices to center equity including reducing barriers to entry for grantees and greater openness to multiyear, general operating support for organizations.
- The Foundation can be a capacity builder for diverse nonprofit leaders and the nonprofit sector more broadly. The Foundation can also be a resource for developing a coordinated approach to assessing health needs and surfacing solutions from those most impacted by inequities rather than each organization taking it on individually.
Listening for Learning
We reflected on what we heard throughout the first half of the year and what it means for our work. Those conversations will help shape and inform the strategic planning process that will continue through the remainder of the year as we continue to evolve into a community-focused, equity-driven and place-based organization. What we heard will ground our thinking and what we experienced will help inform how each of us shifts our processes and practices to continue to include community voice. For example, we saw the power of co-creating conversations with community members in Bastrop where we partnered with Bastrop County Cares to host over 40 faith and community leaders at the historical Hopewell Rosenwald School (learn more here). The Foundation served as the catalyst for the conversation and supported a space in which community members were the experts and solutions were created through connection across individuals and organizations.
Building on what we have learned as we move forward, you will see us test new ways of engaging community to create a shared understanding of needs and opportunities. Grounded in the belief that those most impacted by health inequities are best positioned to help design solutions, our hope is that by serving as a connector and convener across the sector we can support communities in leading their own change.
We welcome feedback and questions related to how these convenings and conversations are informing our work as we move forward. Join the conversation by emailing email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.