Presents findings from an assessment of a joint philanthropic effort in Northeast Ohio designed to address poverty and unemployment in the area.
“A set of philanthropic institutions from across Northeast Ohio launched the Fund for Our Economic Future (the “Fund”) in 2004 to promote a regional approach for increasing economic prosperity and opportunity” (p.5). Over the years, “the fund’s investments and strategic guidance … have spurred the development of the region’s innovation ecosystem and advanced new industries” (p.6). For example, “in 2011, Northeast Ohio ranked second in the country in job growth and its unemployment rate of 7.4 percent outperformed the national average of 8.5 percent. By the end of 2012, the Fund’s efforts had contributed to more than 12,000 new jobs, nearly $400 million in new payroll generated through new businesses, and almost $2.2 billion in new capital to sustain existing businesses and grow new economic activity” (p.6). The resource is based on lessons learned from this collaboration and distilled for leaders of the government, nonprofit, and business worlds. It highlights some of the challenges faced by the collaboration efforts, as well as providing details about six lessons learned. Each lesson includes a section of “key takeaways” and illustrative examples from Ohio. (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The Fund’s experience produced several lessons about fostering effective collaboration that apply to business, nonprofit and government leaders partnering in any region to address systemic issues. The report provides details in each of these areas: • Advance research to forge consensus about priorities and approaches. Indentifying which issues to address and how best to address them can be difficult without compelling data. Research and analysis galvanize support for priorities and help stakeholders gauge success. • Incentivize collaboration through the promise of outside funding. Encouraging multiple institutions to work together on developing proposals for federal and state grants helps form new relationships and shared strategies. Partners frequently deepen and sustain relationships after coming together through their initial mutual interest in applying for grant funding. • Build a public mandate for change. An important part of creating momentum and political will in the region for economic reforms is informing citizens about challenges and enlisting their support for new approaches. Philanthropy can play a critical role providing offline and online forums for citizen engagement around critical interactions. • Attract private sector partners to execute, not just inform, the strategy. Those with influence over a region’s economic competitiveness need to be committed to a common approach. Philanthropy must engage with businesses in the region to align their actions and pledge resources over the long term toward achieving a shared vision. • Capitalize and shape the work of regional intermediaries. A way to quickly gain traction can be funding existing intermediary organizations, which have buy-in from regional stakeholders. Philanthropy can play an important role in shaping the ongoing strategies of economic intermediaries to ensure they address social issues, not simply economic growth. • Staff the collaboration with core strategic competencies. Involve funders in performing key elements of the work related to setting strategy and grant making, while supporting full-time professional staff who can promote thought leadership, convening, and research and analysis.” (p.7). (Abstractor: Author)