Supported collaboration among 4 statewide grantees
Policy research and advocacy was a part of the Memorial Fund strategy since it opened its doors in 1993. In 2000 and 2001, Memorial Fund staff worked closely with the statewide and regional grantees to support their work, provide advice, foster relationships among them and with other funders and organizations, and to develop individual and joint strategies for moving their work forward. The Memorial Fund also provided additional funding for evaluation, technology upgrades, staff training and networking opportunities.
At the end of 2006, the Memorial Fund began to focus on four statewide advocacy organizations -- Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance (the Alliance), Connecticut Parent Power (Parent Power), and Connecticut Voices for Children (Voices) – and how to increase the capacity of those organizations to do their work more effectively.
Funds and Technical Assistance for Collaboration
By 2007, the statewide advocacy organizations had made strides in communicating with each other and had developed a better sense of how their work connected. However, they were still struggling to coordinate their message to policymakers and mobilize as a group. Wanting to take advantage of the favorable policy climate for early childhood issues, the Memorial Fund increased its investment in capacity development with these four statewide grantees. Each was offered individualized technical assistance and additional funding for 2008 and 2009 to work on both individual capacity building and cross-organization collaboration.
The organizations responded with a set of coordinated strategies that would guide their work over a two year period. In addition to the annual grants to each organization, the Memorial Fund provided almost $462,000 over two years to the four to undertake five joint projects. These projects were primarily focused on engaging providers and parents in the state-level work and linking state initiatives more closely with the Discovery communities.
Through this experience, the Memorial Fund learned that statewide organizations, like community organizations, need support for collaboration. It was not enough to share its vision for the work, the Memorial Fund also needed to provide additional resources and technical assistance to help the organizations find their common voice. Creating a common agenda and strategies takes intentionality and resources.
The Memorial Fund also learned that the ability of an organization to join or form strategic alliances with other organizations and align advocacy efforts is a capacity that must be developed. And, as with communities, collaboration among organizations depends on establishing trust and confidence in the partners. This can only happen over time and in incremental steps.