Today, I am thankful for the model and extensive documentation of the England based Edge Fund. At the end of this post is a link to a post from this funding body titled, “How We Make Decisions” which is what motivated me to write this morning.
The Edge Fund is an organization whose work I am very interested in for work I do at The Heinz Endowments, where I am a Senior Program Officer for the Arts & Culture Program. Part of my work is focused on increasing arts experiences for youth in African American/distressed neighborhoods in a program called the Transformative Arts Process. I’ve passed along The Edge Fund to the program’s Advisory Board as an example of the way it could make decisions on recommendations to the Endowments about how it should spend $ on a field building process we are now focused on. A process I have not documented on our website, another learning from The Edge Fund which has done a meticulous job documenting its process. Another fundamental difference is that the Edge Fund’s member decision-making process is the final decision-making process on the dollars where our process is an advisory one. For the purposes of Hillombo, I am wondering how this example might apply to the Hill District. Specifically, the Hill District Growth Fund and the Fund that will support development in the Hill District that was part of the deal between the Penguins, the City, County and The Hill District Development Corporation. For of my comments on my work as a Program Officer, check out my blog “Philanthropic Windows” .
The link at the end of this post was written by folks at The Edge Fund and describes how it makes its funding decisions. It gets me jazzed to think about how communities like the Hill could even model for Philanthropy how it could better involve those most impacted by the problems that it says it wants to solve and in doing so be more effective. In the case of The Edge Fund, this goes beyond “involvement in decision making” to actually “authority in decision making”, a fundamental difference between the work I do at Heinz and how The Edge Fund functions. To date, my sense is that the Growth Fund has operated with very little understanding in this neighborhood as to how it works or how it can help people who live here, falling into a trap of so much of philanthropy. This is trap is why you see efforts like Glass Pockets, the Center for Effective Philanthropy and The Fund for Shared Insight. Efforts not above scrutiny either, but interested in helping/encouraging Foundations to be more open in their processes.
My experience in the Hill is while we have some ideas on power our understanding of how to build power is constrained by our belief in power in particular individuals and positions rather than broader efforts that help us build power as a neighborhood. This diminished power then shows up in what we are able to secure in battles like the one we most recently had for the Lower Hill District where we did not make our goals on the amount of affordable housing we wanted or in the earlier battle with the Penguins over the Community Benefits Agreement where the Penguins were able to get off with relatively small investments. For my ongoing commentary about how leadership in our neighborhood often actively resists engaging its residents to its own detriment, see previous posts on transparency, The Preliminary Land Development Plan Process and my first post on the The Hill District Growth Fund. I wasn’t blogging at the time of the One Hill battle, but while it had a larger community base/democratic process than the previously mentioned efforts, the involvement of community members was lessened towards the end of that process and it served to weaken us there as well.
The challenge of course with engaging more folks in the decision-making process is that it is extremely time-consuming and if it is not properly staffed, the process can get weighed down by the lack of capacity and speed can grind to a halt. This is the challenge I am facing now with my work as a steering committee member of the the Hill District Consensus Group’s (HDCG) Arts Plan process (HDCG receives funding from The Heinz Endowments and my wife, Dr. Bonnie Young Laing is a co-director there), so….there’s that as well. I really want to learn more about the Edge Fund’s work as their structure seems to take these capacity issues into account and strike a good balance. To see for yourself, check out the link below “How We Make Decisions”.