As our country transitions to a new presidential Administration, Funders Together to End Homelessness is committed to providing you with resources around the upcoming change. Our Policy Priorities for the Next Administration and our blog will be updated to keep you informed about FTEH’s work during this transition. In addition to resources, we aim to convene members to best understand how we can support philanthropy during this process and explore how we move forward as a collective group and movement.
A couple of weeks ago, several members of Funders Together to End Homelessness were invited to participate in a day-long meeting to talk about best practices for engaging in public (federal government)-private partnerships. The White House Office of Social Innovation co-hosted the event with HHS’s Administration for Children and Families with the hope that they could capture current practices and ideas for improvements so that they could share this with the incoming Administration. Specifically, we discussed:
- Examples of promising public/private partnerships
- What are the essential characteristics of effective public-philanthropic partnerships?
- What are common barriers to effective collaboration?
- What are promising practical partnership strategies for the future?
There were about 50 people in attendance – half of whom were from the philanthropic sector and the other half representing federal government partners. In addition to Funders Together CEO, Amanda Andere, several members of FTEH attended including David Wertheimer from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Aimee Hendrigan from Melville Charitable Trust, and myself representing the Raikes Foundation. Below are key highlights from the meeting and some key take-aways.
Key Highlights from the Meeting
We talked about many ways that philanthropic organizations could uniquely work with key federal partners. Specifically, we talked about how philanthropic organizations could:
- Take more risks and invest in new, innovative ideas that are not yet “proven”, such as risk capital.
- Act faster and invest in ideas much more quickly than what government can do at times.
- Co-convene and learn together.
- Support evaluation and data capacity – both internally within government and in the field. One concrete example of this is a foundation supporting a community of practice among federal agencies on data and evaluation. Another example offered were some grant makers in health who specifically funded evaluation projects to help answer questions that federal partners felt like were lacking in evidence.
- Invest in “backbone” efforts that help to coalesce the field and to get diverse stakeholders to speak with unified/aligned voice such as philanthropic investments in A Way Home America as an example of this.
- Co-invest in “discovery”. A great example of this is the Rapid Results Institute and philanthropic/HHS investments in the 100-Day Challenges to end youth and young adult homelessness.
On the question of what are essential characteristics of effective public-philanthropic partnerships, the group generated lots of ideas including:
- Importance of trust/relationship building.
- Understanding each other’s goals and ultimate aims but also how each sector works. What is the enabling environment for each sector? How do we more effectively educate each other about what we can do and what we can’t do?
- Understanding each other’s unique roles. Philanthropy has a role to play, but government can also play an important and unique role. Specifically, they can remove barriers and disseminate and scale what is working.
- Co-creation of ideas and not approaching each other once we have determined our own strategies.
We talked about how important it is to share what works and also to share examples of “failures” and to learn what didn’t work.
I was reminded again of how important it is to build, and continue to re-build, relationships with key federal partners. As we think about 2017 and the new incoming Administration, I’m looking forward to working with FTEH staff and members to identify how we can continue to partner with key federal partners as we work together to prevent and end homelessness in our country.
Katie supports the Raikes Foundation’s national work on early adolescent development and leads the foundation’s efforts around youth and young adult homelessness. Previously, Katie worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she oversaw its initiative to reduce family homelessness and the foundation’s advocacy grantmaking, including education efforts in Washington state. Katie has also served as the Director for the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing and spent time as Executive Policy Adviser to Governor Gary Locke and as a White House Fellow for both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Find her at @KatieHSeattle.