How can we work together in new ways to improve life for our children?
We know our current healthcare, education and early learning systems aren’t meeting the needs of all our children and communities. We also know that health is more than healthcare, education is more than classroom instruction, and health and education are intertwined. Both are critical for a thriving and prosperous Oregon and Southwest Washington.
HOW WE CAME TOGETHER
This journey began back in 2014. Oregon was in the midst of transforming its healthcare, education and early learning systems. A small group of funders and leaders from these sectors saw an opportunity to align our efforts and work together in new ways to improve life for our region’s children—especially those children facing the greatest obstacles.
The initial group of funders and leaders expanded to include CareOregon, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation and Oregon Community Foundation (the Health & Education Fund Partners).
These organizations recognize the challenge: Although health and education are intertwined, Oregon’s healthcare, education and early learning systems are disconnected.
We must break from traditional ways of grantmaking and collaborate in new ways. Otherwise, we run the risk of making the same mistakes.
More than one in six Oregon children were chronically absent from school during the 2015-16 school year. Third-grade reading proficiency has gone down, from 70.1% of students in 2011-12 to 47.4% in 2015-16. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that data, Oregon ranks 48th out of 50 states for high school graduation rate.
It’s clear that we need to do something different. So, we developed agreements to challenge our assumptions and guide our work.
We developed a governing structure that prioritizes equity, policy and systems change, replicability and scalability, and demonstrated success. We seek to address the root causes of health and education disparities.
We also agreed to adopt an approach that is asset and strengths-based; student-focused and multigenerational; starts early and focuses on youth from prenatal to age eight; ensures that leadership matters; complements existing state and regional initiatives in early learning, education and healthcare; and creates a sense of community and place. Parents, families and communities must be involved in informing the goals of our fund.
These aspirations guide us as we move beyond our siloes to work together.
Our initial analysis of the healthcare, early learning and education landscape demonstrated the need to invest in assessing and supporting parent, child, family and community resilience across all our sectors.
Together, we seek to create change by supporting the following key outcomes:
Resiliency: Resiliency is commonly defined as the ability to “bounce back” in the wake of significant change and trauma. The Health & Education Fund is interested in supporting strategies that increase community and individual resiliency in overcoming adverse childhood experiences and reversing the effects of trauma.
Self-Efficacy/Self-Advocacy and Self-Determination: Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or to accomplish a task. Self-advocacy is defined as the ability to speak and act on behalf of one’s self. It is an important skill for students and families trying to navigate institutions. Self-determination is the process of taking control and making decisions that affect one’s own life.
Community Capacity/Community Voice: Community capacity is described as the empowerment of communities to come together, share responsibility for alleviating crises, improve services, and build healthy environments for families and children. Key dimensions of community capacity include the development of a shared focus, collaborative leadership, continuous learning and improvement, and a system-wide focus on results.
Receptiveness/Growth Mindset: With a growth mindset, people believe that their abilities are not innate or fixed. Instead, abilities can develop through dedication and hard work. People with growth mindsets gladly accept challenges, are eager to learn and never give up. This mindset forms at an early age and can affect our personal and professional relationships, our attitude towards failure, and, ultimately, our happiness.
To meet these outcomes, we will invest in:
Impact Partnerships: these funds support community-based organizations whose leadership reflects the diversity of our communities to create or strengthen efforts that have the potential to produce long-term positive change in early learning, education and healthcare.
Policy & Systems Change: Investment in this area is intended to improve healthcare, education and early learning policy and systems, whether in a school district, in a particular geographic region or statewide Oregon.
Innovation & Ready-to-go Efforts: Investments in this area are intended to reinforce innovative and effective practices and strategies that are ready to proceed and have the potential to, or are already demonstrating, success in ALL FOUR of the Fund’s key outcomes.
In 2018, we launched Impact Partnerships. Staff met with partners across the region to promote the opportunity. Ultimately, we funded 21 organizations. Fifteen received capacity-building grants and six received implementation grants for a total award amount of $1.2 million. These organizations are addressing barriers to health and education by building stronger relationships with parents and families, supporting parent and family organizing and leadership to change policy, and establishing partnerships with early learning, education and healthcare systems.
Organizations that are currently developing parent-led efforts and community leadership and need time to establish and build relationships with early learning, education and healthcare systems received capacity-building grants. Organizations that have identified a systems change goal and continue to develop existing efforts to support parent and community leadership to affect systems change received implementation grants.
In 2019, we awarded a $1 million Policy & Systems Change grant to the Oregon Child Care Project.