09 | Philanthropic Collective Action to Address Homelessness

09 | Philanthropic Collective Action to Address Homelessness

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2020, there were over half a million people experiencing homelessness on our streets and in shelters in America.  Seventy percent were individuals, and the remaining 30 percent were families with children.  They lived in every state and territory, and they include people from every gender, racial and ethnic group. 

However, some groups are far more likely than others to become homeless.  In the same year, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress revealed that African Americans are overrepresented in the population of people experiencing homelessness compared to their share of the overall US population. 


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A recent report by the Chicago Coalition for the homeless found at least 65,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Chicago in 2020, including those who temporarily stayed with others in addition to people living in shelters and on the street. Additionally, similar to national data, although African American Chicagoans make up roughly 30 percent of the city’s population, they represent 70 percent of the City’s homeless.  For housing advocates and activists, ending homelessness is connected to the moral imperative to end racial inequities within our society’s systems, policies, and social practices. 


Today, we’ll be talking with Emily Krisciunas (Chris-shoe-nas), Director of Chicago Funders Together to End Homelessness.  Incubated at Michael Reese (a public foundation) since 2020, CFTEH seeks to foster a person-centered, ecosystem approach to ending homelessness that reaches across systems and sectors. 

CFTEH is one of several local networks of Funders Together to End Homelessness – a national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness.  CFTEH has more than 30 members and is comprised of a shared table of family foundations, community foundations, corporate philanthropies, and the local United  

Way. The collaborative is guided by a steering committee of four funders and two full-time staff. Collectively, CFTEH members have directed more than $50 million over the last two years towards efforts to prevent and end homelessness in Chicago, supporting more than 200 organizations across the region since 2020. In 2022, CFTEH launched its first pooled fund effort—the Housing Justice Fund—which makes grants to support advocacy, community organizing, and narrative change efforts. 

In our conversation, we’ll learn about how the local philanthropic sector came together to co-create a strategy to end homelessness in Chicago with providers, advocates, government, community partners, and residents with lived experience. 

Welcome Emily! 


1. I’d like to start by having you share with us the origin story of CFTEH.   

Thanks for having me.  Nice to be with you.  I think that CFTEH began as a more informal network of, maybe, 10 or 12 local foundations.  So much of this groundwork was laid long before I came onboard in 2020. And I think that this group grew out of this observation that philanthropy has a ton of resources, and a ton of power to help end homelessness, but that those resources aren’t always well coordinated or optimized.  Both within philanthropy and with partners in the public sector. 

And around the same time, we had colleagues who were connected to the organization that you mentioned in the introduction, Funders Together to End Homelessness at the national level, and were starting to see these local collaboratives pop up in other communities.  There was one really notable one in Los Angeles called Home for Good that I think was particularly influential.  And so this group of funders started to be interested in replicating that collaborative model here in Chicago.  And in order to do that, this group realized that they would need a home, sort of a backbone – administratively and operationally for that work, and we were so lucky that Michael Reese Health Trust was beginning the process to becoming a public charity, which gave them some new resources at their disposal.  They could incubate new initiatives; they could advocate in a different way. So, in 2019, before I came onboard, they raised their hand within the group and volunteered to be the home for CFTEH, which enabled the group to hire their first dedicated staff person, which became me. 


2. In 2022, CFTEH created its first strategic plan.  I understand you conducted a series of listening sessions with community and stakeholders to begin the process.  What were the key takeaways from those sessions? 

It’s a great question and felt like an important phase in CFTEH’s work.  There were two big pushes around listening.  The first one came when I started in the role.  As a precursor to strategic planning, I met one-on-one with all of the funders who were participating in the collaborative, and I wanted to get a sense of how they thoughts about addressing homelessness, and what their own grantmaking priorities were, and what their motivations were to be in the group.  I remember this thing that Marianne Philbin, who is a colleague at Pierce Family Foundation kept saying, which was, “CFTEH should be doing things that it can uniquely do as a group that individual foundations can’t do on their own”.   

 And that felt like a recurring theme in all of the conversations that I had with funders.  But what I think wasn’t clear from the beginning was what exactly that “what” be?  What was the unique contribution that CFTEH would have that individual foundations could not do on their own, but that became a guiding set of questions that informed the second round of listening that we did in 2022, which as you said, was focused not within our philanthropic community, but instead on all of our external partners.   

So, you’re exactly right.  We did, with your help, interviews and focus groups with at least 50 community stakeholders, and these are people with lived expertise of homelessness, advocates, colleagues in government, policy makers, service providers, and I think there were a bunch of important takeaways from that experience.  They really centered around the role that philanthropy has to play in naming and addressing the role that racism has in homelessness, and drawing that connection a little more clearly.  They wanted philanthropy’s help in promoting this more expansive definition of homelessness, not the often narrow federal government definition of homelessness that is just a person maybe, staying on the street, or in a shelter or on the train, but instead this much more expansive experience of people who are maybe couch surfing, or living doubled-up or under the threat of violence in their home.   

They were really interested in seeing CFTEH think about its power and how it wields it and how it shifts it to communities who are impacted by homelessness.  Partners also had some really helpful critiques, frankly, about the way philanthropy often does grantmaking.  About how arduous and burdensome that process can be.  How inflexible it can be.  That was really something that we saw reinforced in our own grantmaking data that CFTEH reflected on in its strategic planning process where we saw a lot of grants being made just a single year at a time, often restricted.  So, we got a lot of feedback from community stakeholders about the role that CFTEH could play in maybe helping model grantmaking in a different way, and nudging and supporting our foundation members in making their grantmaking processes around ending homelessness as flexible and accessible as possible. 


3. I understand that from those listening sessions Emerged a set of “guiding principles”.  Can you share those principles with us that will guide the work of CFTEH for the next three years? 

We landed on four of them, and looking back I can see the way that each of them feels really anchored to the community feedback that I just highlighted for you.  So, the guiding principles in the CFTEH plan are: 

  • To lead with and center racial equity in housing justice in all of the work that we do. 
  • The second one is on Targeted Universalism.  An acknowledgement that homelessness is so disproportionately experienced by communities of color, and particularly Black and African American communities, and so approaches to ending homelessness ideally will benefit all people experiencing homelessness but should really be targeted to the groups and communities who are experiencing it the most, disproportionately.  
  • The third one is around centering people with lived expertise in homelessness and housing instability in all of the decision-making that we do. And we’re exploring all day, every day, different ways to do that in the work of CFTEH.  
  • And then the fourth one is around this idea that, fostering a person-centered, ecosystem approach to ending homelessness, as you mentioned in the intro. This idea that homelessness is this idea that is really simple, in that the solution is housing, but that it is [also] really complex, in that all of these different systems, frankly, are failing people who come to experience homelessness and are often interacting with the justice system, or the employment system or education system, but at the end of the day it is still a person a neighbor who is experiencing homelessness and that we have to keep the person at the center, even though we’re talking about lots of complex systems that are contributing to that persons, perhaps, lack of access to housing.  


4.  What can you share about CFTEH’s strategic plan, including goals and objectives? 

Our north star in the strategic plan is for CFTEH, this community of funders, to contribute to a significant reduction in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Chicago region.  With that focus, in particular on Black communities who are experiencing homelessness most disproportionately.   

In the theory of change that CFTEH has developed for its strategic plan, it suggests that if CFTEH leans into these four big functions that we identified for ourselves as an educator, as an advocate, as a model (as I said earlier for our members) and as a convener, we can help advance these three big categories of change.   

One related to more equitable housing policy, another around shifting power to communities most impacted by homelessness, and the third one is around bringing greater alignment into these often disconnected and disjointed sectors and systems.  To your point you just made, that are often contributing to a person’s experience of homelessness.   

And I love that CFTEH, in its pursuit of these goals laid out in the strategic plan gets to be this sort of lab for new ideas.  We really can be this model for new ways of working.  We learn a lot from other communities that are experimenting in the way that we are, from other funder networks, and communities like New York, LA and Baltimore and the Bay area that are often piloting really different public/private partnerships that we aspire to replicate here in Chicago.  So, even though we have a strategic plan, we’re trying to make it vibrant and useful as is possible in the work that we’re doing every day. 

Tell us more about the Housing Justice “Pooled” Fund and how it ties into the strategic plan. 

Yeah, I’m so excited!  So excited about this effort.  What’s interesting is that we don’t  necessarily set out in the early days of the strategic planning process to have a pooled fund.  It wasn’t really part of the early conversations about what CFTEH would be, and I think the more we got into the planning process, and the more we reflected on what our members are funding currently, and what our stakeholders really wanted CFTEH to do, the more a pooled fund emerged as a really interesting idea that could fill some of the important gaps.   

So the Housing Justice Fund, as you said, is a pooled fund, and what that means is that a bunch of our members, around 15 of our CFTEH members, have collectively pooled funding at Michael Reese, as our fiscal sponsor, to launch this grantmaking effort.  It’s a $2 million dollar pooled fund, and it is specifically focused on advocacy, community organizing and narrative change and public awareness work related to preventing and ending homelessness.    

And the reason we focused on that cluster of things is because we saw that it really wasn’t being funded.  That showed up in a lot of grantmaking data that we looked at from our members.,  We saw that, maybe, 1 or 2 percent of the groups collective grantmaking was supporting that group of things I just mentioned.  I also had a ton of conversations with people working in the advocacy space who talked about how hard it was to find funding for their work and it just started to emerge so clearly as the perfect gap for CFTEH to fill.   

The fund is focused on new and emerging and often small and BIPOC-led organizations that are doing this work.  We really tried to, in the application process, to do outreach to organizations that were not receiving funding from any of our members.  We are trying to build relationships with new organizations who might have had a really difficult time accessing philanthropy in the past. 

The last thing I would say is that we tried to design the process really differently.  The former grant writer in me, my heart sings around this part of it because we, for instance, designed a process where applicants could choose how they made their requests.  They could submit it in writing if that felt like a good fit to them, if they happened to have a grant writer on staff.   And if they didn’t, or if they felt like using their voice and their story to make their request was a better fit they, instead, could hop on a call with CFTEH staff and we would ask them a set of questions and guide then through, essentially, the application.  And then we would, as staff, take on the responsibility of documenting and preparing the group’s application, then sharing it back with them for them to review, approve and finalize.  

We got a ton of takers, first of all, for that kind of format of application, and at least in the first round, a lot of positive feedback about being able to lower barriers to applying.  Especially for really tiny, volunteer-led organizations who may not have a grant writer on staff.  And then, for organizations, they also then were able to have a narrative prepared describing their work that they felt really good about that, ideally, they can use for applications with other foundations as well. 


5. So, the pooled fund has started, and you’ve started issuing grants? 

We just announced our first round of grants in December, 2022.  We announced $1.2 million in the first round to 11 partners that we’re so excited about.  They are all doing such incredible work.  Some of them are really focused on policy at the city level or state level, either passing city or state ordinance or enforcing one.  They are, in other cases, focused on tenant organizing efforts, building  the collective power of tenants  in a specific building or a specific neighborhood.  And then others are focused on narrative change aspect of the fund I mentioned.  Trying to challenge conventional narratives about what homelessness looks like, who experiences it and why they experience it, and are using first-person storytelling or art-making or other forms of documentation in order to do that.  So, we’re so excited to be working with that group of partners, and we’re planning to do another round of grant making in the spring or summer of this year.   


6. A great deal of growth has happened in 2022. What can we expect from you and your team in 2023? 

If CFTEH is going to do some cool, innovative things, ideally, we’ll do those things and then document what we’re learning about them.  We learned a lot in the first round of the Housing Justice Fund process about what we can do way better in subsequent rounds and so we’re really interested in documenting those learnings and ways to share them, whether its through social media, like you mentioned, or blog posts.  I’m so lucky I’m getting the opportunity later this month to be on a panel at the National Funders Together to End Homelessness conference in California.  I’ll have an opportunity to talk about this work there.  But yes, I think that what we’re trying to do is learn a lot.  Learn and make mistakes and share what we’re learning with our members and partners, both regionally and across the country.  

And, in terms of 2023, it’s an exciting question. I think a lot of things come to mind.  The first is that CFTEH doubled in size last year, which was a thrill to me, so we hired a new colleague, Kathy Neidorowski, who I have to shout out.  She came onboard last year as our CFTEH Program Coordinator and brings this incredible expertise and background as a social worker and a macro social worker, so really thinking about the ways that complex systems interact with each other and impact a person or household experiencing homelessness.  So totally thrilled to think about 2023 and what we can do as a small but mighty team of two.  

And I think the area of growth that I’m most excited about for CFTEH is related to the Housing Justice Fund, in a way because it’s about all of the other resources and power that CFTEH has to advance the collective goals of our grantees through the fund.  Because we have a lot of ways that we can advocate ourselves.  We can join in the advocacy of our grantee partners, and I think in 2023, we’re excited to be a lot more visible, vocal and external in that way, and find other ways to support this cohort of grantee partners through the Housing Justice Fund in lots of ways beyond the funding.  It’s another piece of feedback that we heard a lot from community stakeholders.  It’s like, “Philanthropy, you have relationships!  You can open doors for You can bring us with you to meetings, and then let us do the talking.  When you make a phone call,  someone picks up”. So we’re trying to catalog all of the other many ways that CFTEH has power and relationships in community that can advance the collective goals of our grantees.  So, advocacy feels like it’s very much on the horizon for CFTEH this year and I’m excited with my colleague Kathy to build out the work related to that.

Emily, thank you so much for talking with me today about the role of CFTEH in addressing homelessness in Chicago.  The links and resources Emily provided today will be added to this podcast for our listeners. 

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06 | The Flexible Housing Pool: Funding System Coordination in Housing and Health

06 | The Flexible Housing Pool: Funding System Coordination in Housing and Health

In 1991 the United Nations declared housing to be a fundamental human right, and the United States has worked to reduce overall homelessness by over 20 percent between 2005 and 2013. However, homelessness continues to persist across the country, with the highest concentration in mid-to-large metropolitan areas, and disproportionately impacts those living in poverty, people of color and immigrants.

Those experiencing homelessness also have the highest rates of chronic mental, behavioral and physical disease have significant barriers to health care and affordable housing and a lower life expectancy. Their use of the emergency services for episodic care also leads to higher treatment costs.

In this episode, I’m talking with Clarita Santos, Executive Director of Community Health Initiatives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. As Executive Director, Clarita advances Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois’ investment strategy in alignment with the Plan’s vision and enterprise imperatives to address critical community health issues, focusing on access to care, health equity and population health.

We’ll be talking today about how the FHP brings value and impact to those served by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and the vision for the health plan on investing in housing to improve population health outcomes.



By the most recent report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, in 2017, 86,324 Chicagoans were homeless.

  • 81% of these homeless residents lived doubled-up in the homes of others
  • 56% were African American
  • 28% were Latinx

Homelessness in Chicago also impacts the working poor, with:

  • 21% of those experiencing homelessness over the age of 18 are employed
  • Another 28% attended college or earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree

And many Chicago families with children and youth are also experiencing homelessness:

  • A total of 34,870 families with children experienced homelessness
  • 86% were doubled-up in the homes of others
  • 24% were minor children experiencing homelessness
  • CPS served 16, 451 homelessness students during the 2018-2019 academic year

In March of this year, the City of Chicago and its partners collaborated to align funding towards a common goal through the Flexible Housing Program or FHP. Through FHP, Cook County is able to rapidly house and provide supportive services to some of Chicago’s most vulnerable populations, including individuals experiencing homelessness who cycle through the criminal justice system and utilize hospital emergency rooms for care.

FHP achieves this through pairing wraparound health and social services with a housing subsidy to support residents experiencing homeless. The Program focuses on frequent-utilizers of crisis response systems such as hospital emergency rooms, police stations, paramedic calls, jails and shelters.

In August, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois was among the first private funders to invest in FHP at the level of $1 million over two years.



What was the genesis of the BCBS IL’s decision to invest in the FHP? 

My background is in public health, and I bring that with me as we think about, as an organization, what is it that we do to impact the health of the community.  So when you think about impacting the health of a community, you’ve got to think broader than:  let’s get rid of that bacteria, let’s get rid of that virus, and think about what are some of the things that really impact health.  And as we worked with some of our partners in the community, and also with some of our partners internally – we are an organization of doctors and nurses, case managers and care coordinators, and with our Medicaid business, what are some of the things that we’re seeing in order to address some of the health issues. 


Time and time again, whether you look at it from a public health perspective, or the research that you just quoted, Kuliva, and what we see as an organization, it comes down to housing, right?  So we wanted to really understand what can we do in that space, and to really think about addressing health issues, because if you’re coming from an environment of instability,  you’re not in a stable environment where you have housing, how can you then think about taking your medication?  How can you then think about getting a job?  How can you then think about getting self-care when you’re constantly in a state of instability.   


How does the FHP align with BCBS IL Community Health Initiatives and the health plan’s population health targets? 

That’s a great question.  We think about our work around community investments and we’re very intentional about using the word “investments”, because we think about how do we build from the strength already in the community.  Or, how do we build upon the strengths already within the system?  And so we looked at the Flexible Housing Pool as a way to leverage all different players, and to think about housing in a different way.  As you mentioned [about] the collaboration that we’re in, it brings together many different entities, right?   So from Cook County Health to Advocate Aurora Health, UI Health and several departments; Department of Family Support Services, Department of Housing and the Chicago Housing Authority.  And then we work in collaboration with the community; the Center for Housing and Health, and they partner with Debora’s House, Thresholds, Renaissance Social Services and Housing Forward.   


So what we wanted to do was, the Flexible Housing Pool allows us to fund housing, but also to provide wrap-around services, right?  It goes beyond housing, to what are the other services that we could provide, or supports that would provide stability and address health issues. 


There are many ongoing efforts across the City and County to increase affordable and supportive housing for the most vulnerable residents.  Why did BCBS IL invest in this particular housing initiative? 

So, part of it is, as you know, when you work in partnership it’s about who are those partners and who are those organizations that have done the work.  The Center for Housing and Health was one of those partners that we work with, right?  As I talked about with community investments, what we look for is who are the partners or organizations already doing the work, because we see ourselves as “how do we support good work that’s [ongoing].  So what we liked about the Center for Housing and Health through this collaborative was partnering with hospitals.  Particularly, we were noticing as an organization, a lot of individuals who were homeless were presenting in shelters or presenting in the ER.  So one of our natural partners are the hospitals, and so how can we add to that relationship?  You mentioned that we’re the first private investors in this, because we see it as not only good for the community, but also good for business as well.  Our HSCS President, Maurice Smith says that all the time; what’s good for the community is also good for business, as we see this as that.    By looking to stabilize our homeless brothers and sisters, and getting them the services that they need and wrapping around it with case management on the social service and health side, gives the complete picture around what is needed to uplift and to able to adjust health issues.   


The current grant is for $1 million dollars over two years.  Beyond the two year investment, how does BCBS IL view its role as a sustainability partner for the FHP? 

We started funding housing in 2017 and the reason that we started doing that was, we had to step back as an organization and, as you know Kuliva, it’s all about what is it we’re looking to do as an organization.  We wanted to impact health, but how do you do that?  So we stepped back and worked on a strategic plan, and we specifically identified housing, and identified housing as a health issue.  As a very large organization, we thought by us saying that, we’re leveraging the assets that we bring as a large organization.  So for us it makes an important point that, as a big organization, we draw a line in the sand that says this is important [and] that housing is a health issue.  What we’re looking to do is extend beyond that, so we’re looking to see what are the lessons learned through this partnership.  As you can see, it’s a partnership model and its looking at building sustainability because it’s not just us.   


So one of the things we learned is how to share the knowledge, and you do that by working in partnership. We’re looking to build upon what we’ve learned during these two years.   


In what other ways is BCBS IL investing in the social determinants of health? 

The other things we looked at [in the strategic planning process] is violence as a public health issue.  That’s another issue that we’re looking to address as an organization and as part of the system.  We’re also looking at behavioral health, because one of the gaps we see is, even today as we think about health, people are very comfortable thinking about physical health, but really think about our brain as part of our body.  As we think about health, we’ve got to normalize and be comfortable in addressing all parts of our bodies.  So we behavioral health as one of those issues we’re looking to address.   


The other issue we’re looking to address is general access to care.  That’s a big bucket, but we also understand that access to care can mean different things.  It can be physical access; do you have access to services?  It can also mean language access; do you have the information you need in order to make decisions around your health care?  As you can see, we have specific issue areas, but then we have a broader one, and that was intentional so that as things come up we can adjust.   


What programs and services at the Blue Door Neighborhood Center in the Pullman community addressing the social determinants of health? 

I do want to talk about how we entered Pullman.  I think, a lot of times, the normal way of doing things is build it and they will come.  But how we approached it was very different.  Kuliva, you were there as part of doing the town hall meetings and the research to truly understand and hear from the community, what are the needs and what are the assets within Pullman.  Part of our job is to understand, and I think that comes from a place of humility.  Even the word, understand, means there are some things you don’t know, and to be able to stand, you need to understand what’s going on.  That’s how we present.  We want to understand, and from there, that’s how we have the types of services we have at Blue Door Neighborhood Center.  So, for example, diabetes came up at the town hall meetings and during the one-on-one sessions. And at the Blue Door Neighborhood Center we have health educators there all the time to talk about diabetes, heart disease, asthma.  We also have care coordinators, [who] I think of as your health care concierge.  So, you have diabetes, and you want research on how do I navigate that?  Where do I go?  The care coordinators are there to help you with that.   


We also see the Blue Door Neighborhood Center as a way for community members to feel that [its] their center.  We have three community spaces for 501(c)3 organizations to enjoy the company, and to come there and talk about the health issues happening in the organization.  We also have zumba classes.  We also have yoga.  So all these different things that the community has shared with us as:  “these are how you can build upon the assets in Pullman”.  These are the things that you can provide as an organization.  Blue Door, specifically, was about being in the neighborhoods.  We want to be where health is happening.  In the neighborhoods.  In Pullman.  We’re very excited to be able to be part of that.   

And we’re rolling; we’re opening a second Blue Door Neighborhood Center as part of a larger commitment in Morgan Park.  Again, I want to give credit to our HCSC President, Maurice Smith, who had the vision of taking that space, which was a former Target, and turning it into a multi-function, multi-purpose space, which will have some of our customer service lines of business.  So it’s going to bring, like, over 500 jobs to the community.  As part of that multi-purpose center, we’ll have a Blue Door Neighborhood Center, continuing to provide health education, health literacy and care coordination with the community.   


What has changed, though, is that we needed a bigger space for our community rooms, so we’re actually doubling our community room space, so that even more community organizations can use that space for the work that they’re doing.  

Learn More: 

Blue Door Neighborhood Center
Blue Cross Investments in the Flexible Housing Pool

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02 | Collective Impact: Strategic Philanthropy for Complex Issues

02 | Collective Impact: Strategic Philanthropy for Complex Issues

Poverty, equity, economic development and access to health care are a few of the complex social issues often tackled by philanthropy, and the collective impact model has emerged as a strategic philanthropic approach to achieving social change.  How effective is this model as a tool for funding similar initiatives?

 In this episode, we talk with The Community Memorial Foundation’s Program Director about how collective impact supports their Regional Health Agenda.

Often in community development work, too many organizations are working in isolation from one another. According to the Collective Impact Forum, collective impact brings people together in a structured way to achieve social change.


In this two-part episode, I’ll be exploring the efficacy of the collective impact model from two perspectives:  Philanthropy and Community Development.

Collective impact: 

  • Starts with a common agenda (coming together to collectively define the problem and create a shared vision to solve it; 
  • Establishes shared measurement (agreeing to track progress, in the same way, allowing for continuous improvement; 
  • Fosters mutually reinforcing activities (coordinating collective efforts to maximize the end results); and 
  • Encourages continuous communication (building trust and relationships among all participants) 

It also has a strong backbone – such as a team dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group. 

With principles of practice that places a priority on equity, uses data to continuously learn, adapt and improve and includes community members and cross-sector partners, the collective impact model has become a “best practice model” for philanthropy and strategic grantmaking at the community-level. 

In this two-part episode, I’ll be exploring the efficacy of the collective impact model from two perspectives:  Philanthropy and Community Development. 

Today I’m talking with Nan Silva, Program Director with Community Memorial Foundation.

Community Memorial Foundation aims to measurably improve the health of those who live and work in the western suburbs of Chicago.   

In 2015, the Community Memorial Foundation launched a Regional Health and Human Services agenda for the western suburbs.  This integrated agenda identifies health and human service priorities for the Foundation’s service area and highlights corresponding indicators to track progress over a ten-year time frame.  The Foundation uses the agenda to define its strategies, programs, and grantmaking, including the Community Health Worker Pilot and the creation of a Trauma-Informed Community; both of which engage the Collective Impact framework. 

Nan leads the Regional Health and Human Services Agenda and is here today to talk about the role of the Collective Impact in these two initiatives.


How does the CMF engage the Collective Impact model to support the creation of a trauma-informed community in South Chicago? 

The first phase of collective impact is readiness assessment and, in that phase,, we conduct strategic planning. Phase 2 is the action initiation. CMF developed the regional agenda together with the community. Phase 3, which is the organization for impact, CMF first convened the regional agenda implementation council which provides oversight and the healthcare access and behavioral action teams with guide initiative development.  

Phase 4, CMF began implementation of the regional agenda goals, grant making and activates. 

Phase 5 will involve sustaining the action for maximum impact. Many residences are unaware of local health and human service resources. We launched a 3-year community health worker pilot in the cook county portion of our area in partnership with a healthy community’s foundation. 

Our goal is to improve access to care and to advance health equity for individuals living in the western suburbs of cook county. 

Building resilient and communities are essential to improving public health and wellbeing. Taking innovative steps to create safer and healthier places to live, learn, work, and play by integrating and aligning services from different sectors to promote safety health and resilience. 

What supports does CMF provide to support the grantees and partners engaged in this work? 

We recognized that we needed to actively seek our partners as we went through all of the various needs and priorities. We were able to reach out to Healthy Communities Foundation, which has the same mindset as far as grassroots community-based approaches and certainty already had a good understanding of the community health worker model. 

We don’t consider ourselves the backbone organization. That is Health and Medical Policy Research Group. They’re the ones taking the lead in all project logistics and provide support through sustained communication through this whole collaborative learning approach. 

We also have a Center for CHW Research Outcomes and Workforce Developpement (CROWD). CROWD provides technical assistance on CHW   pilot evaluation. 

Investors are also a big part of our support. 

Are there communication supports that you also provide for your grantees? 

The importance of communication, and the importance that no matter how solid and robust and great a program might be, if nobody knew about it or if the resource wasn’t just out there for the taking, then it would just be there with no one benefitting from it. 

 We hired a communication coordinator with the specific intent of making sure that work of the Community Memorial Foundation and its various partners does have a say across our website, social media and through various print and air media that exists in our community.  

What are the strengths and challenges surrounding the Collective Impact Model? 

Shifting from the word inclusion to belonging. Invite them to belong and co-create the gain from the onset. It’s so important to include diverse voices and experience at the table. For this learning to be a powerful culture of learning must be present and embraced and shared learning should be amongst grantees, partners, community, and funders. 

This approach takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.  Don’t try to do it alone. The word is leverage, not just investments, but also ideas but strategies. Be open to learning from each other and building from each other. Be honest about those inevitable bumps in the road. 

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