September 30, 2016

Scaling Solutions: Strategies for Building Effective Philanthropy Partnerships

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When you think of natural partnerships, government and philanthropy may not be your first thought. In HUD’s new report, Scaling Solutions: A How-To Guide for Unleashing the Potential of Public-Philanthropic Partnerships, we work to turn those perceptions around.  This guide describes the unique collaboration between philanthropy and government that emerged during HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. On the local, regional, and national levels, philanthropies and the public sector are leveraging each other’s strengths to deliver results for communities and build projects together from the ground up.

Scaling Solutions serves as a guide for navigating public-philanthropic partnerships, drawing on seven years of experience in HUD’s place-based programs. Initiatives like Promise Zones and Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) have benefitted from the active engagement of philanthropic partners. These partners are supporting neighborhood revitalization efforts, building multi-stakeholder collaborative and peer networks, and providing technical assistance to help low-capacity communities compete for federal grants and attract private investment. Another recent example of public-philanthropic collaboration is the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which is the result of a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation that has transformed the way communities are thinking about disaster recovery and long-term resilience.

HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiatives (SCI), a competitive grant program that funded community development partnerships, has been a particularly fertile ground for learning about public-philanthropic partnerships. In the earliest stages, HUD met with philanthropic leaders and other stakeholders to discuss ideas about the design and implementation of HUD’s Sustainable Communities program, helping to weave diverse expertise and viewpoints into the core of the initiative. During the course of SCI, philanthropy stepped up to play multiple roles well beyond the traditional role of funder. They were thought leaders, advocates, network weavers, narrators, conveners, and capacity builders.

Photo: This graphic illustrates the diverse roles that philanthropies played in HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, explored in depth in the new Scaling Solutions report.

The partnership between government and philanthropy in HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative is proving to be a win for everyone.  Government absorbed the creative approach of philanthropy, the philanthropic sector gained in its partnership with the federal government by helping to scale up innovative practices and, mostly importantly, local leaders are benefiting from the collective impact of their partners in philanthropy and the federal government as they work together to revitalize and strengthen their communities.

As a result of these experiences, we have learned how the federal government can be a better partner to communities and nongovernmental partners. We are working on a number of fronts to build communities of practice and peer networks among federal agencies, in the field, and with external stakeholders and innovative practitioners. HUD’s  Office of International and Philanthropic Innovation is supporting strategic partnerships between the government and philanthropy organizations.   As Scaling Solutions illustrates, the government and philanthropic sectors are learning from and with each other, bringing the abilities and knowledge of one sector into the other and melding their strengths to achieve things together that they could not have done alone.

Harriet Tregoning is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development and Salin Geevarghese is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Philanthropic Innovation.

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