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Innovating Place-Based Grantmaking: An Evaluation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation “Strategic Co-Investor” Approach

When the Annie E. Casey Foundation launched Family-Centered Community Change™ (FCCC) in 2012, the Foundation set out to make improvements to their approach to place-based grantmaking. The programmatic aim was to support local partnerships to help parents and children succeed together in what is known as a “two-generation approach.” Rather than creating something new, Casey joined existing partnerships—located in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas—providing technical assistance, trainings, and peer learning opportunities to build upon their ongoing community change efforts—a role the Casey Foundation referred to as a strategic co-investor (SCI).

In the early stage of the project, Casey brought in TCC Group to conduct a unique kind of evaluation—rather than looking at the outcomes of the specific project, the evaluation would flip the lens and focus it on Casey and how they showed up in partnership with the communities in this new approach to place-based work. TCC Group’s collaboration with the Casey Foundation builds on years of place-based learning we’ve undertaken both internally and on behalf of the social sector.

In the report, we examine each aspect of the strategic co-investor approach independently, providing a nuanced description of the concept, evaluation insights, and lessons learned for both funders and grantees. The report is organized by eight components that, operating collectively, comprise the strategic co-investor approach:

  1. Flexible grant funding (of which a percentage is for use at the local community’s discretion)
  2. A high-touch staffing approach, with significant in-person time from the Foundation
  3. A non-directive relationship, with the funder deferring to local discretion in program design and implementation of an agreed-upon topic
  4. An assumption that the work is done in collaboration with other investing and implementing partners (including other funders)
  5. The funder serves as a strategic thought partner and sounding board while providing on-demand technical assistance
  6. Facilitation of networking and learning across communities
  7. Nesting of a focused issue within an existing broader community change effort
  8. Ongoing evaluation of the investment approach and the funder’s role

Click here to download the full report: Innovating Place-Based Grantmaking: An Evaluation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation “Strategic Co-Investor” Approach

The strategic co-investor approach represented a collective shift in the way that the Casey Foundation approached place-based investing. While some of the eight components are common within philanthropy, together they comprise a mental model that is distinct—one that places primacy on the flexibility of the funder-grantee relationship and the programmatic contribution towards larger community change.

Webinar Explores the Casey Foundation’s Approach to Community Change

In March, report co-author and TCC Group Evaluation Director Jared Raynor moderated a panel discussion between Casey Foundation staff and grantees—exploring the SCI approach and sharing lessons for both communities and funders gleaned from an evaluation of the seven-year effort. Watch the 75-minute recording below.

Click here to download the full report: Innovating Place-Based Grantmaking: An Evaluation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation “Strategic Co-Investor” Approach

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