Community Foundation teams up with Our Valley Our Future to make a bigger impact
The Community Foundation of North Central Washington, which has earned a sterling reputation for fostering philanthropy and supporting area nonprofits, refuses to stand pat and instead is aiming to make an even bigger community impact.
In its latest strategic plan, CFNCW set a goal of developing community leadership, according to Mark Spurgeon, the past board chair. Building leadership capacity in the region will be challenging but, if successful, would have a long-term positive impact on our communities.
The foundation has also decided to expand its impact in Okanogan County and will focus on “impact investing” — figuring out how foundation resources can most effectively be used to address challenging issues in our communities, such as improving education, addressing poverty and homelessness.
CFNCW’s leadership focus is already having an impact. They’ve partnered with Our Valley Our Future, the grass roots-driven community improvement effort, to facilitate two of OVOFs’s “game changer” initiatives: Diverse Leadership and Many Voices, One Region, which focus on bringing people together to find common ground.
The foundation is providing leadership support for nonprofit community partners who have volunteered to work on those issues. They’ve contracted with Summer Hess, owner of Sage Step Consulting, who has deep experience in nonprofit leadership and creative community building, to be a facilitator for the two groups.
Hess is a passionate advocate for strengthening community by working together to solve local issues. In an environment of polarization and division, “I love the idea of trying to balance the playing field by investing dollars in civic cohesion,” Hess told me. Both projects fit nicely with the new strategic direction of the Community Foundation, she said.
Hess is leading each group through a process designed to develop multi-year plans to make meaningful progress. The first step is identifying the work that is already being done in those areas in the valley so they don’t duplicate efforts. The next step is identifying best practices in other communities to see if there are projects that could be replicated or adapted in our valley. Finally, Hess will lead the groups in a process to identify steps they want to take over the next four to five years. That work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Steve Maher, the OVOF coordinator, said having the Community Foundation step forward to fund a facilitator for those discussions will help the nonprofit partners build a workable plan.
Meaningful civic engagement is by no means an easy thing to achieve. It’s a capacity that takes time and effort to build but ultimately, it will strengthen the community, according to Maher.
OVOF’s Diverse Leadership initiative is intended to help identify leaders from various walks of life, ages and cultural backgrounds. As Maher pointed out, there are talented young leaders that often get overlooked. The more leaders we encourage and train, the greater capacity we will have to solve community challenges.
Maher points out that the leaders who are involved in the two initiatives include a diverse cross-section of the community.
The Many Voices, One Region initiative is another project that could make a big impact over time. To the extent we find ways to build trust, foster relationships and have challenging conversations in constructive ways, we’ll have stronger communities.
At the heart of the Our Valley Our Future approach is the concept of collective impact — that organizations in the community working together will make far more progress compared to doing projects in isolation.
Hess said a good example of how collective impact works is the local trails organization, TREAD, which was one of the success stories of Our Valley Our Future from the first five-year plan. TREAD brought together user groups and land managers to develop an app that gives users access to the latest trail conditions. That app, funded by the Washington Tourism Association, is being rolled out statewide in a way that will foster collective impact results for other communities.
The Community Foundation deserves credit for taking on new challenges beyond their typical scope of work with the intention of making a bigger impact in our communities.
Working together to solve community challenges is going to build resilience that will pay off in the long run.
To learn more about Our Valley Our Future, check out ourvalleyourfuture.og