November 16, 2017

Building the team for statewide impact

It strikes me that grantmaking in Meyer’s new program structure is similar to putting together a winning team every year but without the trophies or the neat and tidy closure you get when the season ends. Instead, the team we are helping form has a much bigger lift than winning a single tournament, and it doesn’t end when the grants do.

Supporting healthy natural systems and the health and vitality of all Oregon’s diverse communities is a long-term endeavor. It’s about changing the status quo. It’s about creating nurturing relationships with nature and people and undoing the dominant culture, extractive relationships that drive much of how we engage with natural systems and each other. It’s about building a team of grantees to work toward aligned outcomes and in partnership with Meyer to dig into this challenging work.

Clearly, this is no small task, and it requires a talented and passionate “team” to work together across a broad and diverse physical, political, social and cultural landscape.

When we launched the Healthy Environment portfolio's Statewide Program two years ago, we envisioned a program that would strike a balance between supporting work that would directly benefit underresourced and historically marginalized populations in rural and urban communities — including low-income communities, communities of color, Oregon’s indigenous communities and Tribes, and immigrants and refugees — and supporting work for healthy natural systems by organizations that demonstrate meaningful commitment and progress toward equity, diversity and inclusion priorities.

We are excited to say that this year’s grants achieve this balance and complement the grants we awarded in 2016.

Before diving into some of the details of this year’s Healthy Environment portfolio's Statewide Program grants, we know that many of you are also curious about how it all played out in Meyer’s three other portfolios as well. To read more about that, please check out Candy Solovjovs’ blog.

This year we received 80 inquiry applications requesting over $8.1 million to advance the statewide program’s goals. After the inquiry stage, 44 applications moved forward, and we ultimately awarded 39 grants, totalling just under $3.9 million.

What are some notable characteristics of the 2017 grantees?

All on-board for equity. First off, they all share a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Some may be just getting started, and we have a number in this category, including a half-dozen who asked for training and planning support to build their organization’s equity lens. Every one of the grants awarded includes at least one strategy for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at the organizational level, and many include other equity outcomes specific to their funded projects.

Deepening work with tribes. We funded a number of organizations, most of them working in rural areas, to build stronger relationships with tribes and partner with them on land conservation and repatriation projects that also incorporate cultural dimensions. Strong proposals demonstrated an understanding that these partnerships are a way to support tribes in protecting and exercising their rights to land and natural resources, rights that continue to be compromised, whether related to fishing, hunting or gathering in waters and on lands included in their traditional territories. They also demonstrated an understanding that relationships matter and co-creating projects in partnership with tribes is a more authentic and effective approach to partnership rather than trying to recruit them to join into a project that the grantees designed. Funded projects also often included grant resources for tribal partners to support their participation.

Collaborations and coalitions are key to advancing the systems change we need to achieve the Healthy Environment portfolio's Statewide Program Goals. This year’s awards included a number of collaborative planning grants, all focused on creating partnerships to work on new approaches to landscape scale restoration, trails management, water management and more. In addition, we awarded a half-dozen grants to advance the work of existing collaboratives. Examples include a collaborative that is establishing community forests in coastal drinking water source areas and an effort to establish a green workforce development program to serve African American and Native American individuals.

Supporting multiple approaches to our environmental and environmental justice challenges. When you review this year’s list of grantees, you will notice that our grantmaking does not reflect a commitment to a single approach. Some funders only support public policy work and not on-the-ground conservation. Others may only support “technical expert organizations” or groups that do community organizing. We support all of these. We also support groups working for the adoption and expansion of voluntary and incentive-based approaches to environmental protection and those that push for greater regulation. We recognize that place-based work looks different than statewide advocacy and that different approaches can make valuable contributions to reforming or scaling up environmental protection and restoration in different communities across Oregon.

We are grateful to welcome and partner with the portfolio’s 2017 Statewide Program grantees. We hope to continue building the team with grants to new organizations as well as existing ones in future annual grant rounds. Please check out Meyer’s awards database to gain more insights about what we are funding as you consider future applications. As always, we welcome your reflections, ideas and questions.