Chicago—September 4-5, 2008

Building Resident Power & Capacity for Change

An “on the ground” reflection about what it takes for funders to work effective with low-income communities.

A report by The Diarist Project for Grassroots Grantmakers

This report is a set of reflections that began with conversations among fifty people who gathered in Chicago in September of 2008 for Grassroots Grantmakers first “on the ground” learning gathering, and extended over the following several months.

The idea for this report came from an interest in doing more than generating proceedings or a report on a meeting. Our interest was in promoting and supporting reflection about what it takes to work effective in the grassroots grantmaking domain, and in sharing those reflections as a spark for further conversations.

Kristin Senty served as the on-the-ground diarist for this report, capturing conversations at the Chicago gathering and then continuing the conversation via telephone interviews with six of the people who were there. The Diarist Project’s Director, Tim Saasta, used Kristin’s notes and photographs to develop the report that we are sharing.

Special thanks go to The Woods Fund of Chicago and the Steans Family Foundation, the two Grassroots Grantmakers member organizations who hosted us in Chicago and generously shared their work. We are especially grateful for the time and support that Deborah Harrington and Consuella Brown from The Woods Fund and Reginald Jones and Alison Janus from the Steans Family Foundation provided.

We also want to thank Lisa Leverette (Prevention Network/Skillman Foundation), David Portillo (The Denver Foundation), Jennifer Roller (Raymond John Wean Foundation) and Andy Helmboldt (Battle Creek Community Foundation) for the reflections that they shared and the time that they devoted to this report.

The report is divided into 6 chapters, and is available for download in its entirety or chapter by chapter (for individual chapters, click the links below). The introduction presents an overview of the “on the ground” experience in Chicago and a snapshot of the work that served as the launching pad for this discussion. The following chapters focus on a specific theme that emerged during the conversation at the Chicago gathering:

  • Introduction: The “On the Ground” Concept & Experience
  • Building strong relationships with communities
  • Building the capacity of these communities
  • Building the capacity of a foundation to do this work and of the funder community to support this work
  • Building new approaches to insuring accountability
  • Looking for ways that this work can add up to broader social change

We invite you to read and share this report, and hope that it sparks useful conversations about what you can do to strengthen and deepen your work and contributes to our collective understanding of what it takes for a funder to work from a “we begin with residents” perspective.


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