Smarter Grantmaking in Action: GHR Foundation
How co-designing with grantees and partners from Day 1 can lead to stronger collaborations, flexible solutions and more meaningful impact.
The call for greater collaboration has been persistent in philanthropy in recent years.
The message is clear: The scale and complexity of the problems that the sector seeks to address require collaborative approaches and an independent, go-at-it-alone mentality will not result in meaningful impact.
An Answer to Effective Collaboration
GHR Foundation has found an answer to effective collaboration with its design-build approach to philanthropy. Founded by Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst in 1965, GHR Foundation is a private family philanthropy that collaborates with a community of thought leaders to exchange ideas and support locally-driven solutions. Drawing inspiration from its founders’ pioneering streamlined approach to construction, “design-build philanthropy funds partnerships—and even begins implementation—before a project plan is fully developed. Providing resources and taking action early creates space and time for GHR and its partners to think, plan, learn and adjust.
For true collaboration to happen, trust and shared values are key. Using a collaborative mindset, organizations work alongside their peers as equals and lead with humility. “Success in collaboration is building trust and building relationships,“ said Dan Lauer, who leads GHR’s Children in Families initiative. "Through the design-build model, we are able to fund that relationship building far before there’s a project presented in traditional philanthropy. That really makes trust building and strengthening partnerships possible.”
The foundation’s Children in Families initiative embodies flexibility for modification and impact through early action and learning, while trusting that a solution will emerge through collaboration. The evidence is clear that children thrive best in families or family-like environments and GHR’s goal is to make this a reality for all children. For the past eight years, this initiative has been supporting child protection interventions that strengthen families, respond to children without family care and drive further evidence of innovative, pro-family approaches. The initiative’s current geographic focuses are Cambodia, Zambia and Uganda. “Our intention is to work deeper and longer in each of these countries to build a proof of concept model that strengthens families and protects children,” Lauer said. “We engage interventions at all levels — from government to the grassroots — that will eventually be replicable in other countries.”
Three Levels of Partnership
We’ve come to realize that we don’t start from knowing the answers. We have to rely on our partnerships and our learning together with our partners to be able to illuminate and drive solutions that are effective and can be replicated
Dan Lauer, GHR Foundation
GHR Foundation is using its design-build approach to engage at three levels of partnership in each of the target countries:
- Direct Service: Working with local partners to develop best practice models and improve lives in each country
- Systems Change: Convening primary stakeholders, including policy-makers, to design what change could look like on a national level and then implementing that shared vision
- Global Platform: Working collaboratively with key organizations that have an expertise in this area both to provide financial support and to drive the learning on the ground up to the global level to be disseminated more broadly
“We’ve come to realize that we don’t start from knowing the answers,” Lauer said. “We have to rely on our partnerships and learning together with our partners to be able to illuminate and drive solutions that are effective and can be replicated. We co-design with partners—local experts, governments, other NGOs—to work together and determine what’s possible. Part of this whole design-build idea is looking at how we can make our grants in a collaborative way and bring our partners and grantees together to work toward collective impact.”
Developing Solutions and Positive Outcomes
Within any complex issue or problem, no one entity has the solution or can solve the problem alone. It’s taking the effort and energy of multiple stakeholders and implementers to find the solutions needed to move the needle towards solutions and positive outcomes.
Dan Lauer, GHR Foundation
In true design-build fashion, GHR brought experts, community, and partners together to consider ways to tackle its ambitious goal for the Children in Families initiative. GHR let nonprofits, peers and research guide them in better understanding the system, the landscape and the needs on the ground – while funding much needed services to children and families. Lessons from those efforts taught GHR to fund more deeply – at all levels and across sectors and funders – in a small geographic scope on a long time horizon.
“Within any complex issue or problem,” Lauer explained, “no one entity has all the answers or can solve the problem alone. It’s taking the effort and energy of multiple stakeholders and implementers to find the answers needed to move the needle toward solutions and positive outcomes.”
Learn more about GHR’s design-build philanthropy here: http://www.ghrfoundation.org/design-build-approach.html