While there is increasing public attention to the tragic maternal and infant health disparities in the US, philanthropy has not yet met the moment with resources, innovation, or urgency. The good news is that we see a shift underway. Last fall, dozens of funders came together for a first-of-its-kind national summit to address maternal and infant health disparities. The summit revealed emerging pathways to real change.
We greeted more than 100 funders at the National Birth Equity Funders Summit held in Atlanta last October. Our partners at Afton Bloom facilitated the Summit and just published a new report (funded by the Community Health Acceleration Partnership) in close partnership with a passionate planning team, summarizing ideas for funders to continue building momentum for birth equity. Boldly Go has been working on this issue with Afton Bloom through several fronts, including the New Jersey Birth Equity Funders Alliance (see recent blog post) and the Birth Equity Catalyst Project, sponsored and led by the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, and Cambia Health Foundation.
The three-day Summit surfaced many insights and ways for philanthropy to get involved, with top recommendations including:
- View birth equity as part of your greater philanthropic strategy, even if this is not a direct area of funding. Racial disparities in maternal health outcomes are complex, undergirded by a long history of racism. Improving birth outcomes can be addressed through many issue and portfolio areas, like early childhood development and workforce development, and approaches like two-generation and early relational health, which focus on the whole family and relationship between infant and parent. However, many funders working on these issues may not “see” themselves in birth equity, yet their investments and strategies influence outcomes in birth equity already.
Funders can examine where in their portfolios they are already doing birth equity work, deepen those efforts, and join forces with peers to elevate birth equity together. The funders behind the New Jersey Birth Equity Funders Alliance all came to the table from different issue areas of focus – community health, healthcare, and early childhood – to collectively focus on birth equity from their respective vantage points with a commitment to unlearn harmful philanthropic practices and embark on something different together.
- Unlearn traditional philanthropic practices. Community leaders have been shaping the field and bringing creative approaches to life for decades with limited resources. Building trust with these community leaders is critical to ensuring birth equity across the US. Without trust, funders may overlook exciting innovations, under-resource effective solutions, and drive burnout among those leading gains and progress to date.
Funders need to unlearn traditional ways of working. Listening, giving power, and practicing trust-based philanthropy are critical approaches to supporting birth equity philanthropy. For example, establishing a Community Advisory Committee (CAC), can guide strategies and investments in tune with the community’s needs.
- Unlock the largest source of funding – federal and state grants. BIPOC birth equity practitioners and advocates have expressed that one of the most urgent challenges is accessing public funding. Complex applications and heavy reporting requirements are prohibitive for small community-based organizations (CBOs) doing high-impact, innovative work.
Public and private funders can come together with a common mission of streamlining and increasing funding opportunities. Philanthropy can support CBOs in accessing public funding in a variety of ways, including seed grants for pilots that can then be funded by state or federal grants, bridge grants for organizations awaiting public dollars to come through, and capacity-building support for small CBOs and first-time applicants that are applying for public funding. Several examples of funding opportunities through the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau can be found here.
Read the report for more ideas and learnings. We hope the Summit is just one of many more action-oriented efforts to reimagine collaboration among and between funders and field leaders. Contact us to learn more about how to get involved in upcoming Summit efforts and convenings, and initiatives like the Birth Equity Catalyst Project for state-based funder collaboration.
Leave a Reply