Key Points

Over the course of 12 years, the Blue Shield of California Foundation committed nearly $20 million to growing a pool of community health center leaders who were prepared to be effective agents of change in their organizations and in the safety net field. This signature investment, the Clinic Leadership Institute, was implemented in partnership with the Healthforce Center at University of California, San Francisco, in anticipation of a generation of California health center leaders beginning to transition into retirement.

During the institute's 10 cohorts, access to community health centers dramatically increased with the Affordable Care Act, and this — coupled with rising costs of health care — continued to underscore how crucial community health centers were to accessible and quality care for poor and underserved populations. A study spanning 10 cohorts of alumni found that the institute served a critical role in supporting community health center leaders and their organizations in navigating these changes, while also building alumni networks advocating for community health centers in county- and state-level policy. The program equipped 258 individuals to lead and deliver care in a field marked by continuous change, complexity, and mounting demand.

Drawing on these findings, we make the case that investment in leadership development is a critical philanthropic tool for field building and, ultimately, systems change. We explore how the foundation made the most of this investment through intentional funding, design, and strategic considerations.

Open Access Sponsor

Support for this open access article was provided by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Open Access