Key Points

Many foundations are seeking to impact root causes of social issues through funding initiatives that are both technically and socially complicated and where past experience is no guarantee of success. These situations exhibit the growing need for more adaptive funding approaches, such as emergent philanthropy.

This article looks at an application of emergent strategy at the Colorado Health Foundation. It shares tools used to design the funding approach for the foundation’s Creating Healthy Schools initiative, including support for grantees in refining their grant-proposal budgets and activities, decreasing duplication, and leveraging resources more effectively.

This article will look at lessons learned, including the need to continue to evolve emergent philanthropy and collaboration not only between funders and grantees, but between funders themselves. The authors hope the tools experimented with in this case will help other foundations design and implement system-change strategies in complex environments.

Open Access