Collaboration between funders is positively impacting the operational vitality of Catholic schools in Los Angeles, and across the nation.
I was recently reminded of the strength of funder collaboration at an event hosted by the Riordan Foundation in Los Angeles. This “Solutions Showcase” followed a science fair format, with different Catholic schools showcasing their final projects to improve student outcomes based on a design-thinking process they had been guided through as part of a grant from the Hilton Foundation. As I mingled with other guests and talked with school teachers and administrators, I was impressed with the way the event served as a microcosm of the Foundation’s collaborative partnerships in the Catholic Schools Major Program Area.
First, the Solutions Showcase itself was an example of successful collaboration. The Riordan Foundation shares our interest in revitalizing Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and offers Instructional Innovation grants which are available to both public and parochial schools. With a desire to build the capacity of Catholic schools to secure Instructional Innovation grants, we partnered with the Riordan Foundation to provide a professional development opportunity that empowers principals and teachers by leading them through a design-thinking process (where schools design, present, test and implement student-centered projects). Dr. Bill Ouchi, who serves on the boards of the Hilton and Riordan foundations and is the author of Making Schools Work: A Revolutionary Plan to Get Your Children the Education They Need, provided support for this partnership with the understanding that both foundations could achieve more together for Catholic schools than working independently.
Second, the event organically reflected a strategic network of support that confirmed the wisdom of recent formal partnerships. For example, in a presentation from one school, the administrator remarked that their project on applied STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning would not have been possible without the technology lab provided by Shea Family Charities. Thus, Shea Family Charities’ emphasis on funding infrastructure provided the groundwork for a successful showing at the event.
Furthermore, the Specialty Family Foundation, which focuses their funding on Catholic schools in urban Los Angeles, contributed to the success of the event by promoting this professional development through their relationship with the Catholic Schools Collaborative, a non-profit which supports inner-city schools. While our grants have often naturally complemented each other, November 2015 marks the first time the Hilton Foundation, Shea Family Charities and Specialty Family Foundation formally co-funded a grant. The grant, a blended learning initiative with Loyola Marymount University, advances Shea Family Charities’ interest in technological infrastructure, Specialty Family Foundation’s interest in inner-city schools, and our local emphasis on positively impacting operational vitality through increasing enrollment. Loyola Marymount is providing in-kind support.
While the above examples point to funder collaboration that impacts individual schools, a third relationship was represented at the event by Dr. Kevin Baxter, Superintendent of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Department of Catholic Schools. In 2013, the Hilton Foundation and Specialty Family Foundation spearheaded a collaborative of Catholic schools funders in the Los Angeles area which has since worked together with the Department of Catholic Schools to create a comprehensive dashboard that will provide funders with essential data on student demographics, student achievement, and school finances. The Hilton Foundation gave this dashboard a national audience by providing a “sneak preview” at the Philanthropy Roundtable’s Catholic School Philanthropy Working Group meeting that was held at our Agoura Hills campus in January 2016. One funder from the East Coast commented that she would bring the template to her diocese to emulate. Hence, the impact of partnerships in Los Angeles extended to a new network.
The Solutions Showcase was a wonderful opportunity to observe how Catholic schools are sharing learnings and developing innovative solutions to specific challenges at their schools. Likewise, the event was an opportunity to reflect on ways that funders are working together creatively to advance their particular priorities. The partnerships we are forming on both local and national levels are foundational to revitalize Catholic schools and assure that all children have access to a quality education.