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Investing in Systems Change

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

Meet SVP’s newest Community Partner!

A critical aspect of SVP’s strategy for impact is leveraging the investments with our Community Partners by securing the resources they need to scale up successful early childhood programs. Before doing that, we work collaboratively to ensure clarity of organizational vision and strategy as well as measurement of their desired community impact. Once these are clear and compelling, they need the resources!

In our business planning for Latino Network’s early childhood Juntos Aprendemos program, it became clear that scaling to reach 5,000 children statewide (from 350 locally) required public funding. That level of growth is nearly impossible with private donations and grants alone. Unfortunately, narrowly defined funding rules made it impossible for Latino Network to access government dollars, despite the strong kindergarten readiness impact demonstrated by the program.  So, with SVP’s support, they worked to challenge the rules!

In 2017, Latino Network started circulating a measure in the Oregon Legislature to establish a fund that would earmark state dollars for results-based, culturally-specific early learning programs like Juntos Aprendemos that serve children of color. Several other culturally specific organizations joined their effort and the group moved an Early Childhood Equity Fund through legislative committee, only to see it cut in the final days of the session. The 2018 short legislative session brought a similar effort and outcome, but the group was undeterred by the disappointing outcome. On the contrary, they were emboldened by the policymakers’ positive response to the families they brought to testify in support of the fund, and the increasing number who sought out members of the group to support this legislation and allocations.

It was clear the group was on to something important!

Fueled by this growing interest in the Equity Fund and in the ability for families to share their stories as advocates for their children, the coalition of nonprofits began formally organizing to achieve three goals:

  1. Pass legislation that prioritizes equity and creates a mechanism to invest in culturally specific practices and programs
  2. Shift the narrative so that equity is a focus through the entire early learning continuum
  3. Increase stakeholder engagement and capacity for impacted communities

Serving as their lead capacity builder, fundraiser, and fiscal agent, SVP has helped to raise $408,500 to support the formally-named Culturally Specific Early Learning Advocacy Collaborative. Grants awarded by Meyer Memorial Trust, The Collins Foundation, and the Martin and Lorna Kelley Family Foundation, in addition to an SVP investment, will support the three goals of the Collaborative over the next two years.

The Collaborative has already achieved a milestone in getting the Equity Fund included in Governor Kate Brown’s proposed state budget and attracting a strong legislative champion, Representative Diego Hernandez, to formally introduce a measure in the Oregon House of Representatives. The Collaborative has begun training dozens of parent advocates and strengthening skills to achieve the advocacy goals ahead.

SVP will be supporting the Collaborative by managing the funding and supporting the capacity-building needs of each organization. We also expect to be strong and vocal supporters of the Equity Fund and similar advocacy efforts that fuel the growth of our Community Partners and the young children and families they serve.

* The Collaborative includes five SVP Community Partners as members: Latino Network, Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization, KairosPDX, Native American Youth & Family Center, and the Black Parent Initiative. SVP and thirteen other organizations participate in the Collaborative as supporters of their agenda.

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