In addition to a breadth of community-driven capacity building and alliance facilitation work, Vitalyst Health Foundation has focused with partners to develop three initiatives meant to create stronger local partnerships: the Capacity Builders Initiative, the Consultants Community of Practice, and the Strategic Learning Initiative.
Capacity Builders Network
The Capacity Builders Network (CBN) increases the effectiveness of nonprofits. The CBN serves as a hub to catalyze and connect those who want to support capacity building. We are committed to collaborations that leverage the work of capacity builders to strengthen the ability of nonprofits to successfully accomplish their mission. Members are actively engaged in activities where our combined efforts have more impact together than individually. The CBN regularly convenes capacity builders across the state to share lessons learned and to seek out opportunities where our work intersects. CBN members agree on working towards indicators that would profoundly improve the impact of nonprofits serving the broader community. Although this initiative is still in its formative stages, measures of its success include partnerships between Vitalyst Health Foundation, ASU Lodestar, AZ Grantmakers Forum, The Nina Pulliam Charitable Trust, Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits and the Virginia G. Piper Foundation.
Consultants Community of Practice
Vitalyst Health recognizes that consultants who work with nonprofits play an important role in our community. Consultants are often the messengers of new ideas in the field and can promote practices and tools that keep nonprofits relevant. The purpose of the Consultants Community of Practice (CCoP) is to increase the self-awareness, creativity, skills, collaboration and resiliency of independent consultants working in service of nonprofit effectiveness. We believe that creating a space for fellowship and co-learning contributes to the overall well-being of the community. Meetings focus on topics that support a “consultants as Vitalyst Health Foundation partners” relationship. Participants in the CCoP are committed to a strengths-based framework and innovative practices that inform, connect and support efforts improving well-being in Arizona by addressing root causes and broader issues that affect health. The CCoP has been in existence since 2006.
Strategic Learning Initiative
Strategic learning is the use of data and insights from a variety of information-gathering approaches—including evaluation—to inform decision making about strategy. Strategic learning occurs when organizations or groups integrate data and evaluative thinking into their work, and then adapt their strategies in response to what they learn. It makes intelligence gathering and evaluation a part of a strategy’s development and implementation—embedding them so that they influence the process*.
Foundations increasingly are adopting the concept of strategic learning to describe their efforts to incorporate reliable data and ongoing reflection into their social change strategies. This concept is particularly important for those strategic philanthropists who recognize that difficult problems often require transformative solutions, and who, in response, are adopting dynamic approaches to social change that think big and aim high. Their strategies are often complicated—i.e., with multiple causal paths or ways of achieving outcomes—and complex—i.e., emergent, with specific goals and activities that develop while the strategy is being implemented.*
The Strategic Learning Initiative teaches evaluation methods and practices that allow people to learn from their work and make mid-course corrections. The initiative formally introduces individuals to the tools that support developmental evaluation, and supports them in the process of mastering these tools for maximum impact. Another aspect of this initiative is to increase the knowledge base and understanding of nonprofit life cycles.
*Source: Beer & Coffman (2011) Evaluation to support learning: principles and practices, Center for Evaluation Innovation.
To connect with or learn more about any of these initiatives, please contact Dr. Raquel Gutierrez at 602-385-6500.