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More Than the Grant – Changing the Organization

More Than the Grant – Changing the Organization

This is a joint blog post from Barbara Leonard, MeHAF's Vice President for Programs, and MeHAF grantee Jim Harnar, the Executive Director of The Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership.

Barbara: In 2009, Maine Health Access Foundation provided a grant to the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership to support the Health Leadership Development Program (HLD).  The Hanley Center brings current and emerging leaders from health and public health from across Maine to develop their skills and enhance their capacity to practice Values Driven Leadership:  "A conscious commitment by leaders at all levels to lead with their values and create a culture that optimizes ethical practice and social contribution."

MeHAF's grant focused on providing resources to increase the diversity of participants in the HLD program, with a particular emphasis on including participants who represent or work with individuals who are uninsured or medically underserved.  The grant allowed for scholarship support for individuals who otherwise might not be able to be a part of the program, and also supported creation of an advisory committee that not only helped to recruit these "MeHAF Scholars," but also focused on enhancing the program's curriculum to address issues of diversity and health disparities.

As a grantmaker, I try to support grantees in their work, serving as a sounding board, and when appropriate, helping to solve problems.  Mostly, I try to help grantees develop clear work plans and then stand back and let them take the work forward.  This grant to the Hanley Center went farther and reached heights we never would have anticipated at the beginning.  Far from being a simple grant supporting scholarships and some curriculum enhancements, the work of the grant has ultimately spurred fundamental changes in the organization.  I'll turn the story over to Jim Harnar to tell some of the changes that have occurred.

Jim:  The MeHAF grant has helped the Hanley Center to have a much deeper understanding of what health disparities are and what they mean in real life.  We've broadened our understanding of diversity so that it includes not only the things many of us think of first, diversity of race, ethnicity, or gender, but to include physical disabilities, geographic diversity, behavioral health, immigration status, and other characteristics.  These things matter.  They influence how people perceive health, what is viewed as illness, and how they seek care and interact with caregivers.  We have extended our focus on diversity and health disparities throughout our organization and all of our leadership programs in ways that we never expected.  This has strengthened our work.  We also have built a program of Health Disparity Ambassadors made up of HLD alumni who bring this deep understanding of diversity and the importance of addressing health disparities to all parts of Maine.  The Ambassadors program is supported by grants, training and consultation from the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation's Culture InSight Program, the Maine Community Foundation's People of Color Fund, and Maine CDC's Office of Minority Health.

Barbara:  Philanthropy can be about more than the grant.  Grant funds are important, and allow non-profit organizations to do things they otherwise could not, and to reach into new areas of action.  But sometimes, at their best, grant funds can be the catalyst for deep and fundamental changes in the way organizations do all of their work.  And that's the best of all!

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