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Philanthropy Tools Are Up to the Task

Does philanthropy need to be reinvented? That's the question I've been asking myself after reading articles from the New York Times and Philanthropy News Digest about how Google.org (DotOrg) has found it hard to reinvent philanthropy. DotOrg tried to harness Google's ability to incubate ground-breaking ideas and their powerful search engine capabilities to develop a new tool that would aggregate data in new and creative ways to help solve large scale social issues. But is this reinventing philanthropy? The phrase "reinventing philanthropy" implies that either we—or our tools—are not up to the task. I understand that foundations have had a difficult time providing evidence of their impact despite the considerable resources dedicated to various causes. Yet I would argue that it's a lack of imagination, and not a lack of adequate tools that keeps us from being effective. Our tools—grant funding, convening power, policy research, grant databases, evaluation, funder collaborations, program-related investment, and more—are up to the task. We don't need to reinvent, we simply need to reimagine both how we deploy our tools, and with whom we partner.

MeHAF has tried to reimagine how we can be more patient-centered by integrating physical and behavioral health. Our integration initiative emerged from multiple conversations with Maine people, and resulted in the report Maine Integrated Health Initiative: Maine People Speak About Health Care Integration. We have funded both planning and implementation grants, and all grantees have participated in an initiative-wide evaluation. We continue to support quarterly learning community meetings to help advance their work and that of the field, and we are working on policy issues to support the implementation of integrated care more broadly throughout our health care system. Lastly, we are supporting a small group of exemplary grantees in offering their expertise and technical assistance to other practitioners in the field adopting an integrated care model. This is just one example of how we deploy our resources to move work forward, but we know we can do more.

How do you think MeHAF can use its tools in new and creative ways to address and improve the health of everyone in Maine? Tell us what you think.

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