In 2017, MeHAF embarked on a journey to place a shared understanding and commitment to equity at center of our work. For us, building equity is a proactive, strategic approach to improving outcomes that accounts for the structural differences in opportunities, burdens, and needs experienced by different groups of people.
We realized from the start that we must begin with an honest examination of ourselves, as individuals and as an organization, through a lens of equity. To guide us, we formed an equity subcommittee comprised of members of our Board and Community Advisory Committee (CAC). The subcommittee planned and participated in a full-day training on equity issues with the entire Board, CAC, and staff, and worked with partners to conduct an internal assessment, examining our grantmaking and other activities. Members of the subcommittee also visited with more than a dozen organizations rooted in communities across the state to learn how we could be better partners to achieve equitable health outcomes.
These activities shaped a new plan for more equitable practices across all the foundation’s activities. A major goal of the new plan is for MeHAF to support nonprofit partners that are of, by, and for communities in Maine that face health inequities. Through our Health Equity Capacity-Building grants program, MeHAF seeks to provide that support through grant dollars, peer learning supports, and targeted technical assistance for community led organizations in Maine.
Beginning in 2018, our Health Equity Capacity-Building initiative includes the following:
- Grants: A competitive request for proposals took place in early 2018 and eight Maine nonprofits were selected to receive a three-year, unrestricted operating support grant for $75,000.
- Technical assistance and support for grantees: Health Equity Capacity-Building grantees participate in regular learning communities that feature local and national experts, network development, and peer-to-peer sharing.
- Evaluation: Using a developmental evaluation approach, we will learn what strategies and approaches provide the greatest value and support for community-led nonprofits in Maine.