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Building HUD’s Capacity To Partner With Philanthropy

Image showing 18 HUD employees at an IPI Philanthropic Engagement workshop.HUD’s Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI) runs Philanthropic Engagement Workshops for HUD employees nationwide to learn more about the philanthropic sector and identify useful strategies to build partnerships in their regions.

After Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and the surrounding region, one of two things could have happened. Various government agencies, nonprofits, and foundations could have continued with business as usual, rebuilding the damaged areas, sticking to the status quo, and restoring the region to exactly the way it was before the hurricane.

Instead, government and foundation partners decided to take a different approach and work in a new, collaborative way. They formed Rebuild by Design, a unique public-philanthropic partnership to promote resilience in the disaster-affected area through a design competition. The competition leveraged both philanthropic and federal resources to support projects that will protect the region from floodwaters, deliver new community amenities and parks, and spur economic development and neighborhood revitalization. The seven winning designs include The Big U, a park and flood protection zone in lower Manhattan, and Hunts Point Lifelines, a resiliency plan for a neighborhood in the South Bronx.

Rebuild by Design was so successful in leveraging public and philanthropic resources that it became a model for a larger national competition led by HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation. From this partnership, the Rockefeller Foundation, HUD, and other participants learned many lessons about the value of collaboration between the philanthropic and public sectors.

Yet, government and philanthropy need not wait for a disaster to strike to work together. From topics such as homelessness, community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood revitalization, a plethora of opportunities exist for HUD and philanthropic partners to find common ground, identify mutual goals, and work in tandem to address these issues.

HUD, foundations, and, most important, the populations served benefit greatly when these sectors work together as trusting partners. Partnerships provide the capacity to achieve goals that might be unreachable when organizations work independently. By bringing together entities with complementary and reinforcing strengths, a successful partnership becomes more than just the sum of its parts. HUD continues to recognize the importance of partnerships in its work as a crucial strategy in achieving the agency’s mission.

HUD’s Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation (IPI) leads the agency’s work in philanthropic engagement. The office provides resources, tools, and advice to help develop robust partnerships between HUD and foundations. IPI has supported philanthropic engagement for numerous HUD initiatives, such as EnVision Centers and Promise Zones, and many HUD focus areas such as homelessness, housing affordability, disaster recovery, health and housing, and job training. The office also facilitates the exchange of information between the government and philanthropic partners, identifying partnership opportunities that will enhance HUD’s impact, developing plans for resource alignment and joint action, and managing relationships and special projects. From ending youth homelessness to addressing the housing needs of an aging population, philanthropic partnerships have generated new insights, resources, and opportunities that further HUD’s mission.

IPI also trains federal staff. To enhance HUD’s philanthropic partnerships, IPI runs Philanthropic Engagement Workshops for HUD employees nationwide to learn more about the philanthropic sector and identify useful strategies to build partnerships in their regions. These workshops are empowering HUD staff to work with foundations in their communities to maximize the potential of partnerships. When complete, more than 200 HUD employees will have attended the workshops.

The Philanthropic Engagement Workshops provide an overview of the philanthropic sector, including the different types of foundations and the roles philanthropies play in community initiatives. HUD’s Office of General Counsel provides workshop participants with legal and ethical guidelines for working with foundations while still respecting their limitations as federal employees. The workshop also covers several case studies of successful public-philanthropic partnerships and discusses promising strategies that HUD employees can use in their day-to-day work.

Each workshop concludes with a discussion with representatives from local foundations, which provides an opportunity for HUD staff to learn more about the foundations in their cities and explore how best to engage them around HUD’s goals. Representatives from foundations such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Denver Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the California Community Foundation have joined workshops to discuss their efforts with HUD staff.

By building HUD’s capacity to partner with philanthropy, the agency is more prepared to take advantage of new opportunities, break down barriers, and achieve better results. Public-philanthropic partnerships broaden the reach of both sectors’ investments. To be successful in the pursuit of sustainable solutions, the public and philanthropic sectors must work together, build strong partnerships, and jointly advance compelling ideas and approaches.