- This article examines a range of civic engagement strategies pursued by embedded funders conducting community-change work in chronically disadvantaged communities.
- Embedded funders are place-based foundations that (1) commit to working in a particular community or communities over an extended period of time; (2) pursue direct and ongoing relationships with a range of community actors; (3) make community relationships and partnerships a primary vehicle of their philanthropic operation; and (4) provide extensive supports and resources beyond conventional grantmaking.
- Working as an embedded funder tends either to correlate with a prior commitment to civic engagement or to promote the development of such a commitment. Many of the strengths that embedded funders show in their civic engagement efforts derive from the defining characteristics and shared features of embedded philanthropy.
- The article focuses on four embedded funders: the Humboldt Area Foundation in northwest California, the Jacobs Family Foundation in San Diego, and the Denver Foundation and Piton Foundation, both in Denver. These foundations have all prioritized the promotion of civic engagement, they have done so in distinct ways, and they represent a range of foundation types and styles of embedded philanthropy.
- These foundations have pursued four general types of civic engagement strategy: direct support for individual and group civic engagement activities at the grassroots level, creating spaces and processes for such activities that did not previously exist, creating or supporting an organizational infrastructure for expanded mobilization and citizen engagement, and leveraging their own relationships and influence.
- Successful civic engagement efforts are predicated on knowing a community and being known by it, and on the ability to earn trust through a variety of means. They are also enhanced by the creative use of organizational structure and staffing. An embedded operating style supports and facilitates each of these key elements in the promotion of civic engagement.
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