The Northeast Ohio philanthropic community has long funded localized solutions to economically disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities. This has primarily been through support of organizations, associations and programs that seek to address seemingly intractable issues related to education, employment, housing, and health.
Over the last 10 years, however, there has been a thoughtful, strategic and organized reimagining of philanthropic engagement with respect to economic development that emphasizes trend analysis, comparative analytics and collaboration as a means of making informed and effective funding decisions. Once again, our philanthropic community is leading the way!
Enter the Fund for Our Economic Future
Much of this work has been facilitated through the Fund for Our Economic Future, a philanthropic collaboration dedicated to advancing economic growth & equitable access to opportunity for the people of Northeast Ohio through research, civic engagement, and grantmaking. The Fund is a nonprofit organization governed by voting members and supported by a small, professional staff. It has more than 50 members, including community, private, family, and corporate foundations, educational institutions, health care systems, corporations, and community-based collaborations.
Formed in 2004, the Fund has raised more than $100 million to improve regional economic competitiveness through pooled grantmaking, research and convening. The organization works in partnership with private and public sector leaders toward its goal of transforming the economy of Northeast Ohio, a region responsible for nearly $200 billion per year in gross regional product (GRP) and encompassing more than 4 million people in and around the metropolitan areas of Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Youngstown.
Growth & Opportunity: An Approach to Actualizing the Vision Research shows that economic growth is stronger and more sustainable where more people benefit from that growth. Indeed, the Fund’s 2013 What Matters to Metros research study found that metropolitan areas with strong job growth also tend to experience higher poverty, inequality and crime. The Fund has recognized that economic growth must be pursued in tandem with economic opportunity. Within this framework, the Fund emphasizes a three-tied approach as follows:
Builds on distinct regional assets in order to create and retain good jobs with long-term payoffs for people of all skill levels.
Prepares residents for current and future jobs through systems reform that promotes coordinated, employer-connected and sector-focused education and training.
Strengthens connectivity between where people live and work through more efficient transit and social/spatial patterns that enable improved access to jobs in the future.
In short, the Fund believes advancing growth AND opportunity leads to a maximization of economic impact.
Through the work of the Fund, civic leadership, community development corporations, educational institutions, the nonprofit community, citizens and corporations our community is reclaiming, reimagining and reinvesting in distressed communities by strategically leveraging intellectual, professional and financial resources to maximize long-term impact. In doing so, we will help to ensure all communities benefit from our region’s resurgence.
As always, be focused on knowledge, innovation and impact!
John Patrick Bailey, Ph.D.