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In the Fall 2016 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, Doug Easterling describes an emerging trend that should improve effectiveness in improving community health. Using Evocative Grantmaking foundations are working with health systems and other organizations to address the wicked problems of social determinants of health.

“Rather than viewing a grant as an award or a payment for an agreed-upon body of work,” says Easterling, “an evocative grantmaker treats each grant as an opportunity to increase the effectiveness and impact of the funded organization.” The funded groups are taking on complex problems with no simple solutions, so this partnership approach is flexible over time and evokes the way forward from lessons learned along the way. Says Easterling:

The defining feature of evocative grantmaking is that the foundation takes deliberate steps to evoke critical thinking, experimentation, learning, and self-reflection among the groups it supports. This occurs not only through the program officer’s give-and-take engagement with grantees, but also by structuring grants around learning and adaptation rather than holding grantees accountable to fixed objectives and work plans. Evocative grantmakers regard the grant proposal as a first approximation of the actual work that a grantee will carry out. The funder works constructively and flexibly with the grantee as the funded work plays out—maybe according to expectations, but more likely with at least some degree of surprise.

Easterling was the lead writer for the chapter “Philanthropy, Health Systems and Community Health Improvement” in the new book Stakeholder Health.

Read the article “How Grantmaking Can Create Adaptive Organizations” HERE.

Read a Stakeholder Health interview with Doug Easterling HERE.