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How We Build Effective Cross-Sector Partnerships

Women's Foundation of MN Partnerships | Blog | WFMN

The Foundation is uniquely positioned as a community foundation. One of the key roles the Foundation holds is leadership to drive gender and racial equity in Minnesota through use of a collective-impact framework to build effective cross-sector partnerships. We know that no one sector can solve pressing community issues alone. Inequity is rooted in systemic gender, racial, and economic inequalities, while its effects and opportunities for prevention exist within a complex, cross-sector field of public agencies, businesses, nonprofits, philanthropy, and citizens. The Foundation has the credibility, reputation, and track record of success to build effective cross-sector partnerships and galvanize resources to drive gender and racial equity and build pathways to economic security for the women and girls in our state who need it most: low-income women and girls, women and girls of color, and women and girls in greater Minnesota.

The Foundation engages in collaborative funding and partnerships within Minnesota’s foundation community dedicated to social change grantmaking. Our work has been highlighted multiple times with Minnesota Council on Foundations’ programs. We are a member of several funder collaboratives, including the Start Early Funders Coalition for Children and Minnesota’s Future, MinneMinds, and the Northside Funders Group, offering a gendered perspective at those tables.

The Foundation’s girlsBEST Fund has informed and influenced our national leadership in Prosperity Together, a coalition of 29 women’s foundations investing in women and girls’ economic opportunity. On November 13, 2015, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, with Prosperity Together, announced a funding commitment of $100 million over the next five years by women’s foundations to promote greater economic security among low-income girls, women, and their families. The announcement was made in Washington, D.C. at the White House’s Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color Summit. As of November 2016, Prosperity Together met and exceeded their Year One goals. To meet the goal of $100 million over five years, the expected giving amount for Year One was $20 million; the actual number was $29,170,427, which exceeded expectations by 46 percent.

Our longstanding impact with girlsBEST also positioned the Women’s Foundation to inform the White House Council on Women and Girls (White House Council) on their national agenda. The Foundation shared our girlsBEST notable practices as well as our community-based research to inform the White House Council’s approach. As a result, the Foundation partnered with the White House Council as the Minnesota host of its National Listening Tour on Women and Girls of Color. On November 30, 2015, we hosted two listening sessions for grantmakers and policymakers to hear directly from young women and advocates from Minnesota’s American Indian and Somali and East African communities about the challenges and barriers to equity they face as young women of color, and their solutions, hopes, and dreams for the future. Through the Tour, the White House Council aimed to develop a national agenda focused on equity and empowerment for women and girls of color.

Additionally, the Foundation is one of six partners nationally in the Partnership for Women’s Prosperity (PWP), an effort to further girls’ and women’s economic opportunity. Through this partnership, we’ve gained an understanding of the work of other women’s foundation’s economic security funding strategies and impact measures. We’ve also had the opportunity to share our girlsBEST model with other partners, which has led to the implementation of similar girlsBEST models. For example, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation now has a fully operating fund to support middle school girls and their economic well-being.

YWI MN Partnerships

In 2016, the Foundation engaged over 120 of its grantee-partners in community-specific listening sessions with young women (ages 12-24) from eight communities: African American, African Immigrant (Somali and East African), American Indian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (Hmong and Karen), Latina, Greater Minnesota (north and south), LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities. The sessions served as the basis for the YWI MN. The Foundation partnered with the White House Council on Women and Girls and NoVo Foundation to conduct the listening sessions.

Built with community partners, based on community-specific listening sessions, and funded through Women’s Foundation investments, the YWI MN’s cross-sector leaders comprise:

  • Young Women’s Cabinet: up to 32 young women (ages 16-24) from the eight communities guided the framework and content for the YWI MN Blueprint for Action. The Women’s Foundation funds the YWCA St. Paul to provide leadership development to the Cabinet. Cabinet members are paid for their time.
  • Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota Council: 65+ leaders from corporations, government, philanthropy, universities, and nonprofits. Three young women from the Cabinet also sit on the Council. The purpose of the Council is to sequence the Blueprint and inspire and catalyze resources to move it forward.

The Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota co-leads the YWI MN with the Foundation. A memorandum of understanding was signed August 2016.

University of Minnesota-UROC received a grant from the Foundation to develop and conduct a community action engagement research process (action research). The Community-Specific Working Groups are at the core of the action research. Collectively, 500 cross-sector leaders comprised of young women and youth (ages 16-24), nonprofit representatives, and elected officials provided input into the research, resulting in the YWI MN Blueprint for Action.

YWCA St. Paul is funded by the Foundation to provide leadership development and payment to the young women (ages 16-24) who serve on the Young Women’s Cabinet. The Cabinet composition representing the eight communities at the core of the YWI MN ensures that the work of the Council remains grounded in the lived experiences of young women and the community-specific challenges and solutions they identified.

Launched in July 2016, the National YWI Funders Collaborative is a learning cohort of eight women’s foundations (including the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota) who will share best practices and field learning as YWIs unfold in their respective regions. One goal of the Collaborative is to attract national funding from philanthropies seeking to scale projects that increase equity in outcomes for young women.

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