Sunday, May 17, 2009

Foundations for ARRA

"To achieve the goals of ARRA and related legislation and fine tune future actions, they [states, et. al.] will need to understand not only the data but also how particular implementation steps worked in their and other jurisdictions. Without such learning, early mistakes or unexpected obstacles could doom the effectiveness of key ARRA provisions."

Olivia Golden, Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute, "The Stimulus and Poverty: A Role for Foundations in Seizing the Moment: How Foundations Can Help the Stimulus Reach Low-Income Families."

This brief commentary suggests five strategies for foundations to assist ARRA implementation -- and other related legislation. The five are: "Set the Stage for Change; Track the Damage and the Repairs; Learn by Doing; Stimulate New Policy Ideas; and Stimulate Ideas for Rebalancing the Federal, State, and Local Relationships." Not surprisingly, these suggestions all include a strong research component -- the mobilization of expertise. This makes sense give the size and complexity of ARRA.

But foundations can also play an important role in supporting efforts to link the programs and benefits of ARRA to low-income families and communities. This is not a given for many components of ARRA. Five approaches help meet this objective: Advocate targeting to low income; Track who benefits and who does not benefit; Stimulate real time learning among practitioners and policymakers; Stimulate new approaches to linking ARRA elements; and Document system changes worth sustaining and expanding.

How about another five: Help nonprofits gain access to (compete for) ARRA resources; Provide glue resources for partnerships that link important ARRA elements; Support advocacy for state and local policy changes; Support nonprofit capacity-building for ARRA implementation and beyond; and Identify strategic opportunities for other foundations to invest.

So, maybe there are at least 15 things that foundations should do.

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