Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund (IF), launched at the end of 2009, aims to support local and  regional foundations  to  shift  their grantmaking  efforts  toward  policy  and  environmental  change  strategies  that specifically  promoted  equity  in two arenas  of  work — access  to  healthy  food  and  improvements  in  the built  environment. The IF was strategically designed to incentivize local and regional funders to take risks in their grantmaking, demonstrate progress, create internal capacity to sustain their new IF initiatives, and increase support for equitable policy and environmental change efforts.

The 2010–2012  Innovation  Fund  initiative  was  a  tremendous  success. The  approximately  $2-million  fund  awarded  50  percent  matching  grants  to  15 geographically  diverse  foundations, representing  urban  and  rural regions  from  the West,  East  Coast, South,  and  Midwest  and  was significantly  leveraged  with  an additional  $16  million  that  included new government grants and partnerships, in-kind support, and additional philanthropic dollars. 

Institutional and community impacts from the original Innovation Fund included the following:

  • Adopting more than  50  policy  and  environmental changes  focused in  low-income  communities and  communities  of color, including  new  vacant  property  ordinances,  bike  and  pedestrian master  plans, revised urban  agriculture  policies,  and  the  inclusion  of  equity  and  healthy community  policies  into  regional and  local comprehensive  plans.
  • Launching brand  new  initiatives  focused  on  equity  and  policy  and  environmental  change.
  • Focusing  philanthropic  resources  in  low-income  communities  and  communities  of  color  and changing  grantmaking  structures  to  include  community  leadership.
  • Incorporating  Innovation  Fund  goals and  criteria across grantmaking  portfolios.
  • Increasing  collaboration  among  local  leaders  with  diverse  interests  and  increased  engagement in policy processes, particularly by low-income communities and communities of color