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