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Seattle Foundation Receives HUD Secretary’s Award for Public Philanthropic Partnership

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recognizes Seattle Foundation for its work to improve health, social, economic, and racial equity in King County


April 11, 2016

We're excited to announce that Seattle Foundation was one of ten foundations to receive the Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2016 Secretary’s Award for Public Philanthropic Partnership. The award recognizes the neighborhood partnerships initiative Communities of Opportunity – an effort launched by Seattle Foundation and King County to address inequities in health, social, racial, and economic outcomes.  

Communities of Opportunity (COO) is a groundbreaking partnership launched in 2014 by Seattle Foundation and two King County departments – Public Health-Seattle & King County and Community & Human Services. COO supports community-identified goals that increase equity and positively influence policies, systems and practices across communities. Place-based investments underpin many of these efforts. The initial sites are Rainier Valley, Sea Tac / Tukwila and White Center.

The partners used data and heat maps of King County to identify the areas that experience the greatest inequities in health and well-being outcomes, and have the most to gain from innovative partnerships working together with community to solve problems. The COO partners are working to change the unfair reality that where you live, how much you make, and the color of your skin are increasingly the most significant predictors of life experience and the opportunity to live well and thrive.

“This partnership speaks to the core of Seattle Foundation:  equity and opportunity,” said Tony Mestres, president and CEO at Seattle Foundation.  “First and foremost, this is an upstream approach to creating policy and systems change to create greater equity. The COO partnership supports cross-sector strategies that will move the needle on the major markers of equity in a community and ignite the policy reform needed to create greater opportunity across the region.”

Communities of Opportunity was designed to maximize positive impact by engaging many cross-sector partners in a collective impact approach to support strategies that were co-designed with community leaders and by focusing public and private resources on neighborhoods experiencing under-investment. Starting with King County’s initial investment of $500,000 and Seattle Foundation’s annual investment of $500,000 per year for five years, the investments have grown to approximately $7.5 million per year from public and private sources.

“These COO grants will help local organizations expand the great work they are already doing to improve health, housing, and economic opportunities in our region,” said Dow Constantine, King County Executive. “Our partnership with Seattle Foundation will increase the positive impact of existing programs, coordinate the ongoing efforts, spur future investments from the public and private sector, and empower communities to take a leadership role.”

“HUD is proud of and grateful for the relationships we have with our philanthropic partners across the nation,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “In each of these ten cases, the public-private partnerships worked especially well and expanded opportunity for the communities we all serve. I applaud these foundations for their exceptional dedication to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Seattle Foundation has made an initial 5-year funding commitment to COO. In November 2015, the Best Starts for Kids property levy, which reflects the Foundation’s values and commitment to creating equity and opportunity for all residents of our communities, passed in King County and 10% of this six-year funding source (approximately $6M per year) will support COO. “This unique public/private/community-based partnership in support of healthy communities allows us to achieve greater impact and broader system change than if we approached the work in independent silos,” Mestres added.

Other initiatives in the Seattle region are beginning to engage in community-driven processes due to the influence of COO practices.  These include the on-going work of the Roadmap Project (another Seattle Foundation-supported partnership), Pierce County emergency preparedness efforts and “Partnerships Improving Community Health” grants.

Another recent example just announced by Seattle Foundation and King County is the formation of the Seattle Region Partnership, composed of top regional leaders from business, government and nonprofits. Together they will work to identify systems and structures to improve middle-income job creation, retention, training and placement.

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