The Community Foundation’s Role in Building Social Capital - Richland County Foundation

The Community Foundation’s Role in Building Social Capital

By Brady Groves

March 3, 2020

Corporate financial and volunteer board leadership support for nonprofit agencies in Ohio’s smaller legacy cities has shrunk over the past several decades. The Greater Ohio Policy Center said these cities with 30,000-200,000 residents have undergone significant transformation trying to adapt to twenty-first-century economic realities. What is the new role and reality of philanthropy in these cities? 

One of the keys to moving beyond the old status quo is to build civic capacity. However, the traditional public/private initiatives have been disrupted by the loss of corporate leadership and reduction in government funding. As such, does the community foundation become the new dance partner? If so, do we lead, or do we follow? Perhaps the best response is, a little of both.

We believe building social capital leads to a healthier, more economically vibrant and better-educated community. This is accomplished by developing and nurturing relationships that form social networks willing to help each other. These networks are most effective when they are diverse. So, we need to effectively reach out to be more inclusive.

I recently attended the Ohio Mid-Sized Urban Districts Leadership Collaborative. The Collaborative is a collection of educators from urban school districts with between 1,000 and 8,000 students. They examine ways to improve student performance in high poverty cities across the state. I had the opportunity to listen to superintendents who referenced the lack of cultural competence as one barrier to better schools. 

With local education inextricably linked to creating a viable workforce, which in turn grows the economic and philanthropic base of our community, it became apparent the community foundation can play a key role. That role includes convening local conversations and connecting access to experts and best practices to address challenges.

Deeper engagements, with more diverse networks, appears to be the new reality for our community foundations.

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