How One Nonprofit Is Pooling Public and Private Funds to Support Students in Rural America
Jun 7, 2022
The Place Matters portfolio aims to improve economic and social mobility in communities across the US through investments in place-based partnerships and catalytic supports.
We believe one of the best ways to improve social and economic mobility for young people and families in the US is through comprehensive interventions that focus on solving problems specific to their communities.
Too often, geography is destiny: Research shows that the socioeconomic circumstances into which an individual is born and lives largely determine their access to the resources and opportunities necessary to thrive. At the same time, generations of systemic racism have compounded these inequities and prevented many people of color from achieving their full potential.
The Place Matters portfolio takes into account the way community – for better or worse – shapes life chances; we invest in collective action at the community level and in supports that enable success.
Improving economic and social mobility for whole communities has proven elusive to date. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to combating poverty. What works in one community may not translate in another. These layered problems require layered solutions, tailored to the specific needs and inequities of each community and with leaders partnering across sectors. Yet even when social sector leaders are responsive to the needs of local people, their success is often limited when they are forced to replicate strategies from scratch or when they lack access to essential resources, networks, or policies.
An individual’s community and living environment have a powerful impact on their access to opportunity. Data show that children’s chances of climbing the income ladder are profoundly affected by the neighborhoods in which they are raised. For generations, systemic racism has cemented and compounded these inequities in communities of color.
Place-based leaders and social sector organizations, despite making progress, often find their efforts stymied by a lack of comprehensive supports. Without resources like robust data, planning support, adequate staff capacity, or expert counsel, they are not able to consistently and effectively scale what works in their community.
Despite place-based partnerships' potential to address glaring needs in communities across the US, inadequate, fragmented funding has proven to be one of the greatest barriers to their success. And even when it is provided, leaders report funding is overly restricted, leaving them unable to leverage other public or private sector investment or pursue comprehensive strategies with sustainable results.
The Place Matters portfolio is core to Blue Meridian’s overall investing strategy and a reflection of our belief that place-based work is a powerful avenue for improving the life trajectories of young people and families in poverty.
Our comprehensive strategy invests in place-based partnerships and the necessary ecosystem of supports to catalyze their success. This strategy builds on Blue Meridian’s multi-year experience investing in and learning from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Guilford County, NC, alongside our regional partners and studying countless other place-based efforts.
The Place Matters portfolio aims to amplify the array of solutions that local leaders can adapt to achieve lasting, community-wide impact.
Place-based partnerships are a community-driven, outcomes-focused approach. They position place as the nexus of progress, designing and implementing solutions that are tailored to a particular community. Leaders come together across sectors to identify shared goals and hold themselves accountable to achieve impact. These partnerships attend to pressing needs, while building on individual and community assets to create cradle-to-career opportunity pathways.
To catalyze the success of place-based partnerships, we are partnering with others to cultivate a comprehensive ecosystem of key tools and resources. Strengthened infrastructure could fortify support for things like planning, data collection and analysis, policy, and technology among others. This will enable leaders to better track results and hone their efforts over time to achieve transformational and sustained outcomes.
We are currently providing planning support and making initial investments that lay the groundwork for aligning future capital in support of place-based partnerships and catalysts to promising work that’s underway. Significant investment from private and public sources will be required in order to accelerate an equitable recovery and to achieve sustained results that will actually improve people’s life trajectories.
The Place Matters portfolio draws upon the philanthropic capital pooled by all of Blue Meridian’s Partners as well as anchor funding from General Partner Ballmer Group.
With a shared vision to leverage the power of place to increase access to opportunity in the US, Ballmer Group provided insight and collaboration on key aspects of the investing strategy. Ballmer Group supports efforts to improve economic mobility for American children and families who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty.
The Place Matters investing strategy leaves community leaders in control to shape their own destinies. The people in each community know best what is needed both to recover from the pandemic and to grow more long-term pathways to mobility.
Place-based partnerships may be tailored to the unique assets and needs of a community, but they all share a commitment to outcomes. Blue Meridian and local leaders we support subscribe to a results-based framework which acknowledges the need to reach key milestones across life stages and avoid major impediments in order to be on a positive life trajectory. Each community that we invest in has determined their own priority outcomes.
Blue Meridian is excited to partner with local foundations and philanthropists to align capital for place-based partnerships and a supporting national ecosystem.
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