Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Blue Meridian Partners begins this new year committed and determined to bring even more resources and innovation to bear in our mission to solve the problems that trap young people and their families in poverty. At a time of great uncertainty for many in our nation, we are encouraged and emboldened by the strength of our partnerships and the progress of our portfolio of investee organizations.
This year also marks an exciting first for Blue Meridian Partners as we begin our journey as an independent organization. With that in mind, we want to share three animating questions that will guide our work this year, and a preview of what’s to come.
Question 1: Building on our work to date, how can we expand the array of solutions that lift young people and families out of poverty and improve economic mobility nationwide?
Through our decades of collective experience and exploration in the field, our Partners have come to understand that there is no silver bullet, no one solution to the problems that trap young people in poverty. The causes and drivers of poverty are deeply complex and interrelated, and addressing them will require a myriad of innovative approaches.
As such, each of the organizations in our national portfolio employs a strategy that takes into account the complexity and greater context surrounding the problems they seek to solve and identifies systemic barriers to change.
Additionally, we have enhanced our national portfolio through investments in regional strategies to address community-wide problems in Tulsa, OK and Guilford County, NC. Through these investments, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s (EMCF) longtime support of the Harlem Children’s Zone, we have seen how place-based work can change lives and transform communities. To build on these lessons, Jim Shelton has joined Blue Meridian as “Entrepreneur-in-Residence” and is exploring how to strengthen our place-based investing approach and investigate how strategies that coordinate investment in multiple sectors can enhance and accelerate our efforts to boost economic and social mobility. Jim brings with him more than 20 years of experience using philanthropic, public and private investment strategies to address issues of inequity and racial and social justice.
We are honored to have Jim’s insights and experience as we explore how to take our work to the next level.
Question 2: How can we help more organizations ready themselves faster for rapid scaling?
Blue Meridian’s vision is rooted in the idea that increased access to flexible capital can unlock the imaginations of social sector leaders, allowing them to bring their strategies to such a scale that deeply entrenched problems can be solved. In 2017, I gave a TEDx Talk on this subject, in which I shared my belief that by pooling our resources to scale promising solutions, we can transform the overall impact of the philanthropic sector.
We are eager to see capital flowing to the most promising strategies, but also recognize that growth can’t happen overnight. Even the most talented leaders and highest-performing organizations often face significant challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Organizations may have an exemplary track record and a body of promising evidence but still need to tackle a specific barrier or two in order to be fully prepared for transformative growth. However, we believe that with the right supports, it’s possible for leaders to overcome these obstacles.
To that end, we are starting a pilot program to explore how to best help leaders accelerate their readiness for rapid growth and scale. This pilot is in an early phase but builds on EMCF’s decades of capacity-building work. We will have more to share later in the year as we begin working with a handful of organizations.
Question 3: As the philanthropic ecosystem rapidly grows and evolves, how can we collaborate in new and targeted ways with others to achieve our shared mission?
As we sit on the precipice of the greatest wealth transfer in history, there has been renewed discussion about how philanthropy can leverage this capital for maximum social impact.
A new study by The Bridgespan Group points to aggregated funding platforms, like Blue Meridian Partners, as one of the most effective ways to deliver capital to social sector leaders who are at the forefront of real change. We have benefited from learning alongside others pursuing similar strategies, like New Profit, ClimateWorks and NewSchools Venture Fund. It’s exciting to see the field expanding to include new entrants like Co-Impact, MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change, The Audacious Project, and the recently announced Mobility LABs. We look forward to sharing our insights with our colleagues across the sector and learning from their efforts as well.
Partnership is the cornerstone of our work. We know that we must continue to learn from and work collaboratively with others in order to bring forth the requisite resources to confront the problems we face as a country. The latest additions to our Impact Partners group, the Aviv Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eugene and Marilyn Stein Family Foundation, share our belief in the power of collaboration – and in bringing more public, private, philanthropic, and academic actors together to dramatically increase economic mobility and opportunity. Strategic collaborations like this will always be at the forefront of our endeavors as we continue to innovate and develop new ways to engage other philanthropists and build on our current work.
In the coming months, we will have more to share as our work unfolds. As always, we are grateful for your support.
With sincere appreciation,
CEO, Blue Meridian Partners