What should be the Hyams Foundation’s focus for the more immediate future, with the ultimate goal of long-term change?
The Hyams Foundation is a private, independent foundation with a mission of increasing economic, racial and social justice and power within low income communities in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. Its vision for the future is a society in which systems and structures are transformed to create the conditions for increased collective well-being and produce equitable power, access, opportunities and outcomes, regardless of race. Having seen success from its last strategic plan developed with Wellspring Consulting in 2007, but also having undergone some organizational changes, the Hyams Foundation was looking for a thoughtful, well-facilitated process to engage each of its trustees and consider a range of views, ultimately reaching agreement on the organization’s future strategic direction. As a foundation seeking long-term, fundamental change in and around Boston, Hyams was looking for a strategic plan that would set it on the path toward greater social change. It became clear through the project that the Foundation also had a desire to narrow its focus in order to have a deeper impact on a smaller number of issues and to place racial justice at the center of its work.
Working closely with Hyams’ staff, Wellspring:
- Solicited and listened to trustees’ perspectives via different media, such as one-on-one interviews, facilitated group discussions, and visuals / presentations
- Synthesized Hyams’ history as a foundation to provide the trustees with a deeper understanding of its trajectory and how it became what it is today
- Clarified and solidified the Foundation’s Mission, Vision and Values and Beliefs statements
- Defined a single overarching goal for the organization, and a strategic framing to organize its work
- Interviewed other local funders and Hyams’ grantees to understand the Foundation’s role in the local funding landscape
- Researched the role of racial justice, social movement building, and Mission Related Investing at selected foundations nation-wide to inform the planning process
- Worked with staff to evaluate potential future issue areas on a number of dimensions both internal to Hyams and external, related to the funding landscape in Boston; then worked with trustees to choose the issue areas for the Foundation’s future work
- Designed processes to select and operationalize the work
- Defined target resource allocations based on the strategic framing developed
- Laid out an implementation plan and key milestones for Hyams’ board and staff to refer to
Much of our work internally with the Foundation focused on ensuring alignment across the Foundation’s leadership, incorporating a number of different perspectives. This work included looking at the Foundation’s history and clarifying and refining the Foundation’s identity statements, as well as creating the strategic plan for the future. External research dived into how organizations across the nation address racial justice, social movement building, and Mission Related Investing, to understand best practices.
In order to narrow the Foundation’s focus for deeper impact, the Trustees aligned around a single Overarching Goal: Dismantle persistent, racialized economic disparities. But, the Foundation’s trustees were concerned not only with what the Foundation was working on, but also how the Foundation carried out its work in the community. Therefore, the strategic framing laid out three strategies to realize this goal: 1) building a strong base of civic activism and power; 2) pursuing institutional and policy change efforts; and 3) fueling change by being visible, convening and fostering vision. These strategies also had a building-block quality, within three “levels of Foundation engagement”, with higher levels of engagement focused on addressing particular critical racial justice issues in the community. Future funding allocations were laid out on the building-block approach as well.
While the Foundation intends to evaluate its performance regularly and potentially make minor adjustments to its direction, it is envisaged that this strategic framework – with the flexibility of periodically changing the issues areas of focus as needed – will guide the Hyams Foundation for the foreseeable future. Knowing this strategy will take considerable time and commitment, the trustees and staff are dedicated to realizing the long-term benefits they seek to bring to Boston and Chelsea.