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Funders Forum

Surdna Foundation

October 2010

The Surdna Foundation has recently introduced three new programs — Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures — and is focusing its funding particularly on issues at the intersection of those areas, such as community-driven design and the green economy, green manufacturing, and green jobs. The Foundation Center asked Phillip Henderson, Surdna's president:

Surdna Foundation

Question What has Surdna learned from its recent partnerships with policymakers and other grantmakers, and in what ways can grantmakers with similar funding interests collaborate with you?

Answer "We have learned that the best opportunity for policy change right now is at the regional, state, and local levels. While the "big bang" of federal policy change can affect the landscape of entire sections of the economy in one shot, the probability of achieving this level of policy breakthrough remains small. However, there has been a tremendous amount of experimentation and success at other levels of government. By cultivating relationships with key policymakers across the country through network development, sharing of best practices, and other kinds of support, foundations can see a steady accumulation of positive change that amounts to a great deal of overall impact on the issues we care about. This lesson has helped Surdna calibrate its investments in engaging with policymakers and in stimulating policy change.

"Surdna Foundation recognizes that its resources are far too limited to singlehandedly develop sustainable communities across the United States, so we are always looking for partners in our work. We participate in a wide range of funder collaboratives — including the Funder's Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities as well as Living Cities — and have myriad other formal and informal partnerships with other funders, from strong co-funding arrangements on national issues like transportation reform to local partnerships like those we have in Cleveland. These all present terrific opportunities to access pools of intellectual and financial capital being deployed toward critical issues. We look forward to engaging with more grantmaking colleagues in the field who share our values and goals."

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Surdna Foundation
October 2010
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