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A Willingness to Listen and Change: The Convergence Partnership Reflects on a Year of Realignment

Friday, May 14, 2021

By Ray Colmenar, The California Endowment, and Rachel Huguet, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The last year demonstrated what philanthropy is capable of if it feels the urgency. Our sector listened to communities, invested in local solutions, and built partnerships to make a greater impact while also supporting movements working for transformative change. Individually, funders acknowledged their power and privilege and clarified their role in supporting racial justice.
Our sector must continue to build upon the lessons from the past year. The job of the Convergence Partnership is to engage and partner with other leaders in our sector to grow the resources for transformative change. As a 14-year-old national funder collaborative focused on advancing racial justice and health equity, we are conscious that this is a long-term goal and that we can’t do it alone. The foundations involved in the Convergence Partnership are interested in growing our field, supporting power-building in our sector, and taking action — not just talking about it, but actually doing it. 
The California Endowment was one of the founding organizations of the Convergence Partnership. Our goal was to amplify our impact by aligning and leveraging our resources with other funders to address community health issues sitting at the intersections of health, race, place, and power. Over the past ten years, through our work in building healthy communities, The Endowment has gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of how racism creates health disparities and the role of power-building in advancing health equity. As The Endowment evolves its work over the next ten years, power building aimed at racial and health equity will be the centerpiece of the strategy. Through the partnership, we hope to continue learning and taking action with other funders and community leaders to address the many challenges exacerbated by the pandemic and take advantage of new opportunities for creating a more equitable recovery. 

As the newest Convergence partner, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation joined to be part of a space where multi-stakeholder partnerships across philanthropy and communities could thrive. The Partnership is an opportunity for the Hilton Foundation to play an active role in a learning community by sharing what we have learned with other foundations and listening to insights and expertise from different stakeholders. Transformative change happens when we work together, and we know there is power in relationships. In addition, these relationships create opportunities to examine new ways of working together that might fall outside of our traditional partnerships and structures. 

In January 2021, the Convergence partners were excited to announce our new strategies recognizing racial justice as an essential component of realizing health equity. Initially, we were concerned that the pandemic would halt or slow our process in this direction. However, the crises of last year made evident what is at stake in our work. The pandemic and uprisings reinforced the conversations we were having and accelerated the need for new strategies centered on investing in community power, supporting narrative shift, and organizing our sector to reckon with our biases. As a result, our new vision and strategies are focused on changing grantmaking strategies to center power building and reimaging governance to shift power for national and regional funders to have more balanced power at our table. 

Through the partnership, we’ve learned that being in true collaboration with regional, state, and national funders means that, while we may have a shared vision, we also value what each partner brings to the table. Therefore, we have to lead with curiosity and openness to new ideas, setting any ego aside. Whether new to the partnership or long-time members, our differences create the dynamic conversations that push us collectively and as individual institutions to act in more alignment to our commitments.

We’ve also learned that for those of us in philanthropy trying to advance a long-term agenda, we cannot afford not to engage others. We need to follow the leadership of community organizations by sharing and shifting power in ways that enable local leaders to shape how we do our work. There is too much at stake to remain in our silos. Instead, we must be willing to listen, let go, and be changed by what we learn together.


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