These actions are informed by four months of primary and secondary research conducted by our team. Our team analyzed national best practices and global innovations as well as the policies, organizational structures, regulatory authorities, and performance reports of local stakeholder agencies to understand the systems-level structures that drive performance. We consulted with more than 100 local and national public officials, system administrators, and technical experts to understand the challenges and opportunities at hand.
Our ability to develop these actions also required an understanding of the current state of services derived from the experiences of frontline staff and people experiencing homelessness. Our research team leveraged a mix of design workshops, interviews, and site visits across King County. Our lines of inquiry identified the most pressing challenges for accessing and delivering services and the dynamics between service providers, customers, and the system.
King County has well-resourced business and philanthropic communities that have made significant investments in initiatives to end homelessness in the region. However, these investments have not been aligned with each other or with public priorities. This has resulted in competing—rather than complementary—efforts and a public perception that investments are mismanaged. The region’s inability to leverage private investments against public priorities is rooted in the absence of a shared theory of change, which has hindered the progress both sectors have sought in King County.
Creating a defined public/private partnership will enable funders across the region to organize around the community’s theory of change in a meaningful way. Specifically, it will allow them to develop a shared understanding of community-wide priorities, shape investments that are mutually-reinforcing, and offer smaller donors and the public an ongoing opportunity to contribute to those investments.
Over the course of the last 15 years, public and private partners in Seattle and King County have invested significant resources in preventing and ending homelessness. These investments helped connect more than 30,000 households to permanent housing in the last six years alone.
However, the lack of a common vision has undercut these initiatives. Providers compete against each other for resources while the system continues to fall short in meeting the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Fragmentation between publicly and privately funded initiatives contributes to the disjointed nature of the homeless service system, directly impacting customers’ experiences.1
The funders collaborative model allows for a transformational, authentic whole-of-community approach to the work to end homelessness in the region. Under this model, partners from the private and public sectors work in tandem under a shared theory of change to strategically match gaps in public resources to private funding opportunities. This ensures that investments will be meaningfully complementary rather than unintentionally misaligned. It will allow the region to drive toward specific goals at the campaign level and overall improvement at the systems level.23
There are successful models for this type of collaboration at the national level and in several communities. Partners in King County should engage technical experts to support the design and establishment of a funders collaborative.
By consolidating private funding with a single representative of the philanthropic community, the sector will streamline and align investments and create meaningful space for private sector input on public priorities.4 This partner should be positioned to align procurement processes and priorities with the new regional authority. The collaborative could grant to the public entity, but could also grant to community-based organizations to support innovations and campaigns toward specific goals. This public/private partnership should be institutionalized by establishing a designated team within the new agency to partner with the funders collaborative.
Please note that this team refers to “people with lived experience” or “people experiencing homelessness” as “customers” to accurately reflect their status placement within the system. ↩
In San Diego, a funders collaborative was able to leverage $240,000 into $10 million of public funding to support the operational expense of creating permanent supportive housing, and converting existing transitional housing. Funders Together San Diego. ↩
The Funders Together to End Homelessness Los Angeles chapter has more than thirty funder members who meet quarterly to learn about and discuss new solutions to homelessness in LA County. Many of these members are also part of Los Angeles County’s Home For Good Funders Collaborative, led by the local United Way. Between 2012 and 2015 the Funders Collaborative aligned over $650 million in public and philanthropic resources toward permanent solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County. ↩
This single entity model was maximized in Los Angeles through Funders Together Los Angeles and streamlined investments in permanent supportive housing to drive progress toward ending chronic homelessness. (Abt Associates. (May 2013). Home for Good Funders Collaborative: Lessons Learned from Implementation and Year One Funding. Conrad H. Hilton Foundation.) ↩
To create a defined public/private partnership, business and philanthropic sector partners should:
1. Engage national experts and partners from other communities.
Homeless service systems in seven other states have partnered with funders collaboratives to institutionalize alignment across the public and private sectors.1 In addition to offering peer expertise, national experts are well-positioned to support the business and philanthropic communities in establishing a shared understanding of their roles and responsibilities to customers, grantees, and the public.2
2. Adopt the community’s theory of change as the governing principle over local investments.
The theory of change should provide the framework for aligned investments towards a common vision of making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time.
3. Develop two-way information sharing processes that inform and shape shared policies and priorities across sectors.
In order for collaboration across sectors to be meaningful, insights should flow with ease between the consolidated entity and the funders collaborative. A liaison between the new entity and the funders collaborative should be designated. This liaison should be responsible for ensuring that private sector partners are connected to opportunities to inform policy and support resource gaps identified through the system.
4. Establish shared performance metrics across systems, which are centered on customers’ experience, outcomes, and cross-system policy priorities.
Cross-sector alignment based on the community’s theory of change will only be effective if performance metrics are established across funders to demonstrate a shared commitment to the same housing-focused outcomes for customers. These core metrics should be developed by the new entity in collaboration with partners.
5. Align procurement priorities, goals, deliverables, and timelines according to the community’s theory of change and cross-system policy priorities.
Initiatives funded through the funders collaborative should be operationally aligned with those funded through the public sector, both those directly funded by the joint agency and those funded through adjacent systems. With an aligned procurement process, public and private partners alike would have an opportunity to streamline grantees’ and providers’ processes and support more fluid processes for customers.3
Funders Together to End Homelessness is the leading organization in the work to expand philanthropy’s impact and influence in advancing the movement to prevent and end homelessness. Funders Together to End Homelessness provides critical resources, learning and networking opportunities to its members to increase their knowledge, capacity, and effectiveness in their individual and collective work to prevent and end homelessness. ↩
Learnings published by Los Angeles’ funding collaborative highlight the benefit of including stakeholders’ preferences in the application review process, either through “impartial” or “expert” reviewers. (Abt. Associates. (May 2013). Home for Good Funders Collaborative: Lessons Learned from Implementation and Year One Funding. Conrad H. Hilton Foundation.) ↩