Collaboration is generating jobs, investments for the future
December 29, 2009
The following was published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009.
By Phil Ranney and Brian Frederick
Six years ago a few dozen philanthropic organizations united behind an unprecedented collaboration based on the premise that the best social welfare program is a job.
Now, as members of the Fund for Our Economic Future prepare for a third three-year commitment to strengthening the region's economy, we can say with strong conviction that our collaboration is indeed making a difference in transforming the future of Northeast Ohio. And philanthropy remains committed to, and invites others to join, the mission we embarked on in 2004 to make our region great again.
Collaborating -- the act of working jointly -- is demanding, especially for entities accustomed to acting independently. Perhaps no organizations are more fiercely independent than foundations -- those entities charged by their predecessors with the privilege and duty to support charitable causes.
When we decided that our collective missions included supporting the charitable cause of building a more vibrant and inclusive regional economy, many inside and outside philanthropy wondered whether we could make a difference. And even we wondered how a collaboration that quickly grew to include more than 100 entities could stay together and remain focused on our clearly defined mission.
Focused and together, the Fund for Our Economic Future has contributed to accelerating the transformation of our region and its economy. Together, we are focused on four priorities that research and citizen input tell us are essential to transforming Northeast Ohio: business growth, talent development, inclusion and government efficiency. As a collaboration, we bring more capital and more stature to the work than any of us -- even the largest among us -- could bring if we acted independently. We are together because the global economy demands that our region act jointly -- yes, collaborate -- if it is to attract more jobs and investments.
Inspired and supported by the Fund, institutions and organizations across the 16 counties of Northeast Ohio are working jointly to attract growing companies, support entrepreneurs, boost minority business, make local government more efficient and better prepare our region's residents for employment. These collaborations have played important roles in generating more than $1 billion in venture-capital investment in our region since 2004, attracting 29 companies over the last three years and creating thousands of new jobs.
The progress continues despite the global economic collapse. For example, last week the state of Ohio invested more than $11 million in 11 advanced-energy companies in the region, several of which have been assisted by Fund-backed initiatives. The state's alignment of its economic development efforts with the Fund's work is just one example of the powerful partnerships our collaboration has forged with government and the private sector.
The philanthropic organizations we each represent have taken a long, critical look at whether the Fund has lived up to its promise and deserves our continued support over the next three years. We all reached the same conclusion: There is no better way for philanthropy to serve the important cause of economic transformation than to work jointly through the Fund. While working independently may be easier and give each of us more control, we recognize that we must model the behavior we expect of others. We ask our grantees to collaborate; we should do the same.
We will work jointly to support regional initiatives that are making Northeast Ohio more competitive, creating jobs and attracting investments. This was the mission of the Fund at its founding in 2004. It is our mission as we enter a new decade.
We owe it to the region to stay together, build on our record of success and continue to partner with others to build a more vibrant Northeast Ohio.
We encourage others in philanthropy to join us in this vital work.
Others sign on
Representatives from the following philanthropic organizations co-signed this column: The Community Foundation of Lorain County, the Katherine and Lee Chilcote Foundation, the Lorain County Community College Foundation, the Third Federal Foundation, the Kent H. Smith Charitable Trust, the George Gund Foundation, the Sherwick Fund, the Frances Schoolroy Charitable Fund, the Wayne Growth Partnership, the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation, the Elizabeth Ring Mather and William Gwin Mather Fund, the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation, the Mt. Sinai Healthcare Foundation, the Saint Luke's Foundation, the Stocker Foundation, the John G. and Karen R. Nestor Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, the John Huntington Fund for Education and the Stark Community Foundation.