Each fall, the Koshland Committee and staff look for low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods in the five Bay Area counties served by The San Francisco Foundation. We are especially interested in neighborhoods that are undergoing transition, and those with existing resident leadership. Questions we ask include: Are there existing community-based nonprofits that could serve as anchors in the Koshland process and that would be supportive of resident-led projects? What is the relationship between community groups and the local government? Are there any philanthropic intitiatives underway? We hold preliminary meetings with residents, service providers, and government officials to introduce ourselves and learn more about the community.
Koshland staff prepares a brief memo on each potential new neighborhood based on the information gathered, and the Koshland Committee narrows the field down to two or three finalists. Staff and community members plan a tour of each neighborhood for the Koshland Committee. On each tour, we visit several sites and then have a community luncheon where residents and others can share their ideas. After the tours, the Koshland Committee selects the next Koshland neighborhood.
Koshland staff looks for people who may not hold traditional leadership positions, but who are bridge-builders committed to the well-being of the neighborhood. We are looking for people who are actively engaged in solving community problems, involve others in the neighborhood, work well with others, are willing to take risks and try new approaches to bring people in the community together, and are committed to community planning, teamwork, and the well-being of the neighborhood. Koshland Fellows should be people who live or work in the selected neighborhood and who can commit to participating in a community process with us over the next five years.
In the spring, the Koshland Committee selects up to 12 Fellows, and in early summer we hold an awards ceremony in the neighborhood.
Throughout years two through five, Koshland staff meet regularly with Fellows and other neighborhood stakeholders. The Koshland project is guided by the group of Fellows. The Fellows may decide to use some of the Koshland funding to hire a staff person or consultant, usually from the community, to implement the work. Beginning in year one, we work on sustainability plans for the projects and guide the Fellows and staff in leveraging additional resources from The San Francisco Foundation and other sources.
Koshland staff provides direct guidance and assistance to Fellows in addition to paying for consultants and trainings to help build neighborhood leadership capacity. Support we provide includes:
- training and hands-on help on how to write a grant proposal and where to apply for funding;
- training at The San Francisco Foundation on public relations and effective communication skills;
- annual Fellows luncheon at which Fellows share their work and lessons learned with those from other neighborhoods; and
- cross-neighborhood site visits and shared learning.
Planning and Team Building
After the Koshland awards ceremony, we take the Fellows on a weekend retreat in the fall. The Fellows get a chance to get away and relax, get to know each other, and learn about what we hope to achieve over the next five years. We ask them to think about ways to engage the broader community.
Leadership Development Training
In the first year, the Fellows will participate in a six-month leadership training program following a set curriculum focusing on building skills for more effective communication and conflict resolution across diverse communities, promoting active citizenship and political empowerment, and strengthening mediation and facilitation skills. At the culmination of the leadership development training, each Fellow will have the opportunity to practice what they learned by re-granting $5,000 to a nonprofit organization of their choice.
In late winter, we start to plan with the community through town hall meetings, focus groups, or other strategies the Fellows devise. During the community planning process we focus on how to promote civic unity in the neighborhood. By late spring the group has defined the issue areas to concentrate on and has developed a set of goals and strategies. The Fellows and other community members develop a detailed plan for a project to achieve the goals, and find a community-based fiscal sponsor for the work. Once a project has been developed, the Koshland Program grants up to $75,000 to support the project.
Koshland staff work closely with each neighborhood group to evaluate each step of the process. Our comprehensive evaluation strategy has five main components:
- annual written Fellow surveys about the Koshland process;
- written surveys and focus groups with neighborhood residents about civic unity and neighborhood assets and issues;
- annual written reports from grantees about the Koshland projects and their role in promoting civic unity;
- an evaluation toolkit for each neighborhood to use to measure indicators of individual, group, and neighborhood-wide change over the five years; and
- digital video stories expressing first hand the impact of the Koshland Program.
By evaluating the process throughout the five years, we are able to assess the long-term impact of our work and learn how to strengthen our program.
While each neighborhood approaches the goal of civic unity differently, certain themes emerge across Koshland communities. The needs of immigrants and newcomers, and of youth and families, are often priorities. Many neighborhoods also choose to focus on building resident leadership and on participation in arts and cultural events or activities.
Examples of Recent Projects
- A neighborhood welcome center for immigrants and other newcomers
- A neighborhood youth and family council
- A community newsletter
- A resident leadership and organizing training program
- A neighborhood wide mini-grants program
- An emergency fund to support basic needs of residents
- An afterschool mentorship and tutoring program for first generation college bound youth
- Neighborhood beautification such as mural projects, community gardens, and art installations
Promoting Civic Unity
At the end of the five years, we hope to see some tangible results in a neighborhood, such as a new center or program. We also look for the intangible effects of our work. Neighborhood leaders who may not have known each other before receiving the Koshland award are collaborating in unexpected ways. Residents have participated in cultural activities and learned about other cultures. Youth feel that their opinions matter. The personal relationships that are forged through the Koshland initiative do not end after five years, but continue to grow and bear the fruit of increased understanding and collaboration.