Community Listening Sessions Shape Strategy

Community Listening Sessions Shape Strategy

To be an effective community foundation, we need to be rooted in the communities that we serve. At SFF, we regularly check in and consult with our grantee partners and community to better understand the needs of the region and the solutions that will help create a Bay Area where everyone can thrive. Community listening sessions are an essential part of how SFF strives to stay rooted in the community we serve. We ground our approach in the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy, which emphasizes seeking and acting on feedback from grantee partners to build mutual trust and develop best practices that truly serve the field.

Our equity agenda is built on a foundation of listening. When current CEO Fred Blackwell took the helm of SFF in 2014, he kicked off a series of seven listening sessions across the Bay Area. These sessions informed our approach and shaped our strategies for how we currently work to advance racial equity and economic inclusion. The 2014 listening sessions, called VOICE sessions, marked a significant milestone in SFF’s strategy development and history of consulting with community. Holding VOICE sessions in all five of the counties we serve gave us the opportunity to hear from a wide array of folks across the Bay and ensure that our new strategy would be based on lived experiences.

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to put some of our larger in-person listening sessions on pause for a few years, we were thrilled to bring them back this year with two different listening sessions that brought together more than 100 community members and generated more than 1 thousand pieces of feedback from grantees, partners, and community members.

In March 2023, we gathered a core group of our grantee partners to discuss how we’re doing as a funder and the equity issues and opportunities that they see on the horizon. Then, in June 2023, we brought together a diverse group of community members for an updated, region-wide VOICE session to discuss the effects of structural racism, promising solutions to issues facing the region, and ways SFF can help folks make their voices heard in the Bay Area.

The information from these two listening sessions is being folded into conversations across the foundation as we begin to develop our next three-year impact plan. This plan will inform our strategies and priorities over the next few years and is grounded in what we heard from our grantee partners and communities.

We’re committed to sharing the synthesis of the rich conversations we heard, both to be accountable to the folks who generously shared their perspectives and as a resource for others who want to know how people are thinking about racial equity and economic inclusion in the Bay Area.   Next up, we’ll share more details and insights about each of the two listening sessions we held in 2023: the consultative session and VOICE.

More to come,