October 5, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and protests arising from police killings of Black Americans have drawn national attention to long-existent and worsening racialized gaps in health, wealth, and well-being that decades of investment and problem solving have been unable to close. Responding to amplified calls from communities and advocates for meaningful change, some philanthropic organizations are reexamining what and how they fund. We present findings from one such effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in partnership with the Urban Institute to assess the funder's health-promoting portfolio of investments in community development organizations and activities.This brief presents a framework for grantmakers seeking to understand why some past efforts have fallen short and how future investments might produce more equity-oriented, power-shifting systems change. Urban analyzed a portion of RWJF's portfolio consisting of 15 health-promoting programs and investments launched between 2013 and 2019 that aimed to integrate public health, health care, and community development to improve community health, well-being, and equity. As part of the assessment, we developed a guiding framework that proved critical to our inquiry. We were able to road-test the model as we synthesized insights from dozens of interviews with grantees and partners, community development intermediaries, and philanthropic leaders and staff. The mutual accountability framework allowed us to disentangle intended goals, necessary commitments, and actual results to think about the ways these three elements may—or may not be—aligned.