Transforming Through Partnership: The Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative

Transforming Through Partnership: The Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative

Catalyze Collaborations

Since our inception, Hirsch Philanthropy Partners has used the incredible power of collaboration to improve community outcomes. We formalized this approach working with visionary San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman, who was known for bringing diverse people together to solve tough problems that others shied away from. For more than a decade, we partnered on bold efforts that engaged the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to create collective solutions to local challenges.

When Warren passed away in 2011, the Hirsch team continued to work closely with his four adult children on a philanthropic vision for their new family foundation that would honor their parents and reflect their Hellman family values. Together, we engineered an innovative grantmaking program to propel forward new or existing coalitions tackling the root causes of big challenges including homelessness and Hepatitis C. The Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative carried forward the family legacy by investing in talented leaders working together to create real and lasting change.  

Connect Community Leaders to Solve Challenges

Launched in 2014 under Hirsch leadership, the Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative has since granted over $5.5M in multiyear funding and capacity building resources for cross-sector collaborations in San Francisco and Alameda counties. These innovative efforts aim to address entrenched problems including disparities in kindergarten readiness, police-community relations, and food access. The Initiative does more than provide flexible funding  — it strengthens organizations through leadership coaching, sustainability planning, and on-demand consulting, and develops a network of leaders who learn from and support each other with systems change.

San Francisco EatSF participant ©EatSF
“Alone we are not as powerful as together. The Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative is exactly what is needed to change the broken food system. It is about bringing community together.” — Cissie Bonini, Director of EatSF

The Initiative views collaboration as the engine of transformation — a means to share effective practices, pool resources, and produce breakthroughs. Serving as Initiative staff, the Hirsch team draws on our extensive experience to support the collaborations, understanding that the path forward is neither linear nor guaranteed and requires creative solutions backed by both meaningful financial and organizational support. We uplift what we know works: strong, trusting relationships between impacted communities and those who hold the resources and levers of power. 

Changing Systems, Changing Lives

The profound impact of the Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative is in the cross-sector efforts that test and scale a range of impactful solutions. Broad-based collaborations like Oakland’s Starting Smart and Strong Initiative believe that all children, regardless of race or family income level, deserve to start school ready to succeed. Using a research-based approach, this pilot program supports whole-child development, families and teachers. Long term, its leaders see this pilot as a tipping point for truly understanding how a strong early childhood education can improve the lives of all children as they learn and grow. EatSF is another collaboration tackling food insecurity by building a citywide network of grocers accepting vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables. Their work is enhancing access for one-third of low income San Francisco residents who want but can’t afford nutritious food necessary for overall health. Participants increase their fresh food intake by one daily serving, enough for immediate health benefits and a 10% decreased risk of early death. 

The Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative demonstrates the potential to drive large-scale and lasting systems change without a necessarily enormous financial investment. It inspires tenacious, big thinkers to design new ways to tackle disparities in health, education, and economic opportunity that reform and rebuild limiting structures. And it honors the Hellman Family legacy by fueling the possibilities that emerge when people are open to working together for future generations of children, families, and communities.

In Focus: CavityFreeSF
Largely unrecognized as a public health crisis, tooth decay is the most common childhood disease, yet it is 100% preventable. Racial and economic disparities have worsened in the last 20 years, making it now 2-3 times more likely to occur in children of color. CavityFreeSF grew from a desire to coordinate separate efforts on childhood oral health. The collaborative includes over 50 government, university, nonprofit, school district, and medical professionals, along with parents and child advocates, working hand in hand toward one goal–to ensure no child in San Francisco has cavities, ever. One of their strategies includes bringing dental care into nontraditional settings such as health clinics, schools, and child care centers, doubling the number of children ages 0-5 who receive preventive dental screening and services.

Header photo at top: San Francisco EatSF participant ©EatSF