The renewed focus on community engagement involved a culture shift toward Shoe Leather Philanthropy for the entire organization. Shoe Leather Philanthropy is: Walking among, talking with, listening to, learning from and sharing with the people we are serving. This practice became part of the job for every RMF staff person and trustee, and they are expected to be able to connect with and relate to people of all backgrounds in a respectful and genuine way. True engagement means the foundation has to build relationships based on mutual trust; listen and respond to questions, criticisms and challenges; confront internal and external assumptions; and make the decision to not be in control.
The Ruth Mott Foundation has experience with convening, ranging from providing a place for conversations, organizing and hosting trainings, and actively bringing together partners to address an issue or opportunity. Convening is used purposefully to advance the goal of helping north Flint neighborhood residents create and sustain opportunities to contribute and thrive.
Grantmaking is an integral part of how the Ruth Mott Foundation does its work. In order to best align with the needs and opportunities in north Flint, we will change elements of our grantmaking approach. In addition to project and single-year grants, we will use grantmaking strategies that have been proven to maximize grantee capacity, such as making general operating support and capacity building grants a strategic part of our grantmaking, awarding some multi-year, and making capital grants when doing so is the most effective way to achieve our aims.
Applewood is a unique resource that the Foundation uses to advance its mission in the north Flint community. The strategic plan included a commitment to using the resident expertise at Applewood in horticulture, history, and other areas to benefit north Flint; and making the capital improvements at Applewood necessary to support being open to the public on a frequent and consistent basis.
Work to achieve the new north Flint goal required new skills for the Foundation, as well as changes in organizational culture. Some of those cultural changes relate to increased use of Applewood, renewed community engagement, strategic communications, and becoming a learning organization. A vital part of that evolution was the creation of three new staff positions: Community Engagement Officer, Learning Officer, and Communications Director — all of whom were hired in 2016. Each has a specific and critical role to play in achieving an organization-wide culture shift toward engagement, becoming a learning organization, and using strategic communications.