Working with others across issue areas and organizations—whether to provide assistance, pool resources, or leverage complementary interests—increases our impact as funders and problem solvers.
As important, it helps us develop cross-sector networks of expertise, influence, and common interest. We believe these networks are essential to success in the complex work of improving health.
We support grantee partner-led learning collaboratives that develop knowledge and skill, as well as strategic partnerships that improve grantees’ efficacy, impact, and sustainability. One approach is our participation in the Mission Sustainability Initiative (MSI). We lend our healthcare expertise to funding colleagues and our evaluation or funding expertise to service providers. We help community stakeholders engage in collaborative problem-solving and program development. Every encounter helps us build a more accurate picture of what’s happening on the ground and what needs to happen next.
One example of collaborative funding is our participation in the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of over 40 Chicago funders and foundations that has collectively committed more than $40 million dollars to support proven and promising responses to gun violence, including street outreach, support services and jobs; police reform and community relations; gun policy; and community safety and peace.
Leveraging complementary interests
Michael Reese is a lead funder of the Chicagoland Healthcare Workforce Collaborative, an industry workforce partnership seeded by the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA). Employers, training providers, and other workforce stakeholders collaborate to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. As a lead funder and thought partner, we leverage our relationships and knowledge to catalyze and scale solutions with and across healthcare employers.
Four hospital systems—Rush, University of Chicago Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and Northshore—created and piloted the Medical Assistant Pathway Program to provide employees in entry-level, nonclinical positions such as food service and transport tech with a clear path to better paid, middle-skill clinical work. While continuing to work their current jobs, 30 employees are now on track to become medical assistants, and another cohort has begun their 18-month training. As important, the original program is expanding to include more hospitals and additional careers in Chicago and beyond.
When there’s a match between job training and workplace needs, students can be sure that the courses they’re taking today get them a good job tomorrow. The Healthcare Workforce Collaborative’s employer/educator partnership initiative began when seven hospital employers identified five, high-demand clinical positions to focus on: Medical Assistants, Surgical Techs, Sterile Processing, Anesthesia Techs, and Pharm Techs. After gathering three years of hospital hiring data to ensure that the positions would continue to be in high demand, the collaborative’s action team built out a list of regional training providers, syncing it with work from EdSystems Center via the Funder Alliance’s Progressive Pathways Fund. The next phase of the project launched in spring 2019: local hospitals looking to fill real jobs began connecting with training partners who can help them do it.
Michael Reese Health Trust was founded by the community that built and directed Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, an institution whose legacy of service was matched only by its commitment to groundbreaking knowledge and innovation.
It’s a path we have tried to follow, one that demands continuous learning: studying issues and emerging solutions, getting to know providers and the communities they serve, assessing needs, evaluating outcomes, measuring progress, and being willing to try new approaches and take risks.
As a public charity, we have two key responsibilities: to be careful with the funds entrusted to us, and to deliver the maximum return we can on those investments. When the data show that current “treatments” to improve health aren’t working, we believe we must use our knowledge and experience to develop or fund new ones. It’s a belief that has more often led to success than to failure. Many of our most experimental funding initiatives—innovative ideas such as Cure Violence (formerly CeaseFire), Becoming a Man, and the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership—have produced outstanding results. We are proud of the part we have played in turning these new ideas into nationally recognized and replicated models.
Turning ideas into new standards of care
In 2002, Michael Reese funded an AIDS Foundation of Chicago “housing-first” pilot to provide supportive housing to people with AIDS. Known as the Chicago Housing for Health Partnership (CHHP), the pilot was a resounding success, yielding data that other cities used to model their own programs.
The growth of more CHHP programs in Chicago also led to the founding of the Center for Housing and Health (CHH), as well as an infusion of funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Center, which advocates for and implements citywide coordinated systems and innovative projects to end homelessness for all those with chronic health conditions, has become the lead agency for this work in Chicago. Its expertise is fueling other innovative approaches, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago’s program to treat homelessness as a medical condition.
By 2017, CHH’s budget had grown to $5 million from $100,000 just six years earlier. While continuing to pioneer work at the intersection of housing and health—including the Data Sharing and Integration Workgroup, which we help coordinate—CHH continues to support Chicago and Cook County residents experiencing homelessness to find better housing solutions.
After implementing its 2017–19 Chicago and Cook County Housing for Health (H2) Strategic Plan, CHH was selected by the City of Chicago to administer the city’s Flexible Housing Pool, responsible for engaging referred participants, securing housing for them, paying all rental and move-in costs, managing relationships with landlords, ensuring that supportive housing tenancy services are provided, and coordinating with Cook County Health on participant care.
Learning together: Michael Reese Healthcare Issues Roundtable
For more than a decade now, we’ve been hosting a unique opportunity for healthcare leaders to meet, build relationships, and address some of the most pressing—and at times contentious—issues in health and healthcare delivery. Executives from a total of 38 organizations have participated, including policy advocates, state level Medicaid administrators, health system CEOs, data infrastructure specialists, and clinicians. Conversations are frank, and the topics for each discussion have ranged from blue sky thinking to pain point specifics. Below are just a few of them.
- Addressing Violence in Chicago
- Community Health Survey 2.0
- Affordable Care Act Repeal/Replacement
- TeleHealth Innovations
- Strategies to Transform Health Care Delivery
- Health Information Exchange: Goals, Challenges, Solutions
- Health Care Reform and Mental Health
- Health Information Technology and Health Reform: Status in Illinois
- Technologies for Enhancing Quality and Patient Engagement
- Role of Long-term Care in Health Care Reform
See what we’ve learned
As problem solvers, we regularly gather information about current need as well as existing resources, policies, and practices. We also routinely evaluate the impact of work we support. Below are a few of the reports or assessments we’ve commissioned.
- Connecting to Safety and Stability: Domestic Violence Needs Assessment of Chicago, July 2017
- Oral Health in Illinois, October 2016
- Summary Evaluation Report, Michael Reese Chicago Public Schools High School-Hospital Initiative, June 2019
- Innovative “Housing First” Program Helps Reduce Hospital and Emergency Department Use Among Chronically Ill Homeless, May 2009
See where we’re headed
We are beginning a new phase of work to improve health through innovation: acting as an incubator for big ideas or novel approaches. We will work with corporate and public or private foundations across the country to develop and implement pilot projects in metropolitan Chicago. The work ranges from securing necessary partners and finding qualified staff to supervising operations and reporting results. It’s work that has the potential to yield significant returns for our region’s health and the nation’s.
Within our funding focus areas, we address multiple needs with investments whose returns span multiple time horizons.
We support direct service—what clients or patients need to improve their health or the health of their community, whether that’s treatment, counseling, education, or connection.
We support planning and capacity building—what our partners in the field need to evaluate, improve, or extend their knowledge, skills, efficacy, and reach.
We support knowledge building and systems change—what all of us need to ensure that what we do today and the infrastructures we depend on to do it are getting us closer to our goals.