How a Lean Foundation Sparked Economic Revitalization Where Business and Government Could Not - Exponent Philanthropy
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How a Lean Foundation Sparked Economic Revitalization Where Business and Government Could Not

A common theme on Exponent’s Catalytic Philanthropy Podcast is leanly staffed foundations’ unique ability to catalyze systems change in ways other entities cannot. Lean foundations can assume more risk, focus on specific issues, and concentrate on distinct locations. Their capacity to convene, advocate, and fund grassroots movements gives them a dynamic edge.

We often think of business and government as the major players in job creation and economic development. Yet, here too, lean foundations can play essential roles. In a 3-part podcast series featuring the Earl & Kathryn Congdon Family Foundation, we explore how a foundation with just two staff leveraged its power and position to revitalize the local economy in ways the business community and government could not.

Episode 1: Crafting a Collective Vision

For many years, High Point, North Carolina was known as the Furniture Capital of the World. During the acceleration of globalization in the 1990s, many companies moved operations from the area to overseas. Like in many cities across the U.S., jobs disappeared, economic hardship took hold, and the High Point region lost much of its vitality.

In 2015, leaders from across the public and private sectors came together to craft a common vision to grow small businesses, create jobs, and nurture a dynamic and promising future. In the first episode of this 3-part series, Earl & Kathryn Congdon Family Foundation staff Megan Oglesby and Joe Blosser share the diverse components of the community’s vision for economic revitalization.



Episode 2: Helping Entrepreneurs Start & Grow Businesses

In the second episode of this series, Megan and Joe emphasize the specific role foundations can play in helping entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. They talk about how the foundation and its partners created a space designed specifically to support entrepreneurs, why the group decided to make access free, and how programming through the Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce (BHP-CC) meets the needs of both nonprofit and for-profit startups there.



Episode 3: Honoring the City’s History

Another part of High Point’s vision honors the city’s long history of furniture design and craftmanship. Though most manufacturing moved overseas, many designers and craftspeople stayed in the area. To support these creatives and their businesses, the foundation and BHP-CC developed a downtown space for furniture design prototyping and training. In episode three of our series, Megan and Joe share how the facility advances their larger effort to start, scale, and grow businesses, and restore dynamism to High Point. 



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About the Author

Andy Carroll advises staff, trustees, and donors of leanly staffed foundations in leadership, advocacy, and catalytic philanthropy. He works to empower more leanly-staffed foundations to leverage their unique position and assets to catalyze change on important issues. Andy has an MBA from the University of Michigan Business School and 30 years of experience in management, training, and program development for nonprofit organizations. Follow him on Twitter @andycarrollexpo, and check out his Catalytic Philanthropy Podcast. 

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