Monday, March 01, 2010
New Directions for Funding - A Case Example
In Appalachian Ohio, a small group of non-profits worked with a regional/community foundation to set up an Innovation Fund called the Yellowroot Fund. This fund had less than $15,000 a year. It provided small seed grants ($500-3000) to small collaborative projects in the region. All projects had to include a mix of both entrepreneurs and support organizations (non-profits, tourism bureaus, local gov't, etc). The first year 15 projects were funded. Most were successful in small ways, but several were very dynamic and successful, and we helped them access larger dollars.
Innovation funds encourage people to work collaboratively -- but in small self-managed groups that have a high likelihood of success. Many of the projects linked people across counties. For example, the Mural Corridor Project developed a map showing a trail people could follow to see all of the 17 murals that had been painted on the sides of buildings in small towns throughout 5 counties. Because local businesses were part of the project group, the final map included locations of local businesses such as restaurants and bed & breakfasts – which increased traffic for these small enterprises.
The fund only lasted a few years, but by the time it ended many more people in the region knew how to self-organize: come up with a project idea, find others who are interested in working on that project, and make something happen. This fund helped people develop all of the skills described in Jack’s post, below. Local Network Weavers were involved in most of the projects and helped people become more aware of their networks and use them to access the resources they needed.
Now, even without those funds, hundreds of small projects are formed every year to develop new trails, festivals, brands, markets and other initiatives. Self-organizing has taken off, and it’s cascading throughout the region.