Heart House USA, a free afterschool program for low-income children, is preparing to expand its two Austin and three Dallas fully-operational neighborhood centers to 25 dotting Texas by 2020 through its participation in the Growth Learning Collaborative.
The Growth Learning Collaborative is a , organic in nature, pooling together various Austin-based nonprofit partners to seek solutions to growth challenges in a stiffening economy. The initial objective for Growth Learning collaborators was to secure space — physical and time — to talk with and learn from experts and peers regarding options for growing organizations. Project members have met monthly at various locations since June 2008.
“The idea of the Growth Learning Collaborative has been more than simply expanding our organizations,” Anna Land, originator of the collaborative plus Heart House USA CEO and founder, said. “I wanted us to meet to discuss and plan implementation of best-practice techniques to help grow and — more fundamentally — replicate our organizations. In our case, children across Texas need a resource like Heart House. To that end, we focus on how we can naturally nurture and maintain our sense of organizational culture, our enactment of our missions and values, through cycles of leadership and volunteers across Heart House USA hubs.”
The Growth Learning Collaborative develops at a crucial moment in Central Texas. Opportunities for nonprofits to receive contributions of time, money and other resources dwindle. The need to maximize what resources nonprofits have to survive, let alone envision expansion or long-term existence, escalates.
“The current financial crisis could actually be seen as an opportunity,” Nell Edgington, president of Social Velocity, said. “Because of the recent failings of the financial markets, investors are beginning to look for social return in addition to, or even in place of, financial return. Venture philanthropy or growth capital for nonprofits, the funding that will help organizations like Heart House USA grow, is becoming increasingly needed and valued. With the number and complexity of social problems — like those Heart House is attempting to resolve — on the rise, nonprofits that have found solutions should be encouraged to grow to meet more needs. And they need growth capital to do so.”
Growth capital is an idea coming of age in the nonprofit world. One of several nonprofit partners currently participating in Austin’s leading-edge social innovation project is KDK-Harman Foundation, Central Texas’ 13th largest family philanthropy.
“One of our chief objectives is to promote a culture of giving excellence, an environment in which nonprofit supporters can help contribute best-practice solutions to turn challenges into opportunities,” Janet Harman, KDK-Harman president and founder, said. “Funding to help organizations is not our only focus. Rather, we aim to learn, adopt and promulgate proven solutions to empower nonprofit organizations to maximize their capacities to provide educational opportunities to low-income Central Texans. It’s our high-engagement philanthropic approach.”
Austin Partners in Education, a nonprofit that connects Austin community and classrooms to promote academic excellence and personal success for all students in the Austin Independent School District, is a current Growth Learning Collaborative member.
“We are honored to have been invited to participate in the collaborative because of our deep respect for the participants, for their talent and what they’ve achieved,” Kathrin Brewer, Austin Partners in Education executive director, said. “Through the Growth Learning Collaborative, we aim to have an opportunity to ask questions and share our challenges. We enjoy learning from participants’ experience and ideas, sharing practices and to getting their feedback on our strategies.”
Badgerdog Literary Publishing, a nonprofit that puts writers in the schools, providing access to best-in-class literary arts programming for young low-income and minority Central Texans, also participates in the social innovation project.
“As a fast-growing social enterprise, Badgerdog has moved out of the start-up phase with a healthy blend of earned and contributed revenue,” said Melanie Moore, founder and president. “Faced with the next phase of growth at a time when the financial and the publishing landscapes are in dramatic flux, Anna’s idea to establish the Growth Learning Collaborative has provided the participants a valuable opportunity to pool our experience and our inquiries in a real-time, generative knowledgebase that informs our decisions — and visions — for our respective organizations.”
The Growth Learning Collaborative meets on a monthly basis.
For more information about the collaborative, please call Heart House USA CEO and Founder Anna Land at 512.929.8187.
About Heart House USA
Heart House USA, founded in 2002, is a tightly-woven family of dynamic staff, caring volunteers, community collaborators, and beloved children and families. In our unique, student-centered neighborhood clubhouses, our exceptional afterschool and summer programs provide academic support, encourage self-discovery and critical thinking skills, and help children feel safe, valued and enthusiastic about learning. Heart House USA has three affiliate cities. Those include Austin, which has two neighborhood centers and serves 200 children annually. Its sister organization, Heart House Dallas, serves 300 children per year in three centers. Heart House Houston’s center is planning to open in 2011. For more information, please visit www.hearthouse.org.
About KDK-Harman Foundation
KDK-Harman Foundation was founded by Janet E. Harman in December 2004. The Foundation provides financial and capacity-building resources to education-focused nonprofits that assist disadvantaged Central Texas families, with a focus on women, to help them achieve educational success. The ultimate goal of such funding is to transform their lives from poverty to financial independence to enable a better life for themselves and future generations. The Foundation supports programs within Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, Burnet and Llano counties. For more information, please visit www.kdk-harman.org.