Elevating Community Voice in Grantmaking
It was a well-intentioned pursuit: a major hospital using its resources to create a program to improve access to HPV vaccines for women of color at a community health center.
As the hospital invested time and capital to develop a program it believed was designed for the center’s patient population, they were missing one critical factor: they never asked what the HPV immunization rates were among the target population at the health center.
When the hospital presented the community health center with its fully formed plan, staff explained that their immunization rates were already more than 90%. This hospital had developed an entire program based on preconceived notions, not on the community’s actual needs.
This is a prime, true example of why community voice is so vital in philanthropic efforts. It highlights the poor outcomes when the process of developing solutions excludes the very population at the center of the intended impact — and why it is critical to engage the community meaningfully from the onset and throughout the process.
Working With Communities to Find Solutions
The unfortunate reality is that those most impacted by inequities have historically been — and continue to be — denied the opportunity to influence and drive the development of solutions.
At CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, we have challenged ourselves to reevaluate our philosophy and our approach to grantmaking. We have realized that effective, sustainable and impactful investments to advance health equity begin with an acknowledgment that solutions for marginalized communities must be developed with communities, and not for them — and must affect a shift in the historical power imbalance throughout health care and society.
Our grantmaking strategy is now rooted in the consistent and intentional engagement of the communities most negatively impacted by the existing oral health system. That includes involving grantees from the beginning of the process and building a robust learning community among our partners that surfaces the needs of these communities. It also helps us hold ourselves accountable.
We focus on collaborating with representative organizations that embody and reflect the communities that have historically been hurt by glaring inequities in oral health, including racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, persons with disabilities, veterans and rural communities.
Take the Time to Listen for Progress to Be Made
We partnered with the Texas Health Institute, which, since the state teledentistry law passed, has successfully leveraged CareQuest Institute grants to ensure community and consumer voices are included in the state's design and early-stage implementation of teledentistry. Their goal is to center the needs of the most underserved Texans in the state’s oral health policies, practices and programs.
Our work has also supported state policy advocacy organizations with deep community-based roots, such as Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC). MDAC led the efforts to pass legislation to expand Medicaid adult dental benefits in the state. MDAC galvanized the inclusive, diverse and committed advocacy community to ensure the bill’s passage, which will now help close the health care equity gap for 800,000 low-income citizens in Maryland.
With support from CareQuest Institute, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network organized a core group of racial equity focused grassroots and safety-net organizations, stemming from the belief that advancing a racially equitable oral health policy in California must be grounded in community voice and lived experience. The nonprofit is in the process of implementing its community-defined oral health policy concept paper as the organization continues its advocacy to improve culturally and linguistically appropriate oral health care.
Through our efforts in centering community voice in our grantmaking, we seek not just new voices but also a realignment of power structure — and we’re asking others in philanthropy to do the same.
The CareQuest Institute grantmaking model can and should be used regardless of the philanthropic cause. Our greatest collective impact has come from including and centering the voices and needs of the communities closest to the issue. And as a philanthropic organization, we seek to ensure that this mindset is the rule and not the exception.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Kaz Rafia is a member of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health leadership team and serves as the chief health equity officer. In his role, Kaz spearheads strategic initiatives to foster and advance engagement and access to integrated oral healthcare for the underserved and underrepresented communities. He also drives the organization’s efforts to elevate the integration of oral health and overall healthcare through the oversight of the health improvement and grantmaking teams.
Kaz brings more than two decades of experience in successful startups, academia, managed care, government and nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining CareQuest Institute, Kaz served as the state dental director for the Oregon Health Authority, where he set the equity centered state oral health strategic plan, focusing on population health measures, health care workforce development, optimization of the value-based care coordination model and telehealth.
Previously, Kaz was the director of operations for the Partnership for International Medical Access - Northwest, working to build sustainable long-term international partnerships with culturally diverse authorities and leaders to better understand and serve their needs. Kaz was also a founding partner of Rafia Dental, a clinical associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University, and a clinic director at Kaiser Permanente.
Kaz holds a doctor of dental surgery degree from The Ohio State University, a master of business administration degree from University of Illinois, and a master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Trenae Simpson serves as the director of grants and programs for CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. In this role, Trenae implements a national, state and local grantmaking strategy focused on social justice, equity and community engagement to advance better health through oral health. Trenae works closely with grantees to provide strategic guidance, capacity-building opportunities and targeted learning focused on health equity and social justice.
Before joining CareQuest Institute, Trenae served as a research assistant at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, a membership organization that provides professional development opportunities and knowledge resources for corporate citizenship practitioners.
Trenae earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master of business administration degree from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.