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First Year Reflections by Sarah Lyman

First Year Reflections by Sarah Lyman

San Diego, CA. July 21, 2020. It’s both hard to believe a year has flown by already since I joined Alliance, and yet so much has happened. It was a different world when my family and I relocated to San Diego a year ago. In the midst of a global pandemic and public health crisis; an international economic melt-down; a nationwide civil rights uprising, and the start of fire season—the ground beneath our feet is shifting.

As we navigate new forces and opportunities to catalyze and support sustainable change, we wanted to pause and reflect on the last 12 months. In particular, I have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know our community, and to meet so many amazing individuals, leaders, advocates, and new partners. I look forward to deepening those relationships and expanding new networks in support of our efforts to advance health and wellness for vulnerable populations, and to tackle the inequities that are all too persistent today.

Some of our efforts this past year:

Advanced our Racial Equity Journey
Doubled our Impact Investments
Acted Swiftly to Respond to COVID-19
Evolved our Organizational Strategy

Advanced our Racial Equity Journey
In early 2020 prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Alliance took intentional steps to be explicit about race, and to examine the ways in which historical and structural racism contribute towards inequitable outcomes for the communities we serve. While we have a lot of work and learning yet to do as an organization on the issues of racism, equity, and social change, we’ve made significant progress.

  • Both staff and board are deeply engaged in internal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work, learning and professional development. We have engaged three amazing guides who are acting as thought-partners and facilitators to support our DEI journey and inform our actions.
  • We are analyzing our funding programs as well as internal operations and applying a racial equity lens, in support of being more strategically focused on advancing health and wellness for those most impacted by health and social inequities.
  • A few examples of recent investments towards supporting a more resilient and inclusive region include:
    • $75,000 grant to the Black Small Business Relief Grant Fund through the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce, with support of San Diego Grantmakers.
    • $35,000 grant to the Refugee Communities Coalition for backbone support of 11 Ethnic Community Based Organizations, each serving as critically important and trusted navigators for significantly underserved refugee communities.
    • An Impact Investment of $500,000 to support cashflow bridge funds for Federally Qualified Health Centers, which provide healthcare to primarily underserved, marginalized and low-income patients.
    • $100,000 grant to the Imperial Valley Wellness Foundation to launch a COVID-19 relief fund. Imperial County is one of the most pronounced hotspots for disease transmission, further fueled by underlying racial and health disparities in the region, which is comprised of over 85% Latinx residents. While there is a long way to go, we are grateful to the other funders who have joined us to-date, collectively leveraging more than $500,000 in additional relief funds.

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Doubled our Impact Investments
We nearly doubled our Impact Investing portfolio, growing it from just over $2 million to $4.34 million invested in the past 12 months. We also developed our first social impact measurement framework and reporting tool to aid decision making and deepen our understanding of how our investment capital is truly advancing our mission.

This year we added to our portfolio several mission-aligned partners including:

  • Concert Health —Integrated behavioral health with remote patient staffing. This was a leveraged partnership with the California Healthcare Foundation.
  • Mission Driven Finance —Advancing equitable economic opportunity for mission-aligned organizations that meet multiple criteria consistent with Alliance’s mission.
  • Capital Impact Partners —Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC) safety net health systems. We provided cashflow bridging which leveraged 3x Alliance’s investment for San Diego and Imperial counties.
  • The San Diego Foundation’s COVID-19 No-Interest Loan Fund—supporting the region’s non-profits during unprecedented levels of need in the midst of an economic crisis.

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Acted Swiftly to Respond to COVID-19
As the country began to navigate the impacts of the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic, and California initiated shelter-in-place orders, Alliance acted swiftly along with our partners to respond to unprecedented levels of need and predictions of sweeping economic distress. We continue to proactively assess what the future may hold and how Alliance can uniquely add value during massive shifts in the ecosystem that might allow us to “build back better” for a more equitable society. Here is a summary of our COVID-related efforts to date:

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Evolved our Organizational Strategy
We have made several significant shifts in our organizational strategy both in response to COVID-19 and to support a shared desire to increase our focus on strategic, systemic, upstream interventions for maximized impact. These changes will allow us to be nimbler and more intentional in our work and with our community partners. (More will be shared about these changes in the coming weeks.)

  • AHF is excited to embark on a new effort to advance economic security and mobility with an explicit racial equity lens in support of our commitment to tackling social determinants of health. As we are in the early formation stages of this work, we expect to learn and share more in the coming months.
  • We are also launching a capacity building program to support increased collaboration, leverage resources for the region, and strengthening non-profit partnerships.
  • And, finally, we are making important refinements to both our Mission Support and future Innovation Initiative (i2) funding programs in alignment with our efforts to address underlying root causes that contribute to inequities in health and wellbeing outcomes.

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What’s Next? 

As we move into this next year with a “new normal” approach like many of you, we remain focused on solutions addressing upstream systemic barriers to health and wellness in San Diego and Imperial counties. While we know we have a lot yet to learn, and much more work to do as an organization, we have been very intentional about applying a lens of social justice and inclusivity to our current internal strategic planning efforts. As we navigate these exceptionally challenging times together, we remain hopeful and committed to our mission to improve health and wellness for vulnerable populations; to advance racial and health equity, and to continue to challenge assumptions—both our own and those embedded in the many systems with which we interact.

We are grateful to all our partners and grantees for the important work they are doing. Together, we know we can build a strong, resilient and inclusive community.

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