Learning for the Greater Good

Published: December 8, 2023 | By: Drew Morton | Category:

In 2019, the Community Foundation created a strategic plan to carry it through 2024. One of the key goals was to foster a culture of learning to better understand how we can serve Linn County. While the years that followed brought unpredictable challenges, the organization remained committed to reflecting and helping others learn.

As the Community Foundation prepares to launch a new strategic plan in 2025, there is an increased effort to become a learning organization. 

“Becoming a learning organization is exactly what it sounds like—prioritizing learning and making it a key component of all internal and external operations,” said Carrie Walker, Director of Learning. Carrie was promoted to this role in January to connect nonprofit and community partners to information and resources and lead efforts to enhance learning within the Community Foundation. This is an expansion of Carrie’s existing work through the Nonprofit Network. 

“We’re interested in learning on several fronts,” Carrie said. “What challenges are organizations facing? What are other funders and donor partners doing to respond to new challenges? What parts of our community have been left behind? How can we better serve those outside the Cedar Rapids metro area?”

The Community Foundation–in partnership with nonprofits, donors, other funders, and community organizations—works to strengthen our community over time, but the environment in which that work is done is highly dynamic. As technology, policy, and economic conditions change at an increasingly fast pace, it becomes even more important to keep tabs on new challenges, opportunities, and approaches. 

One of the Community Foundation’s priorities is learning how we can help create a more equitable and inclusive Linn County. 

“We know that certain groups within our community face more barriers to success, but the learning can’t stop there,” Carrie said. “By building connections with these groups, we can better understand their experiences and ensure we are a community foundation for everyone in Linn County.”

Some of those barriers were highlighted during long-term recovery from the 2020 derecho, when it became clear that some historically marginalized communities were not connected to or aware of the resources and assistance that were available.

In 2022, the Community Foundation received a grant from The Funders Network to form better connections with members of these communities. The LAP-AID (Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster) Inclusion Cohort kicked off in July 2023.

Focusing on older adults, immigrants, cultural groups, the medically vulnerable, and grassroots organizations, the LAP-AID Inclusion Cohort set out to strengthen connections to each other, the broader community, and existing networks of care and resources. Building these connections now can help make sure future disaster response and recovery is equitable.

“Like many marginalized groups, LGBTQIA+ folks are often overlooked and unheard during times of disaster,” said Corey Jacobson. Corey is Board President at CR Pride and represented the organization in the Inclusion Cohort. “Our community trusts us and reaches out when in need. If a disaster occurs and information needs to be shared, we can be one of those outlets to reach community members who might otherwise not see that information.”

Organizations that participated in the LAP-AID Inclusion Cohort learned about disaster preparedness and response, and existing resources. In turn, Community Foundation staff and LAP-AID volunteers learned about existing barriers and new ways to connect with various parts of the community. 

“Philanthropy is not just about distributing funds or resources,” Carrie said. “To strengthen our whole community, we need to understand its people. By bringing a learning mindset to our work, we can achieve the changes we want to see.”

Group of people meeting around tables and discussing topics.

LAP-AID Inclusion Cohort Participants:

  • Paly Afridi, Islamic Center
  • Lori Ampey, Tanager LGBTQ+ Youth Center/Boys & Girls Club (South Unit)
  • Minouche Bandubuila, Hoover Community School
  • Robin Switzer Brunner, Ecumenical Community Center Foundation
  • Stephanie Carter, Wellington Heights Community Church
  • Kathy Franzenburg, retired clergy
  • Mugisha Gloire, United We March Forward
  • Corey Jacobson, CR Pride
  • Nafissatou Lamidi, RIVA Iowa
  • Melissa Perkins, Never Dream Less Foundations
  • Monica Vallejo, Latinos Unidos for Community Inclusion (LUCI).

Learn more:

LEARN ALONGSIDE US

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LAP-AID INCLUSION COHORT

SEE UPCOMING LEARNING & EVENTS

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