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Insight into our Approach to Strategy

November 28, 2022
By: John Lumpkin, President

At the Blue Cross NC Foundation, we work every day to improve the health and well-being of everyone in North Carolina and aspire to help make North Carolina one of the healthiest states in the nation, in a generation. We are fortunate to collaborate with communities and partners across the state who are leading efforts to create the conditions where everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. And together, we believe we can make a significant impact on the structural, social, and economic conditions that produce inequities by race, income, geography, education, and more.

We recognize that our pursuits are bold and there are a number of interrelated issues that need to be addressed to achieve them. While our resources as a foundation are significant, the challenges are vast and therefore we can’t attain measurable impact without an intentional focus. And for us, this encompasses directing our attention and resources in the following areas:

  • Access to Care: Every community in North Carolina’s primary and behavioral health needs are served by a talented, engaged, diverse, and robust workforce.
  • Early Childhood: Every young child (ages 0-5) in North Carolina has the opportunity and resources to be healthy and well-prepared for success in school, work, and life.
  • Healthy Communities: Every community in North Carolina has the conditions for good health.
  • Healthy Food: Everyone in North Carolina has access to healthy food.
  • Oral Health: Everyone in North Carolina has access to quality, affordable oral health services.

Our strategies under each focus area are generated and informed by engagement with communities, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders and adapted based on what we are learning and how the environment is shifting. I describe this collaborative and emergent approach to strategy as engaged strategic philanthropy.

Key to practicing engaged strategic philanthropy are vehicles to promote information flows, transparency, conversation, feedback, and accountability. With that in mind, over the past couple of years, we have implemented a variety of learning-oriented tools and practices to help us make our thinking visible, test our assumptions, engage in continuous improvement, and better understand progress toward our goals.

One of these tools is focus area-specific dashboards. These dashboards provide a visual summary of key components in each of our five focus areas – centered around each areas’ core strategies – and serve as a tool to map how work is progressing. We update these on a regular cadence to reflect changes in the environment, developments in our grantmaking, and updates within each of our strategies. One purpose for making these tools available is to provide a vehicle for supporting more ongoing conversations with communities and partners.

“We are choosing to share these dashboards publicly, because we believe we are most likely to achieve our goals if our partners know what we are thinking and how we are approaching our work. This transparency can facilitate opportunities for more engagement and listening and a deeper understanding of the systems we are working to change."

We are choosing to share these dashboards publicly, because we believe we are most likely to achieve our goals if our partners know what we are thinking and how we are approaching our work. This transparency can facilitate opportunities for more engagement and listening and a deeper understanding of the systems we are working to change.

We anticipate that, like our strategies themselves, the dashboard will evolve over time as we develop our understanding of what is useful to track and what to share. As of now, each features the following components:

Goal: These are generational goals. We believe that these goals, if accomplished, will contribute to North Carolina becoming one of the healthiest states in the nation.

Signals in the Field: This section highlights trends, challenges, and opportunities in the external environment, ensuring we are mindful of the current, and ever-evolving, context within which we work.

Current Focus: In addition to the generational goal, the dashboard elevates our current focus. While our generational goal will remain constant, our current focus is expected to evolve as we respond to shifts in the environment, learn, and make progress.

Strategies and Updates: Based on the context, current focus, and work planned for the coming year, each area has specific strategies that guide our work. While there are many more strategies we could employ, the goal is to prioritize those that present the most opportunity and ensure we don’t dilute our work by spreading too thin. The updates elevate some examples of progress within each strategy.

Grantmaking Data: Providing additional insight into our grantmaking, the  dashboard includes grantmaking data such as the number and dollar amounts of active grants, counties impacted by our grantmaking, and new grants approved by fiscal year.

What to Expect in the Next Fiscal Year: This component takes each of the strategies and details specific work that will be accomplished in the current or upcoming fiscal year.

How We are Measuring Success: It is important to understand what success looks like for each of our strategies. Understanding what success looks like allows us to track progress in the implementation of our strategies and toward our goals. This section also contains a timeframe for when we expect to update our understanding of success based on what we have learned.

We appreciate your partnership in this work and welcome your input as we continue to work together toward helping make North Carolina a place where everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Input we receive will be integrated into our regular learning practices in support of our emergent approach to strategy.

To share your thoughts and feedback to inform our learning practice, please reach out to our Director of Learning and Evaluation, Sarah Smith, at sarah.smith@bcbsncfoundation.org. Is there something we are not thinking of? Is there an avenue of exploration we need to consider? What have you learned that can inform our approach? Let us know. We welcome your insights and look forward to hearing from you.

As we move forward, we commit to continuing to being transparent about where we think we are, what we are hearing from you, where we are going, and what we see needs to be done.

 

 

About the Author

John Lumpkin is the President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.  Learn more about John.