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Our New Strategic Framework

November 14, 2022

Dear ECMC Foundation community,

When I first joined ECMC Foundation as president in 2014, we had just two employees and were focused primarily on providing scholarships. In the eight-plus years since, we’ve solidified our strategic grantmaking approach, expanded investments throughout the country, and established several special initiatives with national reach. After several years of groundbreaking work through our Career Readiness and College Success focus areas, our Los Angeles-based team will soon reach more than 20 full-time employees. With an expected increase in our grantmaking in 2023, opportunities to advance equity across the postsecondary ecosystem will grow considerably.

All this adds up to an exciting future. In fact, ECMC Foundation has the potential to become one of the largest exclusively higher education-focused foundations in the country over the next five years. That means it’s time for a new chapter of ECMC Foundation’s history to begin.

Staying true to our mission and vision, we will continue working to improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation. We will also continue to use a spectrum of funding tools, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments. ECMC Foundation’s core commitments to being responsive to the field and supporting innovation nationally, while simultaneously increasing our strategic focus on areas of greatest potential impact, will continue to guide our work going forward. We will also maintain and sharpen our commitment to systemic change across the postsecondary ecosystem, including much-needed progress in career and technical education.

In short, our interest in postsecondary education and career success remains unchanged. Our focus continues to be centered on equity and aimed at addressing the needs of populations who have been traditionally underserved by higher education, especially students of color, low-income students, first-generation college students and adult learners. What is changing is our process and how we plan to direct our substantial energy and resources toward the people, institutions and ideas that need them most.

Our new strategic framework lays out a three-pronged approach to systemic change, trying to shift the conditions that hold a problem in place, rather than merely alleviating the symptoms of the problem.

Looking ahead, our strategic priorities will ground and frame both internal conversations and the external work of ECMC Foundation. They are:

  • Removing barriers to postsecondary completion
  • Building the capacity of institutions, systems and organizations
  • Transforming the postsecondary ecosystem

By design, these priorities overlap and interrelate. They represent a vision for driving systemic change in higher education that includes creating immediate change by removing obstacles that stand in the way of learner success right now; equipping institutions and organizations to better serve learners now and in the future; and evolving the postsecondary ecosystem over the medium-long term to become a more adaptive and resilient system capable of delivering more equitable outcomes.

The ECMC Foundation community can expect to also see a greater focus on our initiatives. A substantial part of the Foundation’s grantmaking will soon happen through them. This shift is rooted in evidence and builds on the work of our grantees and partners over the past several years in those areas where we have built a core body of work. It will also improve our potential for impact through even more strategic grantmaking. Affirming, expanding and creating initiatives represents our commitment to systemic change in particular areas of the postsecondary ecosystem (such as credit mobility, single mothers’ academic success, or basic needs). Our initiatives will signal ECMC Foundation’s point of view and intention to significantly invest our funds and time to work collaboratively with other actors in the field on a shared goal. More information about these initiatives will be shared in the coming months.

Alongside these changes, we also plan to design and implement an enhanced learning and evaluation strategy that supports systemic change. A robust learning and evaluation function ensures that ECMC Foundation continues to better understand the levers of change, ultimately strengthening our approach and supporting the Foundation’s growth.

Typically, philanthropic learning and evaluation involves using data reported by grantees to a foundation to assess the impact of that foundation’s grantmaking and track progress toward its strategic goals. Going forward, ECMC Foundation will integrate learning and evaluation at every stage of our work, increasing its role as we implement this new strategic framework. We also expect learning and evaluation to become a driving influence on initiative strategies, ensuring work within each initiative advances its goals, agendas and strategic alignments.

Our Board of Directors recently approved this new strategy, recommitting ECMC Foundation to our pursuit of systemic change in higher education and to this new strategic framework, with all the commitments and priorities discussed here. As we implement this new approach in the coming months, we will continue to be accessible to our community. Our team is eager to answer any questions you may have. Look for more information to come about a town hall uplifting key aspects of our new strategic framework on December 14, 2022. You can register for the event here. Please email us questions you would like answered during the town hall so we can make the best use of your time.

We cannot wait to realize new and expanded impacts with you as we move forward together to transform the postsecondary ecosystem to better serve the students of today and the future.

Best,

Peter J. Taylor

President, ECMC Foundation


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