How Practitioners’ Voice CA Fund is Reimagining Early Childhood Education Systems

Quality Education | Foundations | Collective Action Fund | Strategic Advising

Practitioners’ Voices CA (PVCA) — a coalition of five powerful foundations — partnered with Tides to develop an equitable grantmaking process that would center the expertise of BIPOC educators working to improve California’s early childhood education systems. 

Challenge

Positive early learning experiences are essential for healthy development in children. But in California, like in many parts of the U.S. and the world, early childhood educators are overextended and under-compensated, making it difficult to provide the equal education and care young children deserve.

The Heising Simons Foundation engaged Blue Shield of California Foundation, Tipping Point Community, California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Stein Early Childhood Development Fund to support community-based organizations serving young children. Together, they sought to:

  • Sustain organizations that cultivate a more racially diverse pipeline of education practitioners
  • Build the power of practitioners to influence policy change
  • Center the expertise and experience of BIPOC early childhood educators in California’s policy process

Tides Solution: Collective Action Fund

Together, the five foundations formed PVCA — a collective action fund at Tides Foundation. The coalition chose Tides for its unique collective action fund model, which leverages an independent advisory committee to center the leadership of impacted communities in grantmaking decisions. Tides partnered with PVCA to: 

  • Harness the priorities of all the foundations in a single funding vehicle
  • Translate its theory of change into a comprehensive RFP and selection process
  • Manage relationships between the fund and its 11 grantees

Impact

PVCA’s new grantmaking strategy offers a valuable roadmap for other foundations looking to amplify the impact of their funding. 

An Effective RFP Process can Create new Connections

PVCA believed that strengthening racial diversity in the pipeline of practitioner leaders is key to the healthy development of California’s children, but it needed help turning that theory of change into an actionable RFP process. Tides blended PVCA’s theory of change with guidance from the independent advisory committee to create an RFP that met the needs of the practitioner community. That competitive process yielded 20 qualified applicants, many of whom were new to the PVCA and Tides’ network. PVCA ultimately awarded 11 two-year grants, broadening its reach by funding practitioner-led organizations they hadn’t partnered with before. 

A Neutral Space can Facilitate Powerful Collaboration 

The foundations all believed in the power of practitioner-led policies and learning experiences, but they needed a neutral facilitator to turn their shared passion into a cohesive strategy. Tides provided that space through a foundation collective action fund and custom strategic advising, helping PVCA translate individual priorities into a shared vision for change. 

Participatory Grantmaking Deepens Impact

Philanthropy can be more equitable when it engages the communities most impacted by the problem — in this case, BIPOC educators. PVCA found the independent advisory committee to be a powerful way to engage community members in funding decisions, leading to a more participatory process.