Philanthropy Disrupting the Human Service Ecosystem

Using Innovative Approaches to Strategic Planning and Grant-making


  • Vanessa B. Briggs Brandywine Health Foundation
  • Tammy Dowley-Blackman Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC,


The Brandywine Health Foundation (BHF) disrupted traditional strategic planning processes with an end goal of transforming philanthropic approaches to enhance the human service’s ecosystem by leading with equity, using community-driven practice approaches to drive decisions, and create new funding models. BHF, a health conversion foundation, located in Chester County, PA, began traditional grantmaking in 2001, with a focus on health equity by improving access to services such as health care, behavioral and mental health, social services, and youth programs, with minimal emphasis on integrating services beyond health care, dental, and behavioral health. To BHF’s advantage, health equity funders stand out for using disruptive strategies to address Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). By focusing on the structural factors that are responsible for health disparities, health equity funders tend to adopt activist or disruptive roles within their “community” at the local, regional, and state level (Easterling and McDuffee 2018, 1).

BHF recognized that the approaches to address the social and economic complexities within the community are much larger than health, social services, and SDOH, and that by integrating issue areas it could advance greater community impact and reductions in health disparities. This realization drove BHF’s decision in 2019 to conduct an innovative strategic planning process and journey that encouraged the adoption of a more holistic approach to health and broaden the foundation’s future.

Following a great deal of research, BHF embraced the nationally recognized Kresge Foundation’s approach to transform the human service sector through integration. The Kresge Foundation’s emphasis on supporting multi-service approaches emerged from the recognition that individuals and families experience multiple challenges simultaneously. Attending to their human needs with integrated and holistic approaches increases the likelihood of success (The Kresge Foundation 2014, 3).

BHF’s strategic planning process birthed three new priorities that promote effective practices, include community-driven solutions, and advance collaboration and reduce silos. These priorities are not only within the health and human service sectors but across other sectors that play a critical role in the overall health and wellbeing of the eight communities and varied populations served by the foundation.




How to Cite

Briggs , V. B. ., & Dowley-Blackman, T. (2020). Philanthropy Disrupting the Human Service Ecosystem : Using Innovative Approaches to Strategic Planning and Grant-making. Social Innovations Journal, 1(1). Retrieved from