Strategic Initiatives

The overall purpose for the Bush Foundation is to inspire and support creative problem solving – within and across sectors – to make our region better for everyone.

One way we support this purpose is through investments in our four strategic initiatives. Each initiative has a goal that guides its work and every year about half of the Foundation's grantmaking is invested in helping to achieve those goals.

Our Strategic Initiatives

Community Creativity

Make art central to problem solving.

Education

Make education more relevant for all students.

Native Nation Building | Government Redesign

Support Native self-determination and help governments solve problems.

Social Business Ventures

Help people do good through business.

Our Approach to Strategic Initiatives

Our operating values guide our work and our approach to our strategic initiatives:  

  1. We focus on the people to power the goal. 

    For each of our strategic initiatives, we have a guiding goal and a strategy based on the following questions:

    –What people (or groups of people) are needed to reach the goal?

    –What do those people need to be inspired, equipped and connected for success?

    –What ecosystem conditions are required for success? 

    We advance our strategy through a portfolio of major investments, complemented by ecosystem grants, occasional smaller tactical grants, and non-grant activities such as convenings, communications and outreach. While we are focused on our goal, we are also open to adjacent ideas when there is an opportunity to join with other funders and support collaborative momentum.

    To inform our strategy, our team works to build a deep understanding of the relevant field. They seek input from national and local experts, collect feedback from regional stakeholders, review emerging research, and study lessons learned from previous investments and partnerships.

  2. We set annual public priorities and work inclusively to figure out the best way to advance those priorities.
     
    Each year, we create annual plans that lay out our assessment of the most critical next priorities to advance the strategies. We document our plans in annually updated “direction documents” which we publicly share. We discuss the priorities in annual webinars for each initiative. Then we consult with a wide variety of sources to determine the best ways we can advance those priorities. Most commonly, the ideas come from what people in our region (and across the country) share with our staff. We sometimes create advisory committees or convene meetings of stakeholders to help spark or shape ideas. We have an inbox for each initiative so anyone can suggest ideas to us. We also learn from applications to the Foundation’s open grant and Fellowship programs.
  3. We make big investments in a few ideas we believe will make the most significant progress toward our goal. 

    After exploring many potential options, we assess which investments would have the highest impact to move our strategies and goals. Whether we are funding an existing effort or helping to create something new, finding the right partner who is aligned with our values is critical. Sometimes, there is a single organization that is obviously best positioned to do the work. Other times we think there may be multiple, equally-viable partners. In those cases, we will create an open way for organizations to express interest in working with us. If there is truly a gap that no organization is well positioned to fill, we are willing to design and build an intervention in-house and conduct an open search for partners.

    Before we make a major investment, we conduct rigorous due diligence to ensure:

    –The idea is based on a deep understanding of the people involved; what they need to be inspired, equipped and connected; and the ecosystem conditions required for success.

    –We are as informed as possible by past efforts to do similar things, and we are incorporating those lessons into the design.

    –All the partners have a shared definition of success.

    –All the partners have the credibility and the capacity to do their part well and do it in a way that is consistent with our operating values.

    –The timetable is realistic and the resources are sufficient.

    –We have analyzed the biggest risks and planned for how to mitigate or manage them.

  4. We reflect, assess and share. 

    We monitor and evaluate our investments, seeking to learn what worked, what didn’t and how we can do better in the next year. When we think it might be useful, we document these lessons through learning papers and share with those who could benefit from those lessons. We use what we learn to refine our strategies and inform the plan for the next year.

Funding Opportunities

We do not accept unsolicited proposals for funding through our strategic initiatives. However, there may be occasions when we issue a call for proposals. 

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If there is a person or organization in your network working on issues that align with our initiatives, let us know. This is the best way to make sure we know about people and organizations you see doing great things on these issues.

Our Community Innovation and Leadership programs invest in people and organizations working on issues that are important in their communities. These investments are awarded through a competitive application process, open to all eligible people and organizations in the region.

Ecosystem grants are offered across all Foundation programs and strategic initiatives. These grants provide general operating support to organizations that help create an environment for our work to be successful.