Through our grantmaking and leadership projects, we have left an indelible mark on the community by addressing its most critical needs such as urban education and poverty. But our Board and leadership team recognized that the issues confronting the greater Milwaukee area were too big to solve through grantmaking alone.
With that in mind, in 2008 we created the Community Partnerships department as a way to take a much more active civic role by expanding partnerships, more strategically and actively engaging interested parties to address community problems, commissioning research to inform and prompt community dialogue, and addressing public policy matters that impact the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's priority issues.
The Foundation has commissioned research examining important issues including school district governance changes nationwide, best practices in providing user-friendly access to public benefits, early childhood education, and a study of opportunities for Milwaukee Public Schools to save budget dollars on noninstructional matters in order to preserve funding for the classroom. During the recession the Foundation launched Vital Signs to track key economic and social indicators in our community.In 2013 we released a more comprehensive look at the quality of life in our region with Vital Signs: Benchmarking Metro Milwaukee. The report looks at a variety of quality of life indicators and shows how our region compares to 15 other metro areas. An updated version has been released for 2015, showing movement regarding our region’s strength, well-being and vitality since the last report.
We have hosted a wide array of convenings to inform our grantmaking, share ideas, and strategize about necessary steps in addressing issues. Topics have included a series on early childhood education and the development of a quality ratings system, state budget issues, improving educational outcomes, increasing access to public benefits, employment among people with felonies and the state of nonprofits in the Milwaukee area.
Featured speakers have included Wisconsin Department of Children and Families secretaries Eloise Anderson and Reggie Bicha; Rick Hess, a national education expert; and Paul Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation.
We engage in public policy matters in a variety of ways and at different levels of government. Whether supporting research about county-level public transit or working directly with Wisconsin's governor on education policy, we bring the Foundation’s experience, knowledge and values to the public square. We also track city, county and state budget matters, especially those that promise to have the greatest impact and affect the constituencies with which we work most closely.