Healthy People Healthy Places

Frequently Asked Questions
Program Refinements Summer 2019

What is the Healthy People Healthy Places (HPHP) Program?

The long-term goal of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation is to improve the well-being and prosperity of all Maine people and the environment in which they live. Among the most pressing issues negatively impacting the well-being of Maine’s people and environment are: limited economic opportunity, environmental degradation, and the existence of barriers that create inequities and separate people.

We believe that the well-being of people and the environment are inextricably linked; neither can thrive while the other suffers. HPHP was designed to strengthen connections between people and their environment so that both become healthier, more resilient and more vibrant.

Why is Sewall changing the HPHP program?

The first HPHP grant round in 2015 was intentionally broad. Rather than being too prescriptive, Sewall cast a wide net to bring to light the breadth of work that groups were doing. Early on the focus was on field-building to support organizations to develop more Integrated (environmental and human well-being) and equity-informed approaches.

Since the start of the program it has been clear that the focus of the work would need to be narrowed, first among Basic Human Needs grants where the highest decline rates were noted, and later among Integrated grants as well.

In 2017 we began an assessment of HPHP grantmaking –– by reviewing data, talking to grantee partners, and looking at program goals and outcomes. That assessment confirmed that we need to: lower decline rates; reduce the number of partially funded requests; increase impact; and expand our capacity to engage meaningfully with the many communities we support. In addition, we seek to increase alignment between our grant-related activities and our organizational values.

What process did Sewall go through to narrow the focus of HPHP?

Sewall staff scanned the first three years of HPHP grants and identified areas where the work of numerous organizations was coming together. Those were not necessarily formal collaborations but they were nonetheless complementary efforts. In supporting those “circles of energy” we see potential for greater impact than if we continue to fund individual organizations and programs in isolation from each other.

What areas is Sewall exploring as the focus of the HPHP program?

Sewall is considering two groups of focus areas. First, there are four communities where Sewall has already made significant investment and which seem ready for deeper partnership. Three are geographic: the Katahdin region, Lewiston, and Washington County. The fourth, the Wabanaki communities, includes Native-led organizations and Tribal governments. Second, Sewall is looking at groups of organizations that address a small number of issues statewide, including Food Systems and Nature-Based Education, and a group which we are calling “Keystone” organizations, whose work on policies and systems aligns very closely with Sewall’s goals and complements work in other focus areas.

Why is Sewall considering the Katahdin region as one of the HPHP Focus Areas?

Sewall is drawn to this region’s transition to a new economy and social structure as they face ongoing challenges. Strong, visionary leadership and social entrepreneurship are driving collaborative efforts, helping to create shared visioning, goal-setting, and planning as well as nurturing the trusting relationships needed to move the region forward. Sewall’s support has brought people to the table and advanced small “wins” which are creating hope, success, and momentum for the partners working toward larger-scale change. Focusing support for these collective efforts can deepen equity, build regional identity and capacity, and strengthen collaborations already underway. Sewall is looking to align its resources around regional goals and strategies that promote community and economic development through a diversified and sustainable natural resource-based economy, creating conditions of resiliency for the people and landscape in the face of ongoing economic, demographic, and environmental change.

Why is Sewall considering Lewiston as one of the HPHP Focus Areas?

In the first three years of HPHP, Sewall identified over a dozen nonprofit partners working to rebuild Lewiston as a vibrant and diverse community. Some of those organizations received grants for Improving Systems to Meet Basic Human Needs, such as social services, public health, housing and food security. Others received Integration of Environment and Human Well-Being grants to enhance the health of the city’s people, land and water. Both groups of organizations include nonprofits led by members of Lewiston’s immigrant and refugee population who are contributing significantly to the city’s social and economic growth. Sewall is exploring how more focused support for collective efforts can deepen equity and strengthen collaborations already underway to boost resilience and economic development for the Lewiston community and its land and waters.

Why is Sewall considering Washington County as one of the HPHP Focus Areas?

Washington County is the primary focus of our work in the Downeast Region, but we acknowledge that county lines are political boundaries and some work, such as watershed initiatives, may expand beyond the county’s borders. The Downeast region is facing significant challenges that threaten its long-term viability. Its overall population is decreasing, and a disproportionate number of working-age adults will be exiting the workforce in the next 10 years, which has significant economic implications for small businesses, government services, and traditional natural resource industries such as fishing, farming, and forestry. Climate change and global markets are already impacting the region. Several exemplary collaborations, initiatives, and leaders have emerged to tackle these challenges and opportunities. Sewall is exploring how to continue support for the powerful relationships within the community and among nonprofit partners, allowing them to work nimbly, responsively, and effectively to address difficult social and environmental issues with community-informed solutions.

Why is Sewall considering the Wabanaki communities as one of the HPHP Focus Areas?

In the first three years of HPHP we learned a lot about the interconnectedness of people and place. We’ve come to appreciate that the people who first lived in this place now called Maine, bear significant knowledge and traditions about how to bring healing and wholeness to the people, land, and waters. We’ve also deepened our understanding of equity and our recognition of the painful history of the Wabanaki people being separated from this land - their home. Through the HPHP refinements process, Sewall is exploring opportunities to support continued healing, equity, and health for Wabanaki communities, and the land and waters where they live.

How long will Sewall focus on these first four communities?

Sewall’s board has made an initial commitment of five years to the first HPHP focus areas, to give the work time to develop and emerge in each community. We anticipate that that time may be extended in one or more of the communities. As capacity is built and sustained in one area, opportunities will emerge to shift our support to other areas in the state.

What about the rest of Maine? Will Sewall support work outside of the four community focus areas?

The Sewall Foundation has a statewide mission. While we don’t have capacity to support a wide range of programs statewide, we are exploring a small number of issue areas which we could support statewide in the redesigned HPHP program. Those issue areas include Food Systems and Nature-Based Education. There are also some nonprofit partners whose missions align closely with Sewall’s, and whose work is critical to the success of the work of others across the state; this group we are considering as “Keystone” organizations. During the refinements process, staff are considering how Sewall can effectively support work on these, and other, issues at the systems level, complemented by some work on the ground, to advance environmental and human well-being statewide.

What will the redesigned HPHP program look like?

We don’t know yet! But we do know that it will look different from one focus area to the next. We also are committed to working in ways that center community voice, remove barriers, and build equity. During the refinements process we will work with partners in each focus area to ensure close alignment between community priorities and the Foundation’s, both in terms of what kinds of programs and activities will be undertaken, and of the structures, resources, and processes needed to support them. We envision complementing grant funding with other available tools, including convenings, technical assistance, capacity-building support and, over time, mission-aligned investments.

What is the timeframe for the redesigned HPHP program?

Refinements in each focus area are being developed according to its own timeframe. Redesigned work in Lewiston and the Katahdin region may begin late in 2020, while work in other areas will probably need more time to take shape.

What does the refinement and redesign process entail?

Though the specifics of the process vary from community to community, there are some commonalities, beginning with a focus on listening to nonprofit organizations, leaders, public officials and others in the community, and reflecting back what we hear to ensure accuracy of understanding.  Input from those conversations will be supplemented by scans of data from a variety of sources, such as existing planning documents and statements of community goals.  In conversation with members of the community, Sewall staff will design a program that supports the community in achieving increased resilience, healthy people, healthy land and waters, and a thriving economy.

The process in issue-related focus areas may differ, though we will retain the same commitment to equity, broad inclusion, and integrated environmental and human well-being.

Will Sewall Foundation continue to make grants in the meantime?

Yes!  Staff is developing a bridge plan which will provide funding: to winddown long-time nonprofit partners who are unlikely to align going forward; to continue supporting organizations that probably will align when focus areas are redesigned; and to begin supporting organizations Sewall hasn’t previously funded that are likely to align when the HPHP redesign is ready for implementation.  As was the case in 2019, Healthy People Healthy Places grants will be by invitation only next year.

How can I get updates about the redesign of HPHP program?

Updates will be posted on the Sewall Foundation website by early November.