Synergy Initiative

The Health Care and Health Promotion Synergy Initiative (“Synergy Initiative”) provides three to five years of funding for collaborative projects that target community-identified health issues in Central Massachusetts with integrated, comprehensive strategies designed to improve health, broadly defined. These projects typically begin with funding for a planning grant, followed by a pilot grant, and then one to three years of implementation grants, during which time the emphasis shifts to advocacy and sustainability of the project. Grants typically total in the $2 million dollar range over a grant period of approximately five years.

Through key factors that influence its grantmaking, The Health Foundation will continue to encourage projects that serve the most vulnerable residents of Central Massachusetts.

Key criteria for successful Synergy Initiative proposals include:

  • Significance of the Problem – Evidence that the proposal addresses a significant community health issue, in terms of both scope and seriousness, as well as a key criterion of addressing the under-served.
  • Level of Integration – The degree to which the proposed approach to the issue being addressed by the applicant(s) is integrated, interdisciplinary, and comprehensive, involving both public health and medical strategies. Where an individual organization lacks the resources to mount such an integrated program itself, it will be expected to partner with other agencies with complementary goals and capacities, and to demonstrate that the collaboration proposed is serious and effective, rather than creating duplicative programming. Public and/or private co-funders of proposals are welcomed.
  • The Soundness of the Approach – The degree to which the proposed approach to the health issue addressed by the applicant(s) is based on an in-depth understanding of the issue and the principal factors affecting it; knowledge of “best practices” developed by others working on the same issues; and a strong connection with the community in which the proposed program or intervention will be mounted, including involvement, when appropriate, of the intended population of focus in proposal planning and implementation.
  • The Capacity for Enduring Systems Change – The potential for the approach proposed by the applicant(s) to bring about long-term changes in the systems, policies, and practices that directly influence the conditions affecting the health problem addressed and its prevention, treatment, or management.
  • The Potential for Impact – Evidence that the applicant organization has the capacity and capability to implement the proposed program effectively.
  • The Potential for Replication – The likelihood that the approach proposed, if proven effective, can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Quality of the Evaluation Plan – The soundness of the proposed strategy for assessing the effectiveness and impact of the approach being taken by the applicant(s), and how the lessons learned will be applied and used.
  • Exit Strategy – The appropriateness of the plan proposed by the applicant(s) for dealing with the eventual phasing out of The Health Foundation funding.

Some have likened The Health Foundation’s Synergy Initiative approach to the Collective Impact model. While the development of the Synergy Initiative approach pre-dated the Collective Impact movement, there are many similarities between the two approaches. Please click here for a comparison of Collective Impact and the Synergy Initiative.

The Health Foundation’s Synergy Initiative approach was introduced over a decade before the Collective Impact model was introduced, and its key design features are summarized in this 2019 Foundation Review article.

Evaluation is a key component of Synergy Initiative projects. Dr. Janice B. Yost, President & CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, authored a chapter in a recent Empowerment Evaluation book. Dr. Yost explains how funders can operationalize empowerment evaluation using The Health Foundation as an example, focusing on the partnership between grantee, funder, and evaluator. Please click here to read Chapter 3, Mission Fulfillment: How Empowerment Evaluation Enables Funders to Achieve Results.

Since 2000, The Health Foundation’s Synergy Initiative projects have achieved systems and policy changes that continue to this day.  Highlights of these outcomes can be found in the Synergy Initiative Impact Report.