by Don Matteson, Chief Program Officer
[Part 2 of a 4-part blog series on our introduction to the LD field]
Last week's blog post described the phone call that got us connected with the handful of other foundations doing work in the learning disabilities (LD) field. That gave us a tremendous head start in terms of learning about the work that was being funded. It left us wondering, however, about what the front-line providers felt would help them out.
We did pretty much what you'd expect, talking to experts in the field and reading an awful lot. We still didn't feel like we had a good handle on where the field was and exactly how our funding could help. That's when we remembered the Tower Planning Study. Could another round of TPS grants, this time focused on LD, give us greater insight? We thought it was worth a try.
The difference this time was that we weren't going back to a list of previous grantees. We needed to identify new organizations to work with. We spent some time searching on the Internet and talking with people-in-the-know to find LD-focused organizations within our catchment area (or grandfathered in from the Foundation's past grantmaking), and extended invitations to participate. Again, we asked for several ideas that could be implemented in a year or less for up to $50,000. As before, we got a wide variety of responses.
Most of the project ideas we selected fell loosely into one of two categories: teacher training or individual and family supports.
Individual and Family Supports
The odd-project out was Carroll School, which used the opportunity to invest in some basic research. Working with a research lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carroll School conducted functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural mechanisms preventing successful reading in students with learning disabilities.
Three things became clear from the responses we got to this project:
In just a few weeks, we'll be hosting a gathering of our LD TPS grantees so they can share their projects with each other. It's our first foray into the seemingly trendy world of convening.
Next week's blog post will introduce our partnership with venture philanthropy shop New Profit. The work we're doing with New Profit represents a significant departure from our regular grantmaking; it's quite a change of pace!
Photo by Andrea Hernandez
Flickr: learning is messy | 5850374481
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