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Centering community engagement in equity-centered program funding and development

Lucia Cazares May 13, 2021

The national landscape of 2020 was rocked by COVID-19, repeated public displays of police violence, widespread attention to systematic racism, and increasing momentum for meaningful racial reckoning in the public and philanthropic sectors. As funders, social enterprises, nonprofits, public agencies, and others work to address these critical issues through investment and program development and implementation, gaining community input into investment opportunities and program design is critical. While the corporate sector has a long history of including consumers in the design, development, and marketing of products and services, it is much less common for funders and administrators of education, health, and social service entities to directly engage their end consumers. However, the value of this feedback is central to success across sectors.

More common in public and philanthropic sectors are methods that engage intermediaries, such as grantees and service agencies, to provide guidance while planning and developing programs that those agencies will implement to serve the end consumer. Increased calls by community members for “nothing about me without me” have challenged this long-standing practice. 

In VIVA’s impact work, we find that our clients and community partners are aligned in their shared values for centering equity. Yet, there are real budget and staff/grantee time constraints that make centering equity challenging to implement fully.

To address this challenge, we have developed an innovative approach to centering equity by allowing parents and other community members throughout California to participate in an authentic and ongoing engagement. We are excited to engage SOCAP 2021 participants in an interactive overview and discussion of this digital-first multilingual methodology, which prioritizes historically underserved communities. This approach is unique because the engagement is driven from beginning to end by community members, who provide input over time regarding a variety of relevant topics – not just through a single survey on a specific focus area. This enables funders to gain insights in real-time, producing valuable longitudinal data that can be connected across topics.

This fireside chat will be moderated by Lucia Cazares (of VIVA Social Impact Partners). It will involve a prominent California funder and a community member who is the recipient of funded services. Discussion topics will cover the following areas, as well as an opportunity for Q&A with SOCAP participants: 

  • Perspectives and experiences related to traditional (read: without community member involvement) planning and implementation of services intended to support community members 
  • The importance of community voices and perspectives in program planning, service delivery, and evaluation in the future
  • The power of including the lived experiences of underserved and underrepresented populations to build programs that address their needs 
  • Experiences using this innovative community engagement approach and how it centers equity in funding and program decisions
  • How data can be used to help organizations allocated resources to underserved communities 

VIVA is currently implementing this community and equity-centered approach throughout California, and there are exciting opportunities for raising voices in communities nationwide. For this fireside chat, we intend to bring in a prominent community funder (likely a member of First 5 Los Angeles, whose service area covers ~25% of the children ages 0-5 in California), as well as a parent who is one of the members of the Community Committee that has been deeply involved in the planning and implementation of community engagement throughout Los Angeles. If this proposal is accepted for inclusion in SOCAP 2021, we will be able to finalize fireside chat members quickly.

About VIVA Social Impact Partners

VIVA Social Impact Partners (VIVA) is a women-owned social impact consulting firm partnering with nonprofits, public agencies, philanthropic organizations, and impact-forward companies to provide transformative strategy, data and analytics, and communications services. VIVA’s staff come from a variety of private sector, research, policy, early childhood, and management backgrounds, and we are deeply committed to the work we do.  VIVA has been doing exciting and impactful work to center equity in our clients’ strategic planning, funding, and program development. 


Fireside Chat

Meta Themes

  • Equity & Inclusion


Data, Community Engagement, Impact Investment

Purpose and Desired Outcome

- Share an innovative and authentic approach to equity-centered community engagement - Include community member and funder perspective on this approach and their experience with it - Share what has worked and what has not worked with using this approach


  • Allocators (Family Offices, HNW Individuals, Foundations)

  • Government

  • Service Providers

  • Accelerators & Incubators


  • NameLucia Cazares
  • TitleData & Analytics Consultant
  • OrganizationVIVA Social Impact Partners
  • StatusConfirmed
  • NameSenior Program Director
  • TitleSenior Program Officer or Executive Director
  • OrganizationFirst 5 local county commission (likely Los Angeles)
  • StatusInvited
  • NameCommunity Committee Member
  • Titlecommunity member
  • Organizationn/a
  • StatusInvited
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