Helping data collaboratives finance institutional and culture change

By Alison Rein, Director at Quantified Ventures


Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 2nd annual All In: Data for Community Health meeting in Denver, Colorado. In attendance were over 200 representatives from public health, clinical practice, community service, advocacy, university, and policy organizations actively testing new cross-sector partnerships and payment models to advance community health. The work they are doing is sorely needed, and also hard; nothing challenges a collaboration like sharing data or other resources and, absent formal recognition and/or dedicated financial support for these functions, such efforts represent a sort of labor of love and commitment to mission that is inspiring.

At their core, these community-based collaborations are working to drive attention and resources upstream, address whole-person and population needs, and break down the traditional silos of who delivers and pays for the broad range of services and supports that generate health. Whether their focus is on reducing the environmental triggers of and better managing pediatric asthma, or using multiple data sources to prevent community violence, these collaboratives are operating on the front lines of both institutional and culture change. As if this type of radical transformation wasn’t enough, they also need to completely re-think their approach to financing because, as observed by another presenter, there is no line item or stable funding source for population health data…at least not yet.

It is no surprise then that those seeking to advance community health often struggle to finance this important work—relying primarily on grants, which are important but wholly insufficient for the task. Some of the alternative resourcing options at their disposal (e.g., bonds/loans, public revenues) are less well known and understood and, as a health person in a finance role, I can vouch for the fact that even just the terminology used evokes a shroud of mystery that is neither necessary nor productive.

It’s for this reason that I was thrilled to develop a half-day workshop at the front end of the conference with colleagues from ReThink Health and the Center for Community Investment. Collectively, we unpacked both a process and framework for considering potential financing options—explaining how each one requires some level of strategic planning, preparation and engagement to access effectively. Our objectives for the session were to:

  1. Expose participants to financial planning approaches, key questions, methods, and tools;

  2. Broaden participant awareness and understanding of several different types and mechanisms for financing both capital and projects and human services;

  3. Differentiate between alternative financing approaches, and determine the circumstances under which they are most promisingly applied; and

  4. Provide practical and intuitive tools that can be used to self-assess capacity (in the context of a specific intervention) to proceed with confidence toward a viable sustainable financing mechanism.

Part of the session involved a “deeper dive” into Pay for Success. This too was gratifying, as the questions, comments, and ideas surfaced only confirmed my belief that—as a financing tool—it can be an effective and essential bridge to sustainable funding for programs and initiatives that improve population health. I’d be happy to share the slides presented and resources assembled, so please reach out to learn more!