Steelcase Foundation announces Investment in Families Initiative, partnership with West Michigan-based DataWise Consulting

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As part of the Steelcase Foundation’s efforts to transform how philanthropy can best serve communities, the Foundation is launching the new Investment in Families (IIF) Initiative and research partnership with DataWise Consulting.

“While multi-year grants are incredibly important, our Investment in Families Initiative will be focused on the long-term needs of families, and the systems and policies that must change to better serve them,” said Daniel Williams, president of the Steelcase Foundation. “Our partnership with DataWise is a vital component in achieving equity and quality in the outcomes identified through the initiative.”

In partnership with DataWise, the Steelcase Foundation is launching the IIF Initiative – a 10-year-long research and policy project. At the center of the initiative will be a cohort of West Michigan Black and Latina mothers who will guide system and policy changes designed to improve the well-being of families. The cohort will consist of 30 Kent County families with children aged 12 and under to follow how the families navigate early childhood through high school.

“When we learned about the Steelcase Foundation’s Investment in Families Initiative, we were encouraged by our shared desire to gather evidence about how to achieve equitable social justice outcomes,” said Rachel Venema, Senior Consultant at DataWise. “We believe that the Foundation’s strategy of centering the experience and expertise of mothers will enable the Initiative to produce outcomes, data, and insights with far-reaching implications for the benefit of families everywhere.”

DataWise Consulting was selected as the research and evaluation partner for the IIF Initiative because of the quality of their data collection, analysis, and visualization services; understanding of philanthropy and systems; and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. DataWise has long been a trusted local partner for many equity-focused organizations, including Kent County’s Welcome Plan for New Americans, conducted in cooperation with the Gateways for Growth initiative of Welcoming America.

“If the Investment in Families Initiative succeeds, we will disrupt and improve systems and policies that currently harm mothers and families,” said Stacy Stout, director of Family-Centered Philanthropy at the Steelcase Foundation. “Through our partnership with DataWise, we intend to expand ‘breathing room’ for mothers that bear an immense mental load while working to improve their families’ economic stability and overall well-being.”

The Steelcase Foundation believes that while many systems are in place to support families, mothers of color play a vital role in informing the efforts of philanthropic organizations. By placing the voice of families disadvantaged by systems at the center of the work, the IIF Initiative intends to improve circumstances more quickly for those who need it most.

The Steelcase Foundation hopes to glean insights about community-based giving, policy development, and family support to share with policy makers and the broader philanthropic community to achieve better outcomes in communities everywhere. The initiative will look at how family goals change over time, what structures need to be put in place to assist in achievement of those goals, and how policies, which are all too often changing and transient, can best aid and help families grow and flourish.

The IIF Initiative expands upon the knowledge gained through Williams’ Aspen Institute Ascend Fellowship, and puts Stout’s appointment as the inaugural director of Family-Centered Philanthropy at the forefront of the Foundation’s efforts. In the coming months, the Steelcase Foundation and DataWise will share more about the cohort selection process and IIF Initiative partners.

To learn more about the Investment in Families Initiative, visit https://www.steelcasefoundation.org/investment-in-families-initiative/.