Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County partner to fund projects addressing racism, poverty, and trauma

After 10 years, the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders (COFU) has disbanded and community feedback is being invited on a new, similar effort. 

COFU was a private and public funding consortium comprising the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED), the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, the United Way of Washtenaw County, and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. Now, OCED and the city of Ann Arbor are planning a New Human Services Partnership as a replacement, focused on investments in initiatives to address racism, poverty, and trauma. 

"We're proud of the work that we did over the 10 years, but over time you learn new things and priorities can change," says OCED Director Teresa Gillotti. "Right now we are shifting direction with an intent to work out a new partnership over the next year."

The new partnership currently has three potential funding programs. The first, Human Services Mini-Grants, would benefit people who have an untested new idea, or organizations or agencies looking for the ability to try something that might be otherwise too high-risk.

"Maybe it's something you just think will work, but you're not certain and need some help," Gillotti says. "We hope to grow innovation and we're trying to think outside the box here."

The second program, Human Services Safety Net Funding, would address basic services, such as housing, food, and basic health care, for low-income community members. The third potential program, Human Services Five-Year Impact Funding, is aimed at helping grantees scale up their work.

"We're looking at successful outcomes and high-impact programs. This is an area where folks could get help to try something different to maybe increase the capacity of a successful program they have," Gillotti says.

In an effort to move the planning of the new partnership forward with as much insight as possible, a series of virtual community feedback sessions will occur over the next several weeks. Attendees will get further information on the proposed funding programs and also an opportunity to weigh in with feedback.

"We're opening up as much space as we can for dialogue because we want to hear about people's concerns, fears, and needs. We also want to make sure that we aren't overlooking anything," Gillotti says. "And as we all, as a community, keep moving toward addressing racial equity, we want to hear how we can best support our community through our delivering of services, our policies and processes, and also our organizational structures."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.
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