Collaborative Problem-Solving

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes that meaningful change is generated at the local level, where community members use their experiences and connections to people and places to improve the world around them.

During the Foundation’s statewide listening and learning tour, we saw that changes are often driven by the unique assets, challenges and opportunities within communities and that people who live in those communities yearn to connect to one another to work across lines of difference.

The Foundation believes that the more an initiative or process engages many different views, voices and experiences in tackling a community challenge, the more resonant and innovative the solution. Therefore, this Collaborative Problem-Solving approach is intended to support a limited number of community proposals that use inclusive, collaborative and resourceful processes to authentically engage the community to tackle challenges and create solutions. In particular, we seek to fund efforts that work across sectors (public, private, nonprofit) and/or geographic lines (municipal, county, etc.), are built on existing community assets, use a racial equity lens, and/or bring people together across identity or ideology. We intend to dedicate a significant portion of our grant support, in this approach, to efforts that actively enhance racial and/or economic equity.

Click here for a list of terms and examples of resources that might advance your thinking or help determine if your work aligns with ZSR's core principles of promoting collaborative, inclusive and resourceful processes. Printable summary also available from this link.

As part of our Collaborative Problem-Solving approach, we are eager to learn with and from our Collaborative Problem-Solving grantees. This will involve efforts to identify learning questions that both ZSR and our grantees want to explore and supporting opportunities for an exchange of ideas, information, and insights across grantee communities.

Dedicating a funding strategy explicitly focused on community-level change represents a significant shift in the way that ZSR has approached grantmaking at the local level in recent years. In addition, as part of our commitment to being a learning organization and learning alongside communities through our Community-Based Strategy, ZSR has partnered with MDC – a Durham-based nonprofit focused on equity and opportunity with deep experience in collaborative community change – to assist the Foundation by contributing to the learning agenda of both ZSR and the initial cohort of Collaborative Problem-Solving grantees.

In 2019, as part of our Collaborative Problem-Solving approach, ZSR made five grants to organizations across the state to strengthen collaborative, inclusive and resourceful community change. The Foundation is committing time and resources to supporting these grantees and advancing a learning agenda alongside them. The Foundation will consider opening its next Collaborative Problem-Solving grant cycle in 2024. 

Email with questions about ZSR's Collaborative Problem-Solving approach.