Sustainability in Grant-Giving in a Conflict-Ridden Part of the World

Healing Across the Divides (HATD) is a new member of the Council on Foundations. We joined the Council to learn from others facing similar challenges globally and connect with funders to explore issues such as finding ways to better build grantee sustainability.

Our mission is to “improve the health of marginalized people living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories via community-based intervention.” Physical chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity), addiction, and mental health disabilities are all increasing in Israel and the Palestinian Territories especially among the poor. We see our focus on improving health as a pathway to peace building.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest ongoing conflicts in the world, making sustainable grantmaking there a challenge. Further complicating this challenge is the fact that Israel is a first world country and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is not a country, they are a “region” whose economy is almost completely dependent upon outside donors.

Today, relationships between Israelis and Palestinians within and without the borders of Israel are increasingly frayed, which means that peace building through health requires the leadership and engagement of local populations. We believe that funding support and offering technical advice is essential to the success of community organizations working in this area. Technical consultation and advice dramatically increases the capacity and efficiency of local groups. HATD is the only foundation that provides funding and technical advice on health to both Israeli and Palestinian communities, and it is the only one that fosters cooperation between both groups.

HATD’s grants typically run for three years, and we expect our grantees to begin planning for future sustainability by the middle of their second year of funding. This approach is absolutely possible in a first world country such as Israel, which has both a health system and a vibrant private sector. For example, one of our grants, an intervention to increase exercise and improve nutrition among young Israeli Arab and Jewish mothers, has been adopted by the Israeli Ministry of Health. Another intervention, to increase mammography rates among marginalized orthodox Jewish women, was adopted first by one and eventually two of the major Israeli managed-care organizations.

What about sustainability in the OPT? Essentially, the OPT consists of mini-health systems operated by different political parties, with Fatah operating the main health system in the West Bank and Hamas operating the health system in Gaza. In this challenging scenario, sustainability is possible in three main ways in the OPT:

  1. The Ministry of Health could offer support.
  2. The major donors to the Palestinian economy, notably the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, could be engaged
  3. HATD could focus on initiatives that use evidence-based approaches – that is, highlight initiatives that require little presence of a health system and instead rely on individual/family self-management after learning and practicing the tools needed via an initiative that we fund.

Healing Across the Divides has largely opted for the last option, understanding that this option still requires a minimal amount of support. That said, we continue to explore every option for sustainability. After all, shouldn’t this be the fundamental role of any foundation – take risks on innovative initiatives, provide financial and technical assistance to maximize success, and to encourage the grantee to creatively look for sustainability? We hope our colleagues at other foundations share their strategies so we can exchange lessons learned, and we look forward to dialoguing with and learning from them on this all important challenge.

Add new comment