Safety Net Resiliency Initiative

In Montgomery County, people in need rely upon a wide array of services offered or supported by local county government, in close cooperation with local and regional food banks, shelters and other nonprofit organizations. This public-private partnership is often supplemented with financial support and staffed by volunteers provided by foundations and individual donors. Still, the financial underpinnings of the current system are fragile, and the people it serves frequently struggle to get the right help, at the right time, in the right place and in a way that empowers them.

To address both challenges, HealthSpark Foundation is pleased to launch its new Safety Net Resiliency Initiative. Over the next 10 years, the Resiliency Initiative aims to improve the ability of Montgomery County’s health and human services safety net system – and the organizations that contribute to and support the system – to weather uncertainty and meet the needs of people across the county.

The Resiliency Initiative will provide grants, education, training and related investments to support those interested in improving the strength and flexibility of the health and human services safety net system. The foundation believes the value and relevancy of this initiative will be enhanced by learning from consumers’ and providers’ ideas and recommendations for strengthening services, so the first year of the initiative will engage those groups in shaping the specific projects the initiative will fund.

In January 2018, HealthSpark will be accepting applications from direct service and advocacy organizations to participate in a collaborative process to design the longer-term projects the initiative will support. Up to 50 organizations will be selected to participate in a facilitated six-month design process; each selected organization will receive a $6,000 stipend in recognition of the time they will invest in this important work.

HealthSpark will also be supporting a broader “Community of Practice” effort to build the leadership capacity and financial strength of safety net provider organizations countywide, and will provide additional training opportunities to individual organizations.

Initiative Background

Since the summer of 2016, the foundation has been gathering insights and input to shape the goals and structure of its new initiative, informed by safety net service providers via surveys, key informant interviews, focus group sessions and two large Crowdsourcing events. This process affirmed that there is significant interest among providers to improve the county’s safety net system, enhance organizational capacity, sharpen mission and align programs and services to support consumer resiliency. The following vision for the county’s safety net was crafted by Crowdsourcing attendees:

We envision a resilient and financially sustainable safety net that allows anyone in Montgomery County to access high quality, coordinated, equitable and culturally appropriate services no matter who they are, what they need or where they live.

The foundation is working with national consultants Equal Measure and Spitfire Strategies to incorporate the feedback into the design of this new initiative.

Who Should Participate

  • Direct service and advocacy organization leaders and county government leaders are invited to participate in the Design Teams.
  • Other community stakeholders, including philanthropic leaders and county residents who are receiving or have previously received services from participating organizations will be invited to participate in the Community of Practice.

Initiative Design

Below is a visual representation of the initiative. A larger version can be accessed under Files and Links at the bottom of the page.

Design Teams


Attendees of the fall 2017 Crowdsourcing events identified four “levers” they felt were important to achieving the vision for an improved safety net system for Montgomery County:

  • Improving public-private collaboration and coordination;
  • Ensuring there is “no wrong door” to the safety net system;
  • Encouraging data sharing and systems integration; and
  • Building advocacy and communications capacity within the system.

To translate each of these opportunities into practical, effective action that strengthens the safety net system, in early 2018 the foundation will convene and support the work of four Design Teams, each one focusing on one of these areas. The goal of each Design Team is to develop one or more projects or areas of research to improve the county’s safety net. Members of the Design Teams will be selected from among those groups applying to participate; teams will be comprised of a variety of safety net providers, advocacy organizations, county government leaders and, hopefully, consumers. Meghan McVety, a principal and co-founder of Capacity for Change, will guide Design Teams to examine the issues, explore redesign opportunities and identify promising new approaches to ensure a more resilient safety net. The facilitator will also encourage sharing of ideas and insights between the teams.

Design Team Meeting Schedule

The Design Teams will meet on the following schedule from March through August. All Design Teams meetings will be held in the Walton Room at the Community Partners Center, 2506 N. Broad Street in Colmar, except where noted.

*Will be held the HealthSpark Board Room, 2nd Floor at the Community Partners Center.

Please note the meeting dates and locations are subject to change.


Health and human service providers and advocacy organizations working within the county’s safety net system may apply to participate in one or more Design Teams. Up to 50 organizations will be selected to participate in a facilitated six-month design process; each selected organization will receive a $6,000 stipend in recognition of the time they will invest in this important work.

The goal of the Design Teams is to create one or more projects or areas of research to improve the county’s safety net system. In fall 2018, the foundation will consider additional funding requests to implement these Design Team projects or areas of research. Further details on eligibility criteria for projects/areas of research and applicant organizations will be published when available.

Community of Practice

In addition to the Design Teams, the foundation will periodically convene a Community of Practice, also facilitated by Meghan McVety, to discuss and provide feedback on the work of the Design Teams. The Community of Practice will be comprised of Design Team participants and other interested health and human service providers, philanthropic and governmental leaders and consumers. Attendees will also receive peer-to-peer coaching and support focused on building organizational resilience. The Community of Practice will meet three times in March, June and September 2018, and may be reconvened a fourth time in November or December.

The third meeting of the Community of Practice will take place on Thursday, September 6, 2018 from 9:30am - 12:30pm in the Grand Ballroom, 1st Floor at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center (1401 Morris Road, Blue Bell).

Click here for details. This event is free, but you must register in advance.

Additional Training

Crowdsourcing event attendees identified three core areas of organizational capacity required to sustain a viable and strong safety net:

  • Cultural competency
  • Financial sustainability
  • Executive/board leadership

These areas for development cut across all four areas of work for the Design Teams. Recognizing that time is precious, the foundation is working with several community-based capacity building colleagues to explore if and how curriculum design and trainings can be efficiently offered to all providers in the county. Details will be published when available.


The foundation envisions supporting several iterations of Design Teams’ work over this 10-year initiative. As progress evolves, the foundation believes safety net providers, funders and consumers will work together to identify solutions for addressing unmet needs and enhancing the resiliency of the safety net. Equal Measure will help the foundation evaluate the overall progress of this first phase, incorporating lessons learned to inform future phases.

The overall timeline for the launch of this first phase is as follows:

  • January 4, 9 & 16 – Information sessions
  • January 22 – Applications due to participate in one or more Design Teams
  • Mid-February – Foundation notifies applicants
  • March-August – Design Teams meet monthly
  • March 12, June 4 & September 6 – Community of Practice meetings
  • November – Applications due Innovation Lab grants (Lab created by Design Teams)
  • Decmeber – Foundation notifies applicants

Interested organizations should carefully read the application page for details on participation requirements and eligibility criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please review the FAQ page for additional details.