The Experience of an Intermediary in a Complex Initiative: The Urban Health Initiative's National Program Office

by Prudence Brown

Mar 1, 2005

Why would a foundation use an intermediary to manage a multi-site initative? What are the important aspects of the relationships among a foundation, intermediary and local sites? How has The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation\'s use of an intermediary played out during the life of a ten-year initiative?

  • Some of the advantages of a foundation's choice to work with an intermediary include efficiency, talent recruitment, credibility, and reduction of overhead costs.
  • Having decided to use an intermediary, a foundation must think through exactly how to structure the relationship in light of both the initiative's goals and the foundation's operating principles, capacities, and culture.
  • A successful foundation-intermediary relationship requires clarity regarding expectations and rules of engagement, effective communication, flexibility, and trust.
  • A key function of an intermediary is to hold up the initiative's vision and tell the truth to both the sites and the foundation despite pressure to drift, accommodate or relay only good news.
  • Deep experience and expertise in the areas in which it is providing technical assistance help position the intermediary to be respected by and useful to the sites.
  • An initiative's evaluation and other learning activities need to be intentionally structured to inform each other and maximize learning for each key audience: the sites, the intermediary, the foundation, and the field.
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