Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: General Operating Support (or Unrestricted) Grants

For the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, when it incubated the Roadmap Region, a broad community-based consortium and collaboration across seven school districts with the highest concentration of low-income, school-aged youth in the state, grantees were given general operating support with some defined parameters. They were told, “The work needed to focus on reducing intergenerational poverty, recognizing education as a key opportunity for youth,” says David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest initiative. “We asked them to consider how the challenges of the educational system extend beyond school walls and can be connected to community issues. We also made clear that if you want to work with us, you have to be willing to stop doing things that don’t work, and try things that might.” Gates program staff have stayed engaged with the consortium, sharing ideas for what they might emphasize and where the consortium could exercise influence. “We launched the Roadmap Region almost four years ago very quietly with a very small group,” says Bley. “And now it is a very well known broad consortium that has attracted additional resources, including tens of millions in federal money.” 

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