Foundation’s Opportunity Fund Focused on Partnerships and Testing Ideas That Tackle Systems-Level Challenges



Contact: Molly Crisp
Missouri Foundation for Health
(314) 345-5579

Foundation’s Opportunity Fund Focused on Partnerships and Testing Ideas That Tackle Systems-Level Challenges
New projects show promise for a healthier Missouri

ST. LOUIS, MO (February 18, 2021) – In 2017, Missouri Foundation for Health created the Opportunity Fund, a unique concept of changemaking designed to capture the best ideas from local communities, with hopes of creating long-term solutions to address our state’s most pressing health concerns. This community-centered approach is aimed at testing and supporting systems-level work designed to reduce health inequities.

After taking in the learnings from participants in the initial Opportunity Fund cycles, the Foundation recently relaunched the fund with a more mission-aligned process in place, strengthening efforts toward eliminating the underlying causes of health inequities, transforming systems, and enabling individuals and communities to thrive. Using various strategies, Opportunity Fund projects have addressed a broad array of issues to improve conditions that contribute to poor health. Previous concepts have included collaborating with a public-private partnership to build an agriculture park that increased access to healthy foods with space to enjoy the outdoors and joining a funder collaborative that invests in development strategies led by Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income communities.

“Through Opportunity Fund, we’re working with organizations on health problems, prioritized by the communities they serve, in ways that lead to greater understanding of the context, barriers, and solutions needed to move closer toward achieving health equity,” said Ryan Barker, MFH Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. “The results of the early cohorts have increased our knowledge and provided us a new perspective on certain topics.”

The Foundation is proud to announce that in 2020, there was a total of 38 projects, ranging from leading multi-sector collaboration efforts to challenging antiquated thinking, bringing forth some of the most innovative ideas to date.

The following list highlights just a few Opportunity Fund projects supported in 2020:

  • The T STL and University of Missouri – St. Louis: This community-driven project centers the voices of Black men to examine the root causes of racial inequities in substance use outcomes, establish shared priorities, mobilize community champions, and create nontraditional access points to treatment and harm reduction services to reduce overdose deaths among Black men in North St. Louis. 
  • PedNet Coalition: PedNet will lead a campaign, initially starting in Columbia, that prioritizes people walking, biking, and riding transit. Using multi-tiered advocacy strategies, PedNet will collaborate with underrepresented residents to develop the details of a street design policy in alignment with community needs, with the goal of replicating the effort throughout the state.
  • Second Judicial Court of Missouri: Through systems-wide collaboration with schools, behavioral health agencies, and the justice system, this project will support intentional and comprehensive prevention, treatment, and capacity-building efforts to build positive, safe environments for youth. This connected systems model aims to address juvenile violence and trauma and prevent youth from entering the justice system in rural northeast Missouri.
  • Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA): Working in partnership with six Missouri food banks throughout the state, PHA will conduct a one-year planning project to design a multi-year implementation effort to transform the charitable food system across rural and urban communities to ensure consistent, long-term access to healthier foods. PHA will help support this project through building organizational capacity, convening cross-sector partners, identifying policy opportunities, creating learning networks, and engaging local communities facing food insecurity.

On February 25, the Foundation will open the next round of request for concept papers for Opportunity Fund. This year, the Foundation is requesting ideas that focus on immigrants and refugees, older adults, and environmental justice.

To learn more about Opportunity Fund, please visit our website.

Missouri Foundation for Health is building a more equitable future through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing, and strategic investment. Working in partnership with communities and nonprofits, MFH is transforming systems to eliminate inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social and economic factors that shape health outcomes.