"Working together in a strategy for transformation"

network building

How we got here

  • In late 2015, the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee (WFET) conducted an evaluation of its grant making and reached the conclusion that the WFET could be more strategic with its philanthropic investments by: 1) sharpening its focus, 2) finding a niche within a specific area of need, and 3) building a network of agencies working to address that need.

  • After conducting a series of focus groups in 25 counties, the WFET found that a major barrier to post-secondary education in the region is a cultural and familial attitude discouraging women and girls from furthering their education beyond high school. 

  • Consequently, the WFET made a three-year commitment to focus on this issue.

The WFET committed $300,000 to support a network of organizations whose work is to change the narrative in East Tennessee from one of discouragement to one that encourages young women and girls to further their education beyond high school.

Outcomes

We believe that this investment will produce the following outcomes:

  • a higher number of young women entering post-secondary education in communities served by the WFET

  • coordination of resources and communications among network organizations

  • lessons that can and will be shared

  • attention to public policy for women and girls around education in Tennessee

  • determine goals and activities for the next phase of work

Our Approach

Changing narratives requires a strategic communications approach

Where are we now? 

Since the network launched in April 2018, the network members have done extensive research and testing – including dozens of interviews, more than 100 surveys, and more than a dozen focus groups. A grassroots communications campaign strategy has been developed and will begin being implemented by our network members in their communities this fall. 

 

WFET and our communications consultants, Burness Communications, have armed the members of the network with strategies they can adapt to their local contexts. Deployment will take on many forms. Initially, a few examples include:

 

Network members will

  • train their staff and local partner organizations (schools, businesses, churches, nonprofits) on using WFET messages in their work

  • recruit, train, and activate spokespeople who will resonate with their target audiences

  • integrate post-secondary education related programming into their calendar of events using WFET messages

Meet Our Network Members