The Bank of Bermuda Foundation is shifting its funding approach to help tackle the ripple effects of Bermuda being “a historically overtly racially segregated and fundamentally unfair society”.
A comprehensive review — driven by a change in membership, lower investment returns, and the challenges experienced since the 2008 economic upheaval — concluded that two Bermudas still exist: “one where access to opportunity, financial security and general wellbeing is very difficult to achieve, and another Bermuda where, for some, there appear to be few obstacles in their path”.
“Prior to 1962, Bermuda was clearly a racially segregated society and not just because that’s just culturally the way it worked because there were laws that actually supported that,” chairman Tom Conyers told The Royal Gazette.
“That changed in the late sixties and early seventies. But what is clear when you look at the statistics, although a lot of progress has been made in terms of equalising outcomes between various sectors of society and between the two largest racial groups, we haven’t got there, even almost 50 years later.
“The question is, why haven’t we and what do we need to do in terms of changing our thinking, in changing what we do and how we do it, that will help narrow that gap more quickly.”
The foundation’s “Theory of Change”, which emerged after more than two years of consultation, examination and deliberation of the needs of Bermuda’s community, also highlighted the importance of relationships and collaboration, as well as the need to make funding decisions based on “sound rationale, solid evidence and a strong understanding of the issues in the face of a complex and fast-changing world”.
It furthermore determined that the time was right to shift from addressing short-term, immediate needs as a charitable organisation, to having a longer term, more collaborative and sustainable approach to solving problems and addressing the root causes of social issues.
“Based upon our Theory of Change it became evident that our community would benefit most from projects or organisations that emphasise people working together and taking shared responsibility for outcomes,” Mr Conyers added.
“Our areas of funding, consistent with our vision, represent a focus on economic equity; education for independent thinking and productive engagement; health and wellbeing for all age groups and an inclusive and welcoming community.”
To help “heal, improve, inspire and rebalance the island’s community to be a dynamic and fair-minded place to live and grow”, the organisation aspires to outcomes in the areas of economic participation, education, healthy families and connected communities.
“When you look at our various outcome statements in each of the four areas we’ve selected to focus on, they’re framed in the universal,” Mr Conyers said. “But the simple truth is that not everybody starts from the same place — some people face greater challenges or obstacles in being able to fully participate in Bermuda’s society and achieve those outcomes that we would all like to get to.”
Mr Conyers explained that the organisation wants a better analysis of the issues so it can “better understand the underlying issues that are creating the problems that people come to us and ask for money to help to solve”.
He said: “We want to work with our partners in the not-for-profit community, who are the people who typically we are funding and are actually doing the real work, to better define what their programmes are trying to achieve and to try to measure whether we are actually getting the results we collectively set out to achieve. We want to think a little bit about how we would develop some broad measures at a community level of how we would measure success or know when we’ve arrived at success in each of the areas, the outcomes we’ve articulated and to measure those on a regular basis.”
He added that the organisation also wants “to be a little more rigorous, clear and objective in our decision making”, and is seeking “some more transparency generally”.
Mr Conyers added: “We want to work much more closely with our partners in the process so they are clearer on what we are trying to achieve, they are clearer on the criteria we are trying to use when we make decisions and that when there is a result, they understand how we got there.
“So just open things up, have a really good look and hopefully, a good honest frank dialogue with our partners in the community and the community generally on what are the issues that Bermuda has and what we can do to help solve them.”
According to the foundation, feedback from many of Bermuda’s non-profit organisations has been very positive.
A new website is also being developed to better reflect the foundation’s strategic goals and work, while also featuring a grants management system for online applications and to streamline the review process.
The foundation, which operates independently and provides more than $750,000 in scholarships and $2.5 million in grants or donations annually, will be launching its new grant-giving strategy next January.
Aims and aspirations for a better community
The Bank of Bermuda Foundation aspires to the following outcomes to help “heal, improve, inspire and rebalance the Bermuda community to be a dynamic and fair-minded place to live and grow”:
• Economic participation: all Bermudians have equitable employment opportunities, work satisfaction and financial security. This includes a career and lifelong learning focus and an employment and entrepreneurs focus
• Education: people lead purposeful lives with equitable opportunities, as independent thinkers who are socially aware and productively engaged. This includes a public education focus and an experiential learning focus
• Healthy families: people in Bermuda have complete physical, mental, social and material wellbeing. This includes an early childhood focus, a health and wellness focus and a resilient communities focus
• Connected communities: the entire Bermuda community participates in activities that create a sense of belonging. This includes a focus on connecting communities
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