Seeding the Field

The Creation and Growth of the Center for Working Families Approach

Posted November 15, 2013
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
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Creating a new way of thinking about a social challenge or promoting an innovative approach takes time to germinate. That development time is called "field-building." The Annie E. Casey Foundation nurtured its Center for Working Families (CWF) model through trial, error and partnerships while intentionally moving this “one-stop shopping” idea forward and encouraging a national approach to take shape, now known as the Working Families Success Network. That creation of a new philanthropic field, in all its iterations, is the subject of this report. 

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Key Takeaway

Field-building takes timing, partners, strategies and more

Field-building, the role of creating a new approach or strategy, is dependent on a number of important factors, including timing within a larger societal and policy context, and recognizing that philanthropic strategies have life cycles. Field-building requires a new way of thinking within the nonprofit community. It relies on assembling networks of partners, funders and supporters. In addition, it must focus on changing how systems operate. Having these factors work together over an extended period is a major challenge, but it’s the basic requirement for building a field.