LOCAL LEADER PERSPECTIVES
Tony Tapia — Promoting The Power of Community
We recently connected with Tony Tapia, Principal of Bridging Worlds Philanthropic Advisors, for a brief Q&A on the importance of lifting up local solutions to local issues in our newest Community-Centered Solutions funding area. Tony is a longtime nonprofit foundation leader in the areas of global philanthropy, performing arts, immigration, Latino, and aging issues.
Caring for Denver: Why are community solutions important in addressing mental health and substance misuse needs?
Tony: A basic belief among persons working with communities is that people who are the closest to the issues probably have the best solutions to solving their community’s challenges. Solutions which come from community often work well. It is important for foundations to trust that community members understand local issues and potential solutions.
Caring for Denver: What are some of your insights and experiences that speak to the value of community input in addressing these needs?
Tony: Often foundations become a catalyst in uncovering and accelerating solutions. Sometimes community members may not recognize their assets or how to effectively utilize the assets they have. I worked with a local Denver community where members were not connecting on a social basis. Social isolation is often an unrecognized challenge. In working with this community we became a catalyst to bring people together and connect in ways they hadn’t in the past. In this community where social isolation was an issue members decided to support regular gatherings of women over coffee which was something that could be sustained and community-owned.
Caring for Denver: How do communities identify/recognize their assets?
Tony: This is one of the many reasons for partnerships. Sometimes it takes someone from the outside a community to start the conversation about their assets. People are often busy and don’t have time to recognize local assets and gaps. Someone from outside can help in discovering those assets.
Caring for Denver: What do you hope would be different in 2-3 years because of this work in mental health and substance
Tony: A better understanding of issues from community perspectives – understand where the foundation can be a catalyst in working with communities toward solutions. Important to have sustainability in addressing problems with identified solutions. Solutions need to be sustainable over time.
Overall, regarding community mental health, the COVID-19 crisis has brought mental health and substance misuse issues in communities to the forefront even if they weren’t experiencing or recognizing them before. When solutions work at the community and family level, the impact will reverberate from these individuals and families into the larger community. Through those successful efforts, the overall community health is improved.
Thank you, Tony, for your thoughtful responses and all that you do for our community!