My introduction to grant writing came from my role as a manager at a non-profit organization. As manager I lead a perinatal behavioral initiative as well as assist with components of an infant mortality initiative. This experience really opened my eyes to how needs related to social determinants of health are funded in American society. Unless you’re providing reimbursable direct service, funding for non-governmental organizations and non profits are coming primarily from private donors or grants. Community based non-profits are on the front line of witnessing the needs of their community and attempting to fill gaps in care or support.
As a result, along with my other manager duties, I spent significant time writing grant applications with my colleagues. Funding was utilized to support leading systemic change related to healthcare in the maternal child health space. This included representing the work of my organization at various conferences as well as leading collaborative workshops with multi-stakeholder partners including hospitals, health clinic, and managed care organizations.
My current interests are in health policy, community based participatory research and seeking funding that embraces having targeted populations part of the full research planning process. As we see frequently on the news and even social media, there are many complex issues in American society related to inequity. However, many of the structures to address these issues work in silos and exclude the expertise of those with lived experience. In reality, many of these silos that lead to adverse health outcomes are directly related. Community involvement better improves understanding of target population by other stakeholders and better identifies needs. In terms of sustainability, when the community is aware of their influential role in driving decisions and systemic change, there is likely to be more adherence to recommended strategies. These goals are also in alignment with the current societal shift of civilians being more informed and involved in issues that impact themselves and their community.
Overall, my grant writing experiences have been to support programs or systems level changes. I have collaborated on research grants where another agency was the fiscal agent. But in those scenarios, I was involved with summarizing the contributions of my organization to the overall proposal, not the research component itself. As far as community participatory research, I was part of the Research Fellows Training Program led by Washington University School of Medicine: Public Health Sciences where I witnessed approaches to increasing community engagement in research.
I have greatly appreciated and enjoyed this course [Grant writing course at Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice led by Dr. Iwelunmor] so far, I was not aware of the intricacies of research grants, especially federal grants. Through this transition to research focused writing, I’d like to also acknowledge my advisor Dr. Kimberly Enard who has helped me grow tremendously, as well as my second mentor, Dr. Rhonda BeLue. I am looking forward to what the future holds and how I can contribute to public health and elevating the voices of those traditionally unheard or ignored through grant writing.
Social Media Handles: Twitter: @R_Aver_Y | LinkedIn: R. Aver Yakubu