Soundbites: Investing in Change in Buffalo

Toni Johnson sits down with Matt Enstice, head of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Organization to talk about BNMC’s impact in the local community.

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This is Toni Johnson with Soundbites. I’m here today with Matt Enstice, head of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Organization, a Heron grantee, to talk about BNMC’s impact. Hi Matt.

How you doing, Toni?

Very good. Matt, can you tell us a little bit about what is BNMC, what is it doing in Buffalo?

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is a consortium of nine medical and research related institutions. We also have surrounding neighborhoods that are integrated into all the work that we do. Our organization, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is the same name where they all are located, but our little organization, we don’t do healthcare, we don’t do teaching, we don’t do research. What we do do is all the things that our great institutions need to support them, and so what we look at is the infrastructure that’s in and around the campus, whether that’s transportation, streetscape, public safety, and also the energy related stuff. We take care of all that on behalf of the collective group because our focus is collaboration is the key.

Your organization was a recipient of an Enterprise Capital Grant from Heron. Can you talk a little bit about what you needed the money for and how you’ve used capital?

When we first met the Heron Foundation, it was to learn about PRIs. The real reason for that was when looked at our campus, it was growing and we knew philanthropy needed to be engaged with what we were doing, but we didn’t want to continue to do it the same old way that philanthropy thought about. I was at the Harvard Kennedy School meeting with somebody and they said you’ve got to go meet the Heron Foundation. When we met with them, they brought up this idea-it was philanthropic equity at the time because we were one of the first investees hereand what it was for was we sat together, we developed a business plan with The Nonprofit Finance Fund and Cheryl Heller out of CommonWise, and what it looked at was with our growth plans we really needed to look at it and say, OK you can’t duct tape this organization.

You need to grow the people there and bring them together and get more sophisticated to manage the growth wisely. A lot of the core of what we did, besides bringing some consultants in to help us firm up our business plan, it was really to grow our organization and in a two year time frame, really about a year and a half, we went from 11 people to 20 people. Now on the surface, I didn’t think 20 people was a lot, but doubling the size of an organization, I really realized one new person can change a culture of an organization. It was a management challenge, but on the whole, it really helped us have the right infrastructure in place, people-wise, to address the growth that was going on on the campus.

We often get asked what happened? What were the impacts of both the grant and just BNMC more generally?

I can give you a couple of examples of this. When Heron came to the table and put that philanthropic equity in place, I firmed up, brought in a great CFO, brought in a solid individual who focuses on entrepreneurship, but it also allowed me to reach out and partner more with our utility who actually started funding bringing in an energy expert on our team. When you look at what’s the impact of that, we now are being looked at as a potential model for how New York State needs to be thinking about energy and we’re partnering with the Department of Energy to look at new ways to look at the energy infrastructure of our country.

The other area that I think we’ve really accelerated that most medical campuses probably don’t focus on is around the food area, and within the food area we have been working with the USDA on looking at things of how to help out with our education system and get farm to schools, but our most recent one is farm to hospitals. We’re really building that with Roswell Park and we’re working closely now on a grant with Health Care Without Harm, who we think are the thought leaders in this space. It’s an area that’s growing and it’s really on the cutting edge, but there’s no real experts out there and the closest that we found to it is Health Care Without Harm, so we really look forward to continue to build that relationship with them.

BNMC is adjacent to two communities, one of which is a significant low income community. Tell us the story, what’s going on in the community itself? How is this impacting the people?

One positive thing, I got a call the other day from a news reporter, she said “How do you feel about what’s going on in this neighborhood adjacent to us called the Fruit Belt neighborhood,” and I said “In what way?” She said “We just got statistics,” and I can’t remember I think it was over the last three years, but I can get you the data, “poverty’s down 23 percent”. I don’t know how to respond to that. It sounds like a great thing. When they asked me about it, I said poverty going down in our community is really a great thing for everybody, but the biggest thing that we’ve learned along the way and we continue to do is you need to have open discussion with all of the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s not just one neighborhood. We really look at it as part of our master plan, which we call Four Neighborhoods One Community was the master plan and our theory of operation is called Mutual City, is how do we look at these neighborhoods and engage with them so as we grow as a campus, the people in the community who are living there are benefiting.

Terrific. Well, thank you so much for taking the time today, Matt.

Thanks for having me.

For, this is Toni Johnson.

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