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Dayna L. Cunningham

TDC Board Member; Access Strategies Fund Board Member; Executive Director of the Community Innovators Lab at MIT

Dayna L. Cunningham is an Access Strategies Fund board member and Executive Director of the Community Innovators Lab at MIT.

CoLab is a center of research and practice within the MIT Department of Urban Planning.  Combining on-the-ground planning and development expertise of DUSP faculty and students with local community knowledge, CoLab helps community residents and leaders create innovative experiments and living examples that address urban sustainability challenges.

In 2006-2007, Cunningham directed the ELIAS Project, an MIT-based collaboration between business, ngos and government that seeks to use processes of profound innovation to advance economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Cunningham was an Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation from 1997-2004.  At Rockefeller she funded initiatives that examined the relationship between democracy and race, changing racial dynamics and new conceptions of race in the U.S., as well as innovation in the area of civil rights legal work.  From 2004-2006 she was associated with Public Interest Projects, a non-profit project management and philanthropic consulting firm based in New York City, where she managed foundation collaboratives on social justice issues.

Before coming to the Rockefeller Foundation, Cunningham worked as a voting rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, litigating cases in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere in the South, and briefly as an officer for the New York City Program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Cunningham is a 2004 graduate of the Sloan Fellows MBA program of the MIT Sloan School of Management.  She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and Radcliff Colleges and a juris doctor degree from New York University School of Law.

Recent blog posts:
  • Editorial: Anchors aweigh on tackling the social determinants of health

    Merrill Goozner
    Modern Healthcare

    Merrill Goozner writes in Modern Healthcare "Editorial: Anchors aweigh on tackling the social determinants of health." In this editorial, Goozner writes about the work of the Healthcare Anchor Network: 

    Next week, a 2-year-old network of major healthcare systems dedicated to combating the social problems contributing to ill health in their own backyards will go public. They've chosen to highlight a San Francisco Bay Area food production center that will be up and running by the end of this year.

    Located in Richmond, a working-class community that's two-thirds Hispanic and African-American, the center will employ about 200 people in what its sponsors promise will be living-wage jobs. Hospitals belonging to Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and the University of California at San Francisco will purchase fresh meals from the facility.

    Organizers say this is just the start of a nationwide movement to use healthcare systems, often a community's largest employer and purchaser, as an "anchor" institution for local economic development. Three dozen major systems, which collectively represent 600 hospitals with over 1 million employees in more than 400 cities and towns, have already signed on to the Healthcare Anchor Network. They are pledging to use their hiring, purchasing and investment decisions to promote better-paying jobs.

    It's a promising development in healthcare's evolving approach to population health. The core concept rests on the belief that achieving better health outcomes for the populations for which they're at risk financially will ultimately depend on improving the social conditions that spawned their diseases.

    Read more in Modern Healthcare