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101 posts categorized "Children and Youth"

Putting Communities First: A Collaborative Fund for the San Joaquin Valley

March 24, 2017

Sierra_health_future_is_meThe San Joaquin Valley is a testament to the troubling social, environmental, economic, and health divides that exist between individuals and communities living within relatively close proximity to one another. A mere three-hour drive from California's prosperous coastal communities, the Valley is home to a multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry, but many of the children who live there go hungry. And while the need for food assistance varies across the state, it is highest in the Valley. Data in our recently released report, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region and Its Children Under Stress (32 pages, PDF), show that eight of the counties in the Valley are among the top nine agricultural producers in the state, and that seven of these same counties are among the ten counties with the highest child poverty rates. What's more, in six of the Valley's nine counties, over 40 percent of residents are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program, while one in four schools do not have access to clean drinking water.

California also is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants, 10 percent of whom live in the region. Immigrants make up 42 percent of the agricultural workforce and 11 percent of the region's overall workforce, and emerging evidence shows that recent policy efforts have placed their safety, health, and emotional well-being at risk. In combination, these inequities place residents of the Valley at greater risk for negative, often preventable health outcomes such as childhood asthma, diabetes, depression, cancer, and trauma.

While California has provided leadership on some of the nation's most pressing health and racial equity issues, the San Joaquin Valley has been left behind. In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank has called the region "the Appalachia of the West." To address the complicated mix of challenges facing Valley communities, Sierra Health Foundation launched the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (the Fund) to build and support a network of community organizations committed to promoting resident voices, ideas, and agency aimed at driving policy and systems change at a regional level. With an initial investment from Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment, the Fund is managed by The Center, a nonprofit created by Sierra Health Foundation to bring people, ideas, infrastructure, and resources to bear on the challenge of eradicating health inequities across the state. Among other things, The Center helps communities access proven practices, tap their existing knowledge and creativity, and act collectively to create the political will necessary to put their ideas into action. The investment fund is now a partnership of nine local, regional, state, and national funders, including The California Wellness, Rosenberg, W. K. Kellogg, Blue Shield of California, Wallace H. Coulter, Dignity Health, and Tides foundations.

To date, the Fund has announced grant commitments totaling more than $4.5 million to support local community organizations. This year, the Fund will support a network of sixty-eight organizations with investments totaling nearly $3 million, but there remain many worthy organizations whose participation we are unable to support.

The Fund's model brings grantees into a "learning community" cohort where organizations develop solutions to address inequities through a policy and systems change lens. Through the Fund, our nonprofit partners receive modest grants to strengthen their capacity to engage in collective advocacy while building relationships, receiving technical assistance, and sharing best practices. As a result, the fifty-eight nonprofits currently working with the Fund have agreed to support a regional policy platform that employs a social-determinants-of-health approach focused on access to health coverage, early childhood investment, affordable housing, environmental health, and employment. 

In our model, grantees are equal partners who contribute to the Fund's goal by agreeing to be mutually supportive and civically active. A powerful example of what this looks like on the ground occurred last month with Equity on the Mall, a day of advocacy at the California State Capitol. Despite heavy rain, more than a thousand San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento to make their case for what it is needed to make California a "Golden State for All." The bipartisan list of speakers included Senate president pro tem Kevin de León, Assemblyman Devon Mathis, California secretary of health and human services Diana Dooley, and Michael Tubbs, the first African-American and youngest person elected mayor of Stockton. Community residents presented their multi-strategy policy platform to state leadership, putting their elected leaders on notice that "Valley communities are mobilizing and will no longer be overlooked, marginalized, or behave as though they have no ability to exert political influence."

Through the Fund, we are learning new lessons about the power of organizing to make meaningful and sustainable change at scale. And we are shining a light on inequity in the health, social, and economic outcomes of different regions within our great state, while contributing to solutions designed to address them. Our goal is simple: to ensure that our community partners are at the forefront of efforts to identify and lead on the issues that will require political support and systemic changes to be implemented. We have been heartened by the response of our partners who say the approach of the Fund is significantly different from that of other funders, who have come to the Valley with their own agenda rather than listening to the priorities of residents. The Fund's model works for and with residents, with a shared vision of a healthy San Joaquin Valley for all. 

This work continues to evolve, but it is well positioned to inform similar strategies in other under-resourced and overburdened regions. We encourage others to join with us to expand our impact in the Valley and, by doing so, create new models for addressing inequity and inequality across the country.

Chet_hewitt_for_PhilanTopicChet P. Hewitt is president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation and The Center, an independent nonprofit developed and supported by the foundation. To get involved or to learn more about the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, see www.shfcenter.org/sjvhealthfund.

How a Blueprint for Treating HIV/AIDS Is Helping Address Childhood Cancer in Africa

March 21, 2017

Globe_health_for_PhilanTopic2Roughly 15,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually among American children. Eighty percent of these children ultimately are cured, which is a remarkable medical success story. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where about 100,000 new cases of pediatric cancer occur annually and 90 percent of those children will die, the story is different. It's a story of disparate access to lifesaving care and treatment, and one that — thanks to a new public-private partnership — we are taking action to change.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) Foundation's SECURE THE FUTURE® program, Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers, and the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children's Hospital (BIPAI) are committing $100 million over the next five years to launch Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence). Global HOPE is a comprehensive pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network that will help build long-term capacity in East and southern Africa with the goal of dramatically improving the prognosis of thousands of children with blood disorders and cancer. In partnership with the government of Botswana, the program will build and open a comprehensive children's cancer treatment center in Gaborone, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, and will establish additional centers and training programs in Uganda and Malawi.

While identifying treatments and cures for non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa has been a focus of the international public health and philanthropic communities, there has yet to be a comprehensive effort to address pediatric cancer and blood disorders in the region. These are complicated conditions, requiring subspecialty expertise, advanced medical technology, and potentially toxic medications. Despite the challenges, however, if we apply the blueprint we've developed for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), we can start saving lives now.

At the turn of the millennium, Africa was considered a lost cause by many in the medical and public health communities. HIV and AIDS had ravaged the continent. New HIV infections, including those involving transmission from mothers to babies, were occurring unabated, and African children and young adults were dying in droves. Across the southern portion of the continent, funeral homes were open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to accommodate the demand.

Put simply, the region had too few doctors, too little medical infrastructure, and the medicines that had transformed the treatment of HIV/AIDS here in the U.S. were no more than a distant dream, causing Botswana's president, Festus Mogae, to remark, “We are threatened with extinction.”

Against that backdrop, the BMS Foundation arrived in the region with the idea that we could do something to find a solution. In short order, the foundation began awarding grants to local and international institutions and organizations interested in pursuing projects aimed at preventing and/or treating HIV/AIDS, as well as in improving the health and quality of life of those afflicted. At first, the projects were more operational in nature — providing nutritional supplements or psychosocial support. But we soon realized that in order to make a real difference, we needed to find a way to administer treatment to sick children in large numbers.

And so the BMS Foundation made a radical and unprecedented commitment: $100 million to fight HIV/AIDS among women and children living in five hard-hit countries in southern Africa, including Botswana. The foundation also made the decision to partner with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative to support public healthcare infrastructure in the region. In fairly short order, the situation began to change.

With support from the BMS Foundation and the government of Botswana, BIPAI built and opened a state-of-the-art Children's Clinical Center of Excellence on the campus of Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone to provide care and treatment to HIV-infected children. More than four thousand children were tested for HIV in the first year alone, and about fourteen hundred received highly-active antiretroviral therapy, the same kind of medications that were saving the lives of thousands of HIV-infected children and adults here in the U.S. The results were astonishing — plummeting rates of death, complications from disease, and hospitalizations. To immense delight, African children were benefiting from state-of-the-art treatment in exactly the same way that American children had begun to nearly a decade before.

Today, BIPAI's seven African Children's Clinical Centers of Excellence provide care and treatment to more than three hundred thousand HIV-infected children and their family members — more than are under care at any other institution in the world. And while there is more to be done, the tide has turned: the numbers of new infections and deaths from HIV in children in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa are down dramatically.

If there is a silver lining to the tragic story of HIV/AIDS in Africa, it's that the blueprint we've developed via a public-private partnership — creating infrastructure, building health professional capacity, and scaling models of care delivery — can be applied to the pediatric cancer and blood disorders that are robbing African children of their health and lives. From our experience with HIV/AIDS, we have learned how to forge partnerships and avoid competition and duplication of services. We have learned how to build clinical and laboratory infrastructure effectively. We have learned how to train and support African health professionals. We have learned that African mothers and fathers are more than capable of adhering to complex regimens of medications with the same diligence as their American counterparts. In short, we have learned that, by working together, we can do so much better than simply write off a hundred thousand young African lives to cancer and blood disorders every year.

As the global health community is coming to understand the burden that non-communicable diseases place on developing countries, we hope it will look more closely at this public-private partnership as an effective model. The success of treating children with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan African countries is shining a bright light on what is possible. Just as with HIV/AIDS, we know that pediatric cancer will challenge our commitment and compassion for some of the world's least fortunate children and families. But there is no excuse for not pursuing this fight with the same zeal and passion we all hope would be expended on behalf of our own children. We encourage other individuals and organizations to join us in this worthy effort.

Mark_kline_john_damonti Mark W. Kline is physician-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and the founder and CEO of BIPAI. John Damonti is president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and led its SECURE THE FUTURE program, which has invested more than $180 million in over two hundred and forty HIV/AIDS programs in twenty-two African countries.

Moving the Needle on Youth Violence

March 06, 2017

GeINChicago_thumbnail_CUL-mentor-circleAccording to the Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Americans gave as generously as ever in 2015, setting a record for the second year in a row with total giving of $373.25 billion. That wasn't enough, however, to prevent problems such as income inequality, racism, and, here in Chicago, gun violence, from becoming even more entrenched. Which is why it is so important for donors and funders to do whatever they can to ensure that their charitable donations are making a measurable difference in addressing these and other challenges.

At Get IN Chicago, we use an evidence-based approach to move the needle on youth violence and, since 2013, have provided feedback and capacity-building support to community-based organizations providing a range of youth-focused services and interventions, from mentoring and parenting programs to community sports leagues and trauma-focused therapy.

Thanks to over two years of research and data collection and our work with more than sixty community organizations, anti-violence experts, and donor partners, we have developed five key recommendations for organizations looking to fund anti-violence initiatives and maximize the impact created by that support. Using these criteria to ensure programs' effectiveness, in 2017 we will be collaborating with more than twenty agencies to bring intensive case management, intake, mentoring, and cognitive behavioral therapy programs to high-risk youth in seven Chicago neighborhoods.

Based on that work, here are our recommendations for funders and donors:

1. Make sure the program you are thinking about funding actually addresses the needs of the target population you want to help. Our research shows that while most anti-violence programs work with at-risk youth, participants in those programs are not all subject to the same type or level of risk (i.e., violence or gang activity). That's why we have worked with programs to focus their efforts specifically on acutely high-risk youth — those at the greatest risk for gun violence, based on such factors as school absenteeism rates, mental health issues, justice system involvement, and the presence of a previously or currently incarcerated parent. Along the way, we've learned that it is essential to clearly define the population you are looking to help — not least because it makes it easier to develop a tailored strategy with respect to recruiting, engaging, and retaining participants from the target group, boosting your chances of success.

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Philanthropy's Responsibility to Listen

March 01, 2017

Juvenile_justice_2_for_PhilanTopicLast month, the Pittsburgh Foundation released a new report, A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project, which calls on human services staffs, law enforcement authorities, and school officials to provide youth involved with the juvenile justice system not just a seat but a bench at the table where prevention and diversion programs are shaped and developed.

We expected the report, which builds on a substantial body of research by giants in the field such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to generate dialogue among our regional human services, philanthropic, and academic partners. But we were surprised that it prompted not only a local newspaper editorial but also requests for republication from an international juvenile justice organization in Brussels and a Boston-based journal that covers the nonprofit sector.

As one local advocate put it, "Who knew that talking to people would be so novel?"

The outside attention reinforces what we learned in our direct engagement with young people: their voices, which carry knowledge and authority from personal experience with the system, have been missing from the body of research on the system.

The focus on amplifying the voices of people directly affected is a core value of our 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, which we adopted in 2015 to address inequality in our region. Despite significant advances in Pittsburgh's economy, at least one-third of the regional population struggles with poverty. Research, including this 2014 Urban Institute study we commissioned, shows that youth between the ages of 12 and 24 and single women raising children are at the top of the list of groups most at risk. Young people with justice system involvement are particularly vulnerable.

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What Do We Know About…Disconnected Youth?

December 07, 2016

Over six million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school or working. Often known as disconnected or opportunity youth, they are among the upwards of fourteen million young adults who are only marginally or periodically in school or working. At the same time, several million young people have had almost no labor market or educational experience in the past year.

Youth and young adults represent the future of our country — our economy, our communities, our democracy — and it is in our best interest to help ensure that they’re engaged with and connected to school and jobs.

Special collection_disconnected youth

To that end, the Annie E. Casey Foundation asked Foundation Center to create a special collection on IssueLab about the group of young people known as disconnected youth. This new online resource houses nearly one hundred and forty recent reports, case studies, fact sheets, and evaluations focused on the challenges confronting youth today, as well as lessons and insights from the field.

The Casey Foundation's interest in these issues began in 2012, when we published Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, signaling our recognition of the crisis facing young people and the need to create stronger pathways to education and jobs. Our commitment mirrored a national reawakening to the needs and aspirations of youth, including the White House Council for Community Solutions, the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, and the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative to improve opportunities for boys and young men of color.

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5 Questions for...Cecilia Clarke, President and CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation

December 01, 2016

As grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter have emerged in recent years, the issue of racial equity has come into sharper focus.

In 2014, the Brooklyn Community Foundation launched an effort to engage more than a thousand Brooklyn residents and leaders in envisioning the foundation's role in realizing "a fair and just Brooklyn" — an effort that in 2015 earned BCF the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Impact Award for its community-led approach. Earlier this month, the foundation announced that, in alignment with its commitment to advancing racial equity across all aspects of its work, it would divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color.

PND spoke with Cecilia Clarke, the foundation's president and CEO, about BCF's focus on racial justice, its decision to divest its portfolio of industries that disproportionately harm people of color, and the post-election role of philanthropy in advancing racial equity.

Cecilia_clarke_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: Before joining BCF, you founded and led the Sadie Nash Leadership Project. Tell us a little about the project and what it sought to accomplish.

Cecilia Clarke: Sadie Nash Leadership Project is a feminist social justice organization for low-income young women in all five boroughs of New York City and Newark, New Jersey. I founded it in 2001 in my dining room here in Brooklyn, and today it's a nonprofit with a $2 million annual budget serving over two thousand young women annually. One of the organization's working assumptions is that young women are ready to be leaders in their communities right now, and Sadie Nash is there to help shape that leadership through what it calls its "sisterhood model" — providing a safe space, active leadership opportunities, education, and hands-on mentorship and role modeling by leaders who look like the young women themselves.

At Sadie Nash, young women serve on staff and on the board as real voting members, and — in addition to the organization's flagship summer institute program — participate in afterschool programs, fellowships, and internships. And in everything they do for and through the organization, they are paid for their leadership, because it underscores the concept that they are leaders today. Sadie Nash is not training these young women for some hoped-for future; it's important that, given their identity and their experience, we all understand that they can be a force for social change in their communities right now.

PND: In announcing its intention to divest from industries that disproportionately harm people of color, BCF specifically mentioned private prisons, gun manufacturers, and predatory lenders. What kind of impact have these industries had on communities of color and low-income communities in Brooklyn and beyond? And how do you see the divestment process playing out?

CC: To back up a bit, when I first came to BCF, it was a foundation that had only recently transitioned from being a private bank foundation to a community foundation, and it hadn't done a lot of community engagement work. Sadie Nash was very committed to engaging its constituency, and I brought that experience with me to the foundation. So, pretty early on we launched a community engagement initiative called Brooklyn Insights through which we spoke with more than a thousand Brooklynites. And what came out of that process was that there were very clear racially biased policies and practices and traditions in the community that the people who spoke with us believed had helped create and reinforce many of the other issues we were discussing, particularly around young people and criminal justice. As a community foundation, we felt we had to be responsive to what we were hearing and to look at the issues that oppress communities of color — which make up 70 percent of Brooklyn's population.

To that end, we created a Racial Justice Lens as an overarching focus for every aspect of the foundation's work and management, not just our programming or grantmaking. And that meant we needed to look at our investments. We decided on the three areas of divestment you mentioned after multiple conversations, but I want to make clear that we are at the beginning of the process, not at the end. We chose those three areas to begin with because they were very closely related to our program areas and our mission, especially our focus on young people and racial justice. Given our commitment to youth justice, the private prison industry was an obvious area of divestment. Gun violence is still an enormous problem in Brooklyn, with a huge number of guns being trafficked into the borough, so we felt very strongly about gun manufacturers. And looking at the significant economic inequity and lack of opportunity in our neighborhoods, we saw that check cashing and other predatory financial services were making a profit off of inequity. All three of these industries profit from racial injustice and racial inequity, and we felt very strongly that we cannot be a foundation that stands for racial justice and allow these industries to remain in our financial portfolio.

The foundation doesn't invest in individual stocks, so it isn't as if we remove private prisons and replace it with X. Our investments are managed by Goldman Sachs, and Goldman chooses different fund managers with various portfolios of stocks and different investments. So what our divestment means is that we've signaled to our fund managers that these three industries cannot be included in our portfolio, and our finance committee is working very closely with the team over there to make sure that happens. The restrictions we've communicated to them work like proactive insurance to ensure that, going forward, our portfolio will be "clean" of these investments. In a way, the stars sort of lined up for us, because Goldman is getting more and more requests for socially responsible investment choices and has created a new department to do just that. So that's an instrument we can take advantage of while further promoting conversations about aligning our investments with our mission.

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Weekend Link Roundup (November 26-27, 2016)

November 27, 2016

Wollman-rinkHope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday. This week's roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector is a little shorter than normal. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog.... 

Environment

While the public recognition that comes with high-profile awards can help protect indigenous activists, many fear that the increased visibility is making them easier to target. Barbara Fraser reports for Indian Country.

Interesting profile in the Mount Desert Islander of Roxanne Quimby, the founder of the Burt's Bees natural cosmetics empire and the driving force behind the recently designated 83,000-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Health

Is spending on health care in the U.S. unacceptably high, or are we beginning to "bend the cost curve"? Katherine Hempstead, director and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shares some data designed to shed some light on an inherently murky situation.

Inequality

In remarks delivered at the OECD Cities for Life Global Summit on Inclusion, Innovation and Resilience on November 22, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker told those in attendance that he believes "inequality is the greatest threat to our society, in part because not only can it lead to violence and extremism at its worst, but by limiting opportunity and mobility, ultimately it generates hopelessness. And that hopelessness makes it harder to believe that change is possible." Worth your time to read the full text of his remarks.

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How We Can Uncover Childhood Health Outcomes Over a Lifetime

September 29, 2016

Childrens_healthEven if their approaches differ, philanthropies ultimately have the same core goal: to create a better future. Many philanthropies, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), have been working diligently for years to identify the root causes of health problems that affect populations across the nation and to develop solutions to those problems that extend across every aspect of our lives.

Nevertheless, life expectancy in the United States continues to lag other high-income nations, and we continue to lag in other key health indicators as well. With many different factors influencing health, the need for a trusted national source of longitudinal data that tracks how children's health is impacted by environmental, social, and economic influences has never been greater. This kind of cross-sectoral database could help researchers and policy makers see how different factors — including education, parenting style, exposure to chemicals, and the digital environment — affect the growth and development of children.

No philanthropic organization or academic institution has had the inclination — or the resources — to fund a study of this nature, even though such a study could have wide-reaching benefits — and despite the fact that most nations already have this kind of data, allowing them to recognize and address areas in which their children are struggling. The United Kingdom, for example, hosted a birth cohort analysis in 1958, 1970, 1989, and 2000 that has produced 3,600 studies and currently provides data free to researchers. At RWJF, understanding how factors related to where we live, work, and play impact our health — and finding novel ways to spread what's working in a given community — is at the center of our vision of a Culture of Health.

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Generation Indigenous: Why Native American Youth Can't Wait

August 16, 2016

Gen_i-primary_logoOver the past decade, philanthropy has become increasingly responsive to the needs of young boys and men of color. The philanthropic community has mobilized to coordinate and partner on efforts like the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative. More recently, the field has turned its attention to addressing the needs of girls and young women of color. While I applaud these efforts, I'm reminded daily of the pressing and unmet needs of Native communities. And that invariably causes me to think about how much more needs to be done to ensure that all youth — regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender — have equal access to quality education and health care and the opportunity to grow up in safe and thriving communities.

Like other youth of color, Native American and Alaska Natives in cities and communities across the United States face challenges. Natives Americans have endured a history of racism and colonialism that has resulted in multi-generational trauma. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native youth between the ages of 15 and 24 — and that rate is two and a half times the national average. Native youth are five times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than whites, where they receive disproportionately harsher sentences, and are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group. Moreover, Native Americans are often categorized in data and reports as "statistically insignificant" or "other," erasing their very existence as a disadvantaged minority. As a result, too many programs, policies, and systems — not to mention philanthropy — ignore or overlook them.

The philanthropic community is well aware of these challenges, and yet foundation funding for Native issues and communities remains disproportionately low, consistently accounting for less than 0.5 percent of annual foundation grant dollars, even though Native Americans are 1.7 percent (5.4 million) of the U.S. population. Institutional philanthropy may blanch at the size of the problem or feel paralyzed by its lack of understanding of Native peoples and cultures, but philanthropy can make a difference. While the challenges are real, the resilience and hope in Native communities has resulted in innovative, high-impact solutions to many of these problems. And the most promising solutions have been driven by and for Native youth.

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[Review] Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

July 02, 2016

The 10,000-hour rule popularized by New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell in his bookOutliers is just another way to say practice makes perfect. But what makes us want to continue practicing? In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, MacArthur Fellow and University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth makes the case for understanding personal achievement through the lens of "grit." Yes, intelligence matters, Duckworth argues, but follow-through and tenacity are just as, if not more, important.

BookImage_GritWith Gladwell-esque verve, Duckworth, a former management consultant at McKinsey who left the firm to teach seventh-grade math in a New York City public school, combines engaging stories with the latest research in her discipline, positive psychology, to explain why achievement should be understood more as a function of continuous effort rather than natural ability, all the while maintaining the reader-friendly language and cadence of pop science.

Duckworth's big idea is based on her graduate work, which she distills into two equations: talent x effort = skill and skill x effort = achievement. "Talent is how quickly your skills improve when you invest effort," she writes. "Achievement is what happens when you take your acquired skills and use them." While she acknowledges that her framework overlooks the role of luck and opportunities provided by nurturing relationships, be it a coach, parent, or mentor, her point is straightforward: concentrated long-term effort is a key ingredient in achieving any goal. "With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive."

So what is grit? Using stories from the NFL, journalism, Wall Street, and even cartooning, Duckworth argues that grit isn't just about working incredibly hard (although that's important); it's about "working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it." Think you've got passion and perseverance? Duckworth includes a "Grit Scale" to help readers calculate just how gritty they are. If you don't score well, despair not. You can change, she says — "grittiness" can be improved.

The "life-organizing goal" that drives Duckworth's work is to "use psychological science to help kids thrive." Her core thesis is that grit can be developed "from the inside out" — through the discovery of a passion or purpose, dedicated hours of practice, and the belief that our efforts will help create a better future — as well as "from the outside in" — through supportive anddemanding parenting, immersion in enriching extracurricular activities, and exposure to a culture of excellence.

Of course, given that economic, educational, and cultural resources are not equitably distributed in society, there's an obvious flaw in Duckworth's promotion of "growing grit" as a solution to systemic educational challenges. And while she admits that social biases and structural impediments can deter even the grittiest students, she really doesn't have an answer as to how those challenges might be addressed.

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Investing in Black Men and Boys Strengthens Our Cities

June 27, 2016

In the past few years, much of America has woken to a fact that African-American men and boys have known all along. All too often in our great nation, the promise of safe, healthy, and hopeful communities is not being realized for African-American men and boys.

Images_cities-unitedThe need to do something about that fact is urgent and must be addressed now. Recently, an important step in that direction took place in Birmingham, Alabama, where Cities United convened its third annual meeting. Cities United is a network of mayors from more than eighty-five cities who are committed to working together to develop innovative solutions and programs aimed at reducing violence and increasing opportunities for black men and boys across the country.

Using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorable phrase “The Fierce Urgency of Now” as its theme, the meeting brought together mayors, law enforcement officials, youth, relatives of victims, and community and philanthropic leaders to discuss ways to reduce violence in our communities and highlight promising approaches aimed at improving outcomes for African-American men and boys.

We know, all too well, that the leading cause of death for African-American men and boys between the ages of 10 and 24 is not accident or illness, but homicide. In fact, black males suffer homicide rates more than four times the rate of all other men and boys in the United States. And although African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the American population, they make up, by some estimates, more than 37 percent of the prison population.

These troubling statistics are the result of longstanding inequities, deeply entrenched poverty, and a failure to value and invest in black men and boys as contributing, productive members of society.

As leaders of cities and foundations, we know that government, business, communities, and the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors are key stakeholders in the success of this work and that we all have an important role to play in making all of our communities vibrant places of opportunity for African-American men and boys.

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Building Nonprofit Sustainability Through Digital Apps

June 07, 2016

NPO-Mobile-AppsProduct-based income strategies are challenging for nonprofits because of the costs associated with inventory. Either your organization has to shell out significant capital to keep the products you hope to sell in stock, or you have to partner with a company that will manage the inventory for you. In most cases, the company will take a portion of your sales to cover their costs and turn a profit before turning over the remainder of the proceeds (if any) to you – in effect, turning your carefully cultivated army of volunteers into a second sales team working to boost its own P&L statement.

With a digital product like an app, on the other hand, a nonprofit bears the one-time cost of product development and then is able to sell the product in perpetuity – or what passes for perpetuity in the digital age -- without having to worry about costs associated with building and maintaining inventory. In the digital marketplace, once an app has been created, selling a hundred thousand copies doesn't cost you any more than selling ten thousand copies.

What's more, having an app on a supporter's mobile device creates a new channel through which you can communicate with that supporter as conveniently as you can with email but without the "noise" created by the hundreds of emails most of us receive on a daily basis. Push notifications that directly target users of an app can quickly mobilize your user base, alerting them to new petitions, challenge grant opportunities, and other kinds of events designed to deepen donor engagement. (Note: while nonprofits are allowed to make money from the sale of digital apps, they cannot collect donations through an app. If you want to use the app to generate donations, you need to get potential supporters to click a "Donate" button that sends them to a mobile-friendly Web page where the transaction can be completed.)

So how much does it cost to develop an app? In 2014, when the team at RedRover first hit on the idea of building a digital version of our RedRover Readers program, we didn't have a clue. And asking a developer how much it costs is like asking an architect how much a new house will cost – the answer can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want the app to do. The more complex the functionality, the more it's going to cost.

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How Local Nonprofits Can Engage a Global Community of Donors

June 03, 2016

News_globe_human_chain_PhilanTopic"Think globally, act locally." It's more than just a catchy slogan; it's a phrase that captures a way of being that a lot of folks take to heart. For many people, acting locally entails giving back to organizations that support the communities in which they live, largely in the form of monetary donations. And it's a practice that appears to be growing in popularity: the Giving USA Foundation recently reported a slight dip in giving for international development and suggested that it might have something to do with the fact that donors are focusing more on causes closer to home.

What's more, giving locally is particularly common among those who donate significant sums of money. According to a recent study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy of gifts of at least $1 million, only 33 percent of the total dollar value of those gifts was captured by organizations outside the donor's home region.

While it's wonderful to see so many people giving generously within their own communities, it is even more remarkable to see donors from around the globe deciding to contribute large gifts to organizations with a specifically local focus. One example is the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), which focuses its charitable efforts on the community of Collier County, Florida, yet garners substantial support from donors around the country and the globe. This is largely due to its connection with the Naples Winter Wine Festival, the organization's main fundraising event, as it attracts international donors by offering unique travel and dining experiences in addition to raising funds for NCEF. This past year alone, more than 40 percent of the total amount raised for NCEF came from donors outside Collier County.

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A New Power Grid: Reflections on 'Building Healthy Communities' at Year 5

May 19, 2016

Health_exercise_for_PhilanTopicSystems change, policy change, narrative change, and people power are terms we use often at the California Endowment.

Together, they represent what's happening in fourteen geographically diverse communities across the state thanks to our Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. Just as important is the state-level systems and policy change work we've supported to help strengthen local efforts. Taken together, they represent the comprehensive vision behind BHC, a ten-year, $1 billion initiative launched in 2010 to advance statewide policy, change the narrative, and transform communities in California that have been devastated by health inequities into places where all people have an opportunity to thrive.

As 2015 came to a close and we reached the halfway point of BHC, we thought it important to look back at the first five years of the initiative and document what we've learned to date. And because transparency in philanthropy is critical to the growth and effectiveness of the field, we want to share those insights with others.

A significant portion of the BHC plan involves a "place-based" focus on fourteen communities. Of equal importance is how the collective learning and energy generated by those communities help promote health, health equity, and health justice for all Californians. In other words, BHC is a place-based strategy with a broader goal of effecting statewide change.

So, what we have learned? It starts with this: BHC will be successful when three things happen to benefit the health of young people in lower-income communities:

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 14-15, 2016)

May 15, 2016

Joe-dimaggio_display_imageOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

Brain development in young children is critical to their readiness for school and success later in life. "But preventable poverty and toxic stress can impede and derail a child's early brain development," write Marian Wright Edelman and Jackie Bezos on the Huffington Post's Politics blog. Which is why, "[i]n addition to quality interactions with parents, grandparents and other caregivers, young children need access to a full continuum of high quality early learning opportunities...."

Climate Change

Where's the beef? More to the point, asks Marc Gunther on his Nonprofit Chronicles blog, why aren't environmental groups working actively to reduce meat consumption and the number of factory farms, two of the biggest contributors to global warming?

Corporate Philanthropy

In Fortune, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern shares what she has learned over eight years in that position about what business and nonprofits can teach each other.

Data

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in Progress blog, Sarah Jane Staats has five questions for Ruth Levine, director of the foundation's Global Development and Population Program, about the existing gender gap in data.

Education

How can we fix public education in America? The answer, says the Grable Foundation's Gregg Behr in a Q&A with Forbes contributor Jordan Shapiro, starts with the way kids learn.

On her Answer Sheet blog, the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has the second part of an email conversation between noted education reform critic Diane Ravitch and hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, a supporter of such efforts. And if you missed the first part of the conversation, you can catch up here.

Have school-choice policies solved the problem they were meant to address -- namely, the strong link between a child's educational outcomes and the neighborhood conditions in which he or she has grown up? The Washington Post's Emma Brown reports.

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  • " [A] city must have a soul — a university, a great art or music school, a cathedral or a great mosque or temple, a great laboratory or scientific center, as well as the libraries and museums and galleries that bring past and present together. A city must be a place where groups of women and men are seeking and developing the highest things they know...."

    — Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

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