132 posts categorized "Community Improvement/Development"

A Conversation With Dee Baecher-Brown, President, Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

September 18, 2018

Scenes of catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Florence are a painful reminder of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, one of the deadliest and most destructive on record. After an earlier-than-usual start, the season took a turn for the worst in August when Harvey became the first major hurricane since 2005 to make landfall in the U.S., submerging large swaths of the Houston metro area and southeastern Texas. Then, in September, Irma became the first Category 5 hurricane to impact the northern Leeward Islands, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbuda, which was flattened, before making landfall in the Florida keys with sustained winds of 130 mph. A few weeks later, Maria became the first Category 5 hurricane on record to strike the island of Dominica, causing catastrophic damage there, before striking Puerto Rico and leaving that U.S. territory a shambles.

Recently, PND spoke with Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, about the progress made in the year since Irma and Maria pummeled the islands and what donors in a disaster situation can do to balance the urgency of immediate needs with longer-term recovery goals and objectives. A full accounting of the donors who stepped up to help the Virgin Islands in the wake of the hurricanes will be included in CFVI's year-end report.

Headshot_dee_beacher-brownPhilanthropy News Digest: It's been a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Virgin Islands. Now we’re watching as Florence, another powerful Atlantic hurricane, brings catastrophic flooding to the Carolinas. What are your thoughts as you watch footage of the destruction and displacement caused by Florence?

Dee Baecher-Brown: My first thought is concern. Many of our friends and family are in harm's way, and we're hoping for the best. We don't want anyone to have to experience what the Virgin Islands experienced with Irma and Maria. As the extent of the damage caused by the storm becomes clearer, we just want the folks in the Carolinas to know that we are there for them, because we know firsthand what a difference the outpouring of concern and support in the days immediately following those storms meant to us.

PND: Take us back to weeks just before Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands. Was your community as prepared as it could have been?

DBB: You know, that's something we've discussed many times over the course of the last twelve months. Obviously, two category 5 storms in a two-week period was unprecedented, and even though we got a little tired of that word, it does capture something people sometimes forget — namely, that it's hard to prepare for something that hasn't happened before. And the fact that we are small, fairly remote islands in the Caribbean didn't help matters.

That said, I felt CFVI was as prepared as we could have been. We had spent the last twenty-five years supporting the thoughtful, gradual growth of our community, and in terms of our own capacity we had arrived at a point where we had solid financial systems in place and were working with an amazing network of community organizations — organizations that, in my opinion, were key to our being able to help after the storms hit. In September, for example, just days after Maria hit, we were already making grants to our partners, and we were able to do that because we knew who was out there, we knew the kind of work they would be doing, and we knew they needed our support. So, yes, I felt we were as ready as we could be for something that had never happened before.

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Baltimore Children and Youth Fund: Community-Based Grantmaking Comes to Baltimore

August 08, 2018

BCYF-logoThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Riots are the cry of the unheard." If that maxim is true, Baltimore children, youth, and young adults were crying out long before the 2015 killing of Freddie Gray, Jr. sparked demonstrations and unrest in the city.

Gray’s death was the tipping point, but it was not the cause of the unrest, which was driven by a decades-long pattern in Baltimore of divestment in education, affordable housing, employment, and recreational outlets for children and youth. Whether by intent or impact, young people were not being heard.

Fortunately, while a broad-based coalition of young people, youth-centered organizations, and community leaders had been working to address the vacuum in opportunities for children, youth, and young adults, Baltimore City Council president Bernard "Jack" Young, a longtime advocate for children and youth, was focused on increasing investments in future leaders. His vision eventually spawned the creation of the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund, which distributes grants ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 to persons and groups with a passion for, or a track record of, authentic engagement with young people.

BCYF was a long time coming. Young twice wrote legislation intended to create such a fund, and his dream was finally realized when voters approved a 2016 ballot referendum to create the fund. That it was established by referendum is key; politicians don't necessarily get what they want absent public support. And everything from the inception of the fund to its day-to-day management is a testament to end-user demand and public support. In this case, the support isn't just for getting resources to the community but doing so in the most inclusive and transparent way possible.

To achieve that goal, several individuals and groups have agreed to partner with BCYF. My organization, Associated Black Charities, is the fiscal agent charged with managing the fund. Frontline Solutions International and UPD Consultants are technical assistance partners, with the former covering everything from consultant collaboration to community engagement, and the latter charged with providing strategic thought-partnership throughout the design, planning, and proposal review and grantee administration processes. Kinetics is the strategic communications partner covering everything from social media engagement to online marketing to media relations.

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CBMA Turns 10: A Decade of Daring Work for Black Male Achievement

June 26, 2018

Campaign_for_black_male_achievementThis month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) marks ten years of progress: catalyzing more than $200 million in investment in black male achievement while building a national movement to eliminate barriers to the success of African-American men and boys.

From the beginning, we committed to building beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential — that is our core mission and rallying cry.

Leaders in philanthropy, government, and business were not always as focused on mobilizing the necessary investment to ensure that black men and boys — and boys and men of color more broadly — were recognized as assets to our communities and country. That's why in 2008, at the Open Society Foundations, we launched CBMA in response to the growing need we saw in cities and communities across the nation where outcomes for black men and boys lagged far behind those of their white counterparts in all areas, including education, health, safety, jobs, and criminal justice involvement.

Over the last decade, together with our partners, we have catalyzed multiple national initiatives, including the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Young Men of Color, the BMe Community, and Cities United. We played an instrumental role in helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother's Keeper, an initiative developed in the wake of his speech in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin — asking ourselves, "How should philanthropy respond to Obama's speech on black men and boys?"

CBMA was spun off from OSF as an independent entity in 2015, and today our work resides at the intersection of movement and field building, bolstered by a membership network of more than five thousand leaders and three thousand organizational partners. Our network includes inspired individuals like Robert Holmes, who directs the Chicago Aviation Career Education Academy at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. In partnering with CBMA, Holmes has widened the reach of his efforts to create an educational pathway for young black men interested in becoming pilots, helping diversify a critical industry that has little to no black male representation.

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5 Questions for...Maurice Jones, President/CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation

June 05, 2018

Raised by his grandparents in rural Virginia, Maurice Jones knows from personal experience how challenging it can be to live in an underresourced community. Encouraged by his family and teachers, Jones was awarded a full merit scholarship to attend Hampden-Sydney College, a small liberal arts school in Virginia, and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, enabling him to earn a master’s degree in international relations at Oxford University.

Jones went on to earn a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law; worked in the private sector at a Richmond law firm;  became a Special Assistant to the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he helped manage the nascent Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund; and followed that with a stint at a private philanthropy that invested in community-based efforts focused on children in Washington, D.C. Subsequently, he spent time as the deputy chief of staff to Virginia governor Mark Warner, as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services, and as general manager of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk (before becoming president and publisher of the paper's parent company). From 2012-2014, he served as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And, immediately prior to becoming president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in 2016, he served as secretary of commerce and trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed thirteen state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state.

PND recently spoke with Jones about LISC's work in underresourced communities, the power imbalance inherent in such work, and his vision for unlocking the abundant talent and creativity that exists in those communities.

Headshot_maurice_jonesPhilanthropy News Digest: LISC works to equip underresourced communities with the resources — capital as well as knowledge and information — they need to thrive. In 2018, what is the one thing underresourced communities in America need more than anything else?

Maurice Jones: They need more investment in the talent that can be found in all these communities. And this investment needs to come in many forms.

We need to prepare people with the work skills and competencies they need for the work opportunities that already exist, as well as for the new opportunities that will be created over the coming years. This is true in every community we work in, whether it's urban or rural, large city or small municipality, town or county.

We also need to help people in these communities master the basics of finance — what people often refer to as "financial literacy," so they can break out of the cycle of debt and build wealth.

People also need to be better informed about the supports available to them. For example, a parent needs child care in order to devote hours to a job or to skills acquisition. That parent needs to know there are childcare funds they can take advantage of so that he or she can take the steps they need to achieve financial security and the kind of economic mobility so many of us take for granted.

We also need to develop more quality, available housing, and we need to find ways to attract more employers to more areas.

Everything I just mentioned is true in both the urban and rural areas in which we work, but there is one thing that is more acute in rural areas: a significant lack of development when it comes to broadband. In this day and age, if a community is going to grow in all the ways we want communities to grow, it's got to have this critical infrastructure. Broadband is like oxygen is to breathing. There are still significant swathes of rural America, however, which are inadequately supplied with high-speed broadband, and it's a problem. This underdevelopment of broadband is a huge barrier and challenge in terms of making both wealthy states and less wealthy states economically viable in the twenty-first century.

PND: What can we do to fix that?

MJ: We, as a country — the private sector, the public sector, states, localities, and companies — have to commit to getting broadband into rural areas. It's a commitment issue. And it will require significant investment. We all know that the market for broadband favors places that are densely populated. So, the economics of broadband are not favorable to rural areas. But we've simply got to figure out how to subsidize broadband in those markets and forge partnerships of providers schools, businesses, and other stakeholders to make the economics work and get that infrastructure laid. We just need the will to do it. If we commit to it, we can make it happen.

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A Conversation With Nicky Goren, President and CEO, Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation

March 06, 2018

Founded in 1944 by investment banker and Washington Post publisher Eugene Meyer — who later served as head of the War Finance Corporation, chair of the Federal Reserve, and founding president of the World Bank — and his wife, Agnes, a journalist, author, literary translator, and activist (President Lyndon Johnson credited her for helping build public support for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965), the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C., has supported efforts over the years to address racial inequity, urban poverty, and government funding (or lack thereof) for critical needs.

Nicky Goren was appointed president and CEO of the foundation in 2014, succeeding Julie L. Rogers, who had served in that position for twenty-eight years. Before joining the foundation, Goren had served as president of the Washington Area Women's Foundation and acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2015 the foundation unveiled a new strategic plan focused on achieving greater racial equity in housing, education, employment, and asset building.

PND recently spoke with Goren about the process the Meyer Foundation initiated in 2014 to develop and implement a racial equity agenda, the importance of doing that work "authentically," and some things foundations new to the space should keep in mind.

Headshot_nicky_gorenPhilanthropy News Digest: While the Meyer Foundation has long supported efforts to advance equality and break the cycle of poverty for individuals and families, the foundation's 2015 strategic plan zeroes in on the "structural and causal" link between poverty and race. How did the focus on poverty and race come about? Were those discussions already happening at the foundation when you were appointed president and CEO in 2014?

Nicky Goren: At the organizational level, the conversations about race, about racism and its connection to poverty, were not yet happening when I got here. I think individual program officers from time to time had incorporated that connection into their portfolios, but it was not an organizational priority at the leadership level.

I came to the foundation with the point of view that those of us who work in philanthropy really needed to move out of our silos, move beyond thinking about grantmaking as a largely transactional activity, and think differently about how we do our work. And in my initial listening sessions as the new CEO, I was trying to understand where the opportunities were for us to deepen our impact and partnerships in the community and what the big issues were. It became clear to me pretty quickly that the big issue at the meta level was wealth inequality, and that the drivers of inequality in the region were disparities in housing, education, workforce skills, and asset building, and that the through line in all those areas was the history and legacy of systemic racism. From those community conversations it was clear that people were eager to move beyond incremental change to real transformation, which meant looking at things at the population level, which meant looking at root causes, which meant embracing systems change — and confronting racism and its role in creating and perpetuating these disparities. There was no way around it: to do our work authentically, we would have to address systemic racism.

PND: You came to Meyer from the Washington Area Women's Foundation, which focuses on improving the economic security of women and girls in the D.C. region. Did your work there inform the things you are doing at Meyer to advance racial equity?

NG: Definitely. That was the first time I was part of an organization that was using any kind of an equity lens, in that case a gender equity lens. And I was energized by what I learned in terms of the barriers to equality that women face. But in this region, low-income women are most often women of color, and the question started coming up more and more, from both funders and the communities we were working in: "Do you look at the work of the Women's Foundation through an intersectional gender and racial equity lens?" Well, it got me thinking and really helped me ask the right questions when I got to Meyer.

As for the intersectionality of economic and racial equity, at Meyer we've come to understand that the main reason for the persistent economic disparities in our region — and in other urban areas across the country — is racism. And if we don't name it and tackle the systems that perpetuate it — the institutions, policies, practices, and norms around race that lead to these economic disparities — we'll never be able to really address the challenges that low-income communities of color are facing. Naming it and looking at those challenges through a racial lens forces you to ask different questions and come up with different solutions, solutions that are more focused on the long-term and persistent barriers faced by people of color. It's about understanding the role race has played in our region's history and in our country's history so that the solutions you put in place really do make a difference in terms of addressing those disparities.

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A Cooperative, Comprehensive Approach to Saving African Elephants

February 06, 2018

Elephant_cooperation_500I fell in love with wildlife as a child when I traveled to Africa with my father, who was a biologist. Back then, the beauty of the continent was difficult for me to put into words, and it stayed with me. But if I was in awe of all the different species I saw on that trip, I was overwhelmed by the elephants — so much so, that when I became a father myself, I wanted to share their beauty and majesty with my daughter. I had to wait a few years, but when she turned 15, we traveled together to the continent that had captured my imagination many years earlier.

It was not what I had expected, and my heart almost broke when I saw firsthand the devastation local elephant populations had suffered in the years since my last visit. I explained to my daughter that these magnificent creatures were being killed for their tusks — which would be smuggled out of country and turned into trinkets and bogus medical remedies to satisfy the growing consumer market in far-away countries such as China and Vietnam. What's more, at the rate they were being killed, African elephants might become extinct in my lifetime, and that her children — my grandchildren — might never have the chance to see one in the wild.

As a co-founder of a hundred-million-dollar company, I had long felt the need to give back, and when I got back to the U.S., I decided I would dedicate myself to saving the African elephant from extinction. It soon became apparent, however, that I would have to embrace unconventional strategies if I hoped to have the slightest chance of succeeding. As I returned to Africa several times over the next few years to learn about amazing organizations already working toward this goal, I realized I didn't need to start another NGO to bring a new approach or project to the table. Instead, I could create a nonprofit organization that would fund established projects and organizations already making a difference and use my connections and influence to bring those projects and organizations to the attention of donors and activists here in America.

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At What Cost 'Mission'?

January 15, 2018

Why_are_whereWhen an exempt nonprofit organization's single-minded pursuit of funding for its mission threatens to damage the broader common good, many in the larger community will question the tax advantages that enable that organization to thrive while others suffer. And so they should.

Recently, this tension was underscored by a situation in our nation's capital, where tax-exempt American University's activities as a commercial real estate developer have led to the loss of local businesses much valued in (and beyond) adjacent neighborhoods — and raised additional concerns about the sometimes-harmful practices of "charitable" entities. While local residents around the country have been doing what they can to maintain the increasingly fragile business mix that reflects the often-historic and unique character of their neighborhoods, too many exempt organizations ignore such concerns and go about their business with a blatant disregard for the consequences of their actions on others.

We've all become familiar with the egregious practices of commercial real estate owners who double, triple, or quadruple a small business owner's rent when a lease expires, forcing the business to vacate the space and leaving it empty for years in hopes that, at some point down the road, it can be combined with adjacent properties to create an attractive parcel for luxury development or perhaps a national chain tenant, even as the surrounding neighborhood retail ecosystem withers and dies.

And when ostensibly nonprofit organizations get into the game, it adds more than insult to injury. Indeed, in the recent case involving American University, which is taking steps to force out a popular family-owned garden center from one of the commercial properties it owns, it heightens the scrutiny on all exempt organizations.

Our current tax code allows exempt nonprofit organizations and institutions to maximize the revenue they generate by mimicking the often-rapacious behavior of commercial real estate developers. While some defenders of exempt organizations’ commercial real estate ventures believe that income from such activities are subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), they are wrong.

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[Review] What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities

January 09, 2018

For public- and private-sector leaders working to develop and implement solutions to the challenges — inequality, racism, gaps in educational outcomes and health status — that have vexed American society since the country's founding, the last few decades have been especially frustrating. As Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and one of the editors of this volume, notes in his Introduction, despite collective investments in the trillions, "over 45 million Americans still live in poverty, more than half a million remain homeless...unemployment among young African American men stubbornly persists around 30 percent in many cities, an opioid abuse epidemic [rages] across [the] country," and the United States, with 5 percent of the world's population, "hold[s] 25 percent of the world's prisoners in a system that tends to warehouse rather than rehabilitate."

Book_what_mattersIn the latest addition to the What Matters series, Bugg-Levine and more than seventy-five contributors — including Peter Long, president and CEO of the Blue Shield of California Foundation; David J. Erickson, director of community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Zia Khan, vice president for initiatives and strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation; Jacob Harold, president and CEO of GuideStar; and Andrea Levere, president of Prosperity Now — make the case that progress on these and other fronts will only be achieved by shifting the collective mindset of community leaders from a short-term focus on outputs (e.g., the number of beds in a shelter occupied every night) to longer-term investments in outcomes (e.g., the number of people successfully transitioned to permanent housing).

In the area of health care, for example, Long argues that nothing short of a fundamental rethink of the nation's approach to health outcome management is needed. But despite ongoing efforts by stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to adopt electronic health records, develop health exchanges, and focus on interoperability, Long worries that "we are building a measurement system that resembles the Winchester Mystery House…[one] that contains hundreds of rooms, designed individually without relation to one another, and many staircases that lead to dead ends." What is needed instead is a clear vision for the U.S. healthcare system and a national infrastructure that supports a better, more coherent outcome measurement system. Unfortunately, Long writes, "in the current political environment, it [is] incredibly challenging to have a candid conversation about our national health values and priorities."

While that assessment might be overly bleak for those who see outcomes-oriented social impact investments as the key to "affordably address our most vexing social challenges," it is impossible to read this volume without recognizing how difficult bringing about such a fundamental shift is likely to be.

Of course, none of the book's contributors argues that such a change will come easily. Indeed, in essay after essay, the chief rationale for adopting an outcomes-oriented approach is the positive effect it can have on people living on the margins. "Across the country, extraordinary leaders are overcoming the status quo, making change happen in their communities, and pushing through the challenges," writes Bugg-Levine. Isn't that enough? Or as Bugg-Levine puts it in one of two essays he's written for the book: "Don't we already provide funding to hospitals to keep people healthy, to homeless shelters to end homelessness, to childcare centers to prepare children for a fruitful life, and to job training programs to find people permanent employment?"

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Catalytic Philanthropic Capital Can Supercharge Affordable Housing Nonprofits

January 05, 2018

Hoousein-affordabilityThe housing crisis in the United States is getting worse. What was already a challenging situation has been compounded by the increasing frequency of severe weather events like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as by proposed federal budget cuts for fiscal 2018 that would slash HUD programs by $6.2 billion. These and other factors are putting great strain on the insufficient resources set aside to help low-income people maintain an adequate standard of living.

This crisis cannot be solved by the public, private, or government sectors alone. A problem of this scale requires innovative, multisector solutions designed to preserve affordable housing, drive system change, and create economic opportunity for those who need it most.

Rising real estate prices and job growth are not signs of housing stability

Rising real estate prices aren't a solution to the problem; if anything, they're exacerbating it. According to a 2017 report by the Urban Institute, the market provides only twenty-one adequate, affordable, and available (AAA) units for every hundred renter households with income at or below 30 percent of the area median income.

Even in places where job opportunities are improving, the housing crisis is worsening. One-third of all U.S. households are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, yet between 2005 and 2015 the number of rental units costing less than $800 per month declined by 2 percent, while the number of units costing more than $2,000 increased 97 percent. Cities like Boston have witnessed a booming job market, leading to a population spike, followed by a development boom. Investors are buying land and sitting on it, waiting for values to rise even higher and leaving little to no property for affordable housing. Naturally occurring affordable housing — housing that is affordable without public subsidy — is at risk for acquisition and flipping, resulting in higher risk of eviction for people already living on the edge.

This scenario is playing out all across the country. Naturally occurring affordable housing is being lost at an alarming rate to developers with deep pockets who acquire the properties with plans to raise rents.

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Thoughts on ‘As the South Grows’

December 27, 2017

As-the-South-Grows-cover-232x300As someone who has shed plenty of blood and tears after almost twenty years living and breathing Southern philanthropy, I am thrilled with the deep and committed work of Grantmakers for Southern Progress and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) on the As the South Grows series of publications. The writers — Ryan Schlegel and Stephanie Peng — spent a great deal of time outside the walls of their offices to capture the authentic voice of residents of six Southern sub-regions that have had small to middling philanthropic investment over the years.

My experience as a locally embedded Southern funder — first with the Rapides Foundation and then the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust — over the past couple decades prompted a reaction to both what is presented and what I hope will be addressed in future reports. The following observations come from a same church/different pew perspective of someone who has spent the bulk of his professional career trying to get philanthropic activity connected to local champions in a way that makes sense to funders and communities alike.

1. Large regional or national funders increasingly want long-haul relationships. For decades, I have observed the lack of large funder investment in the South. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some particularly underresourced and isolated places in the region have never had any formal funder investment — ever.

Southern communities can certainly use financial resources focused on locally produced efforts to drive community development and improvement. But it is just as, if not more, important that large funder involvement focus on: 1) the inclusion of these places as part of national learning platforms; and 2) enabling these communities to tap into the wealth of intellectual and social capital that national funders can access on their behalf.

For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health prize recognized the small town of Williamson, West Virginia (population 3,100), in 2014 with a $25,000 award. The award paved the way for government funders to support new work around built environment, healthy foods, economic development, and other initiatives designed to benefit this coal-country town.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September 2017)

October 03, 2017

September 2017. A month most of us would like to forget. But while folks in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands were being pounded by Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, our colleagues here at the Foundation Center were doing yeoman's work tracking the hundreds and millions of dollars (more than $300 million at last count) in corporate, foundation, and individual commitments for relief and recovery efforts. For folks interested interested in doing a deeper dive into who gave what, we posted (and regularly updated) some great tables during the month (see below) — as well as great posts by Michael Seltzer, Surina Khan, Tracey Durning, and Chris Kabel (Kresge Foundation), Amy Kenyon (Ford Foundation), and Sharon Z. Roerty (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). Check it out...and RIP Tom Petty — our hearts are broken.

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

SPARCC: Rewriting the Playbook on Equitable Infrastructure Investment

September 21, 2017

Sparcc_for_philantopicThroughout the history of the United States, major public infrastructure investments have spurred economic development and shaped entire regions. From the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 to the completion of the Interstate highway system in 1992, publicly funded infrastructure has played a critical role in the development of our modern economy.  

Yet the story of major infrastructure investments is hardly all positive: Residents of nearly any city in America can point to a large-scale project that displaced and decimated the wealth and social fabric of communities of color, for example. Interstate 81 destroyed the 15th Ward of Syracuse, New York, while Interstate 75 dismantled Detroit's "Black Bottom" neighborhood, home to thousands of people and three hundred and fifty African American-owned businesses. In New York City, mega-projects like the Cross Bronx Expressway put a physical barrier between low-income communities of color and opportunities to earn better livelihoods.  

Major public infrastructure projects can also have harmful impacts on health and climate by increasing our dependence on fossil fuel consumption, increasing CO2 emissions, exacerbating respiratory illnesses like asthma, and inhibiting people's physical activity. And too often, infrastructure investments in walking and cycling amenities, new transit, improved stormwater drainage, broadband, or parks don't reach the people and neighborhoods that need them most.

Mindful of the high stakes of getting infrastructure right, several leading foundations, working in close collaboration with four national partners, have launched the Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge. SPARCC aims to create opportunities for low-income people and communities of color through strategies that promote equity, better health outcomes, and climate resilience. All three of these goals can be realized by amplifying regional public investments in housing, transit, and other impactful infrastructure so that their benefits can be shared equitably—and by empowering the communities that stand to benefit.  By demonstrating how investments in the built environment can create a path for all of a city's residents to thrive, we aim to rewrite the national playbook for how such projects are designed and implemented in the future.

In this month's edition of the Community Development Investment Review, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, we describe how the Robert Wood Johnson, Ford, Kresge, and JPB foundations and the California Endowment — along with our implementing partners, the Low Income Investment Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco — worked together to develop this ambitious six-site, $90 million initiative. Together, we aim to test a different model for development — one that harnesses a major public investment in infrastructure to prioritize the needs of low-income people for healthy, resilient, and connected communities, rather than cutting people off or displacing them. We hope that SPARCC can point the way toward reversing a series of urban policy and programmatic decisions that kept communities of color out of the decision-making process, and resulted in decades of disinvestment in low-income communities across the nation, fueling enormous disparities in health and economic opportunities between zip codes that are often just a few miles apart.

We designed SPARCC to capitalize on catalytic moments, those rare times in the life of a community when it is ripe for action. While a significant infrastructure initiative (like the buildout of a regional transit system) is often that catalyst, new leadership, population shifts, strong public will, policy overhauls — or even efforts to recover from a natural disaster, like Superstorm Sandy — can also attract a significant pool of private and public capital and accelerate opportunity. SPARCC pursues a multiplier effect in that opportune moment — for example, taking advantage of the buildout of transit to prioritize affordable housing development near transit stops, or ensuring that a major investment in greenways or revitalization offers benefits to low income communities, rather than triggering rising rents and displacement.

After a competitive review process, the SPARCC partners selected six places for SPARCC to support over the next three years: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the San Francisco Bay Area. In that period, each region will be awarded $1 million in direct grant and technical assistance funds to support cross-sector efforts to retool policy and development practice. Collectively, the regions will benefit from an additional $14 million for programmatic support in areas including data systems, policy, and communications. A $70 million pool of investment capital — some from the participating foundations, some leveraged through institutions that finance community development — will also be available for community-based projects.


Recognizing that SPARCC's ambitious goals will require more than a three-year grant period to achieve, we will support cross-sector leaders and accelerate change so that the six regions are equipped to carry out the vision over the long term — and share their learning with communities across the country. We plan to share our own learnings along the way, and invite the engagement of new partners who are also interested in learning how to leverage systems to achieve health, climate and equity goals.

Public infrastructure dollars can and should do much more to promote equitable, resilient, and healthy communities. Our aspiration is that SPARCC will begin to provide a new roadmap, based on the experience of these six regions, that can inform policy and practice in cities across the U.S.

Read our full article here.

Sparcc_compositeChris Kabel is deputy director of health at  the Kresge Foundation, Amy Kenyon is a program officer for equitable development at the Ford Foundation, and Sharon Z. Roerty is a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Newsmakers: Laura Callanan, Founding Partner, UpStart Co-Lab

August 25, 2017

In its most recent Arts & Economic Prosperity report, Americans for the Arts found that the U.S. nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity in 2015, prompting Robert Lynch, the organization's president and CEO, to comment, "Leaders who care about community and economic vitality, growing tourism, attracting an innovative workforce, and community engagement can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts."

But where were the impact investments? While the economic importance of the arts has long been recognized, arts-related organization and businesses often fly under the radar when it comes to comprehensive community development, and the relative lack of such investment in the creative economy was one of the things Laura Callanan was determined to explore when she established Upstart Co-Lab in 2016. What's more, Callanan — who majored in theater in college and began her professional career in the financial world, working as an investment banker on Wall Street after graduate school before serving as an endowment manager at the Rockefeller Foundation, a consultant to foundations at McKinsey & Company, and deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts — was well positioned to find out.

Earlier this year, Callanan and her colleagues at Upstart Co-Lab released Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities (55 pages, PDF), which identified a $1.54 billion pipeline of more than two dozen projects administered by twenty-two creative places and businesses seeking impact capital. The findings came as a pleasant surprise to many in the arts community, and, according to Callanan, who was recently named to the NonProfit Times' Power & Influence Top 50 list, are a clear sign that the creative economy is ready for impact investment on a significant scale.

PND sat down with Callanan earlier this summer to discuss the findings of the report and the role philanthropy can play in catalyzing impact investments in the creative economy.

Headshot_laura callananPhilanthropy News Digest: The first thing that jumped out at me in the report was the almost complete lack of impact investment in the creative economy, despite the fact that the arts, in the most recent year of record, generated $704 billion in nonprofit and for-profit economic activity, or 4.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Laura Callanan: Actually, since we published the report in April, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis have updated their assessment of how much of the U.S. economy is driven by arts and cultural production. It's still 4.2 percent of GDP, but the dollar total is $730 billion, $26 million more than the figure mentioned in the report.

That's the best number currently available on the size of the creative economy, of which the arts are a core part. The National Endowment for the Arts emphasizes music, literature, visual art, and activities related to artistic disciplines. That means it's light on things like fashion, food, furniture making, and some other areas that we at Upstart Co-Lab include in our definition of the creative economy.

PND: That only makes the lack of impact investing in the creative economy more surprising. Why hasn't impact capital been flowing to these areas?

LC: We don't yet have dedicated investment products, investment funds, or investment managers with strategies that make it easy for individuals who are impact investors — or for institu­tions like foundations doing mission-related investing — to target their capital to the creative economy. Yes, an individual investor can buy a share of stock in Etsy, which is a public company, and feel like they're supporting the creative economy. And a foundation can make a program-related investment with a nonprofit arts organization or creativity-based social enterprise. But these one-off investments don't equal scale.

Let me give you an example of why that's a problem. Stockade Works and Stockade Studios in Kingston, New York, were started by the actress Mary Stuart Masterson and her business partner Beth Davenport. Stockade Works is structured as a nonprofit. Stockade Studios is structured as a for-profit social-purpose business. They've been approaching foundations about supporting their efforts to create a film/TV/media hub in the Hudson River Valley. This could be through a grant to the nonprofit, or a program-related investment, or a mission-related investment in the social-purpose business. But a foundation has to know that Stockade Studios exists, so it needs to have an active deal-sourcing process. And then the foundation has to do its own due diligence, its own risk assessment of the oppor­tunity. Plus track performance on the investment once it's made. These are things that an investment manager could do once, and then make the information available to any number of potential investors. Not being able to get information easily is a disincentive to investment.

Today, there are products, funds, and strategies that facilitate impact investment in education, in affordable housing, in support of women and girls, in support of the environment. Not surprisingly, those are all big areas where impact investors are directing their money. And it's not that we can't tweak and re-deploy existing investment products and funds and manager strategies for the creative economy. It's just that it hasn't happened yet.

PND: Looking out five or ten years, would you expect impact investing in the arts and the creative economy to be a focus only for larger foundations, or will foundations of any size have opportunities to participate?

LC: Everyone's able to pursue impact investing, from the individuals who invest $20 in a Calvert Foundation Community Investment Note to ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and from small foundations to some of the largest in the country, like the Ford and Gates foundations. Once we have the dots connected, and the products, funds, and strategies are in place, it won't matter whether you're an individual or an institution, or whether you have a modest amount of capital to deploy or a lot of capital to deploy. People and institutions today should be able to support the creative economy with impact investments just as they can support the environment, affordable housing, education, and other important priority areas.

PND: Do the politics of the moment help or hinder what you're trying to do with Upstart Co-Lab?

LC: To my mind, they shine a bright light on the gap we're trying to fill. There was a story in the Wall Street Journal recently that said: "No matter what the Trump administration does to the Environmental Pro­tection Agency, impact investing for the environment cannot be stopped." Of course, we can’t expect that to be the case if the administration pulls the plug on the National Endowment for the Arts, because impact investing for the creative economy hasn't gotten off the ground. But that just underscores the significance of the opportunity.

The NEA deploys $150 million a year for the arts. That's far less than the $17 billion annually that philanthropy puts into the arts. It's certainly a lot less than $8.8 trillion of impact investing assets under management in the United States today. If we can target a small portion of impact investing assets for creativity — as much, say, as currently flows through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo — it would be many times more than the budget of the NEA. As a country that cares about free speech, it's important that we support arts and crea­tivity at the federal level. But on a pure dollar basis, there are a lot of resources available in the impact marketplace that can be deployed in support of arts and creativity.

PND: What do you hope to accomplish with the Creative Places & Businesses report?

LC: I hope the report is the beginning of a robust conversation that intro­duces the concept of a "creativity lens" to impact investing and leads, sooner rather than later, to concrete action.

It is incredibly important that any definition of a creativity lens highlights creative places and creative businesses as an important long-time contributor to comprehensive community development. That's why we started the conversation where we did. There's a lot of discussion in the foundation arts community about cultural equity. If we want to shape a creative economy that is inclusive and equitable and sustainable, we have to back up our words with resources.

We know the future of the United States is the creative economy. We're no longer an agrarian economy; we're no longer a manufacturing economy. Today, what we really have is an innovation economy, an ideas economy. But what do we want that economy to look like in the decades to come? Do we want an economy where a few people get paid a lot of money to make apps, and the rest of us are driving for Uber and Lyft and don’t have a retirement plan or health benefits? Or do we want an economy that is inclusive, equitable, and sus­tainable; that is generating quality jobs at every level of the wage scale; and that fully celebrates the imagination and inno­vation that is present in every community in the United States?

PND: Where do you see things going with respect to impact investing and the creative sector?

LC: Upstart Co-Lab has had hundreds of conversations with impact investors and wealth managers over the last couple of years, and they all have clients who have been asking for impact investing opportunities related to arts, culture, and creativity. There's great potential here. Philanthropy did a lot to build the ecosystem of impact investing, social inno­vation, and social entrepreneurship. Arts philanthropy absolutely has a role to play in enabling this new creativity lens for impact investing. The work that philanthropy has done to build thought leadership, technical capacity, and awareness around creative placemaking has been an important early step.

PND: Has it been difficult to build on that early momentum?

LC: It's only just begun! What I'm excited about are the examples, those mentioned in the report and others that I learn about every day. In the last couple of weeks, for instance, I've had a chance to make site visits around New York City and visit Chicago. I see people who are ambitious and thinking big, who see the potential that can be unlocked by connecting impact capital with creative places and businesses. In Chicago, for example, there's an effort under way to redevelop the Avalon Regal Theater. Jerold Gary, an investor-entrepreneur has been actively working in the African-American community on the South Side, investing in residential housing. He had an opportunity to buy the theater — it's a landmarked 1920s property, amazingly detailed, with an ornately painted lobby. In its day, it was a large-capacity venue that drew A-list performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson, but it has been shuttered for quite some time. The good news is that they're on course to re-open the theater by the end of the year.

But it's not just about the theater. The Avalon is an anchor for a whole new cultural corridor on the South Side that's going to include retail space, incubator space where people can do creative work, and a museum of black music. The project is crucial to ensuring that the South Side has a stake in the emerging creative economy, because it's not just about nostalgia and the cultural expression of the past, it's about recognizing that creativity exists in every neighborhood, and that every neighborhood deserves places where people can develop and showcase their creativity.

PND: What role do you see for arts foundations in the development of an impact investing market linked to the creative economy?

LC: Philanthropy played a crucial role in establishing impact investing, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship. It was early philanthropic support that made it possible for people to explore these new ideas, build awareness and understanding, and establish standards, tools, and metrics that enabled the impact investing community to coordinate and grow. And now we see philanthropy taking the next step, bringing more endowment resources to bear on critical issues through mission-related investing. Foundations that support the arts, creativity, and innovation can follow this playbook for the creative economy.

For foundations that have been making traditional grants to the arts — but may not yet be ready to embrace impact investing as a tool to advance their mission — there's a lot to be done by supporting the growing ecosystem, investing in new ideas, investing in thought leader­ship and convening activities, in standards-setting and documentation of the types of projects we describe in the report. I wrote for Grantmakers in the Arts ;about what program officers can do, even if they don't have mission-related investing avail­able to them, and that includes things like making grants to build the ecosystem for impact investing in the creative economy and using their bully pulpit and convening power to spotlight what's happening in creative communities around the country.

One key thing program officers can do is bring to the attention of their fellow grantmakers the artists who are social entre­preneurs who are doing great work. They could be artists focused on the environment and climate change, artists who are focused on reforming the criminal justice system, artists who are focused on immigra­tion. You name it. Folks handing out social entrepreneurship awards always overlook the artist social entrepreneurs.

In short, philanthropy can play an important role in jump-starting the new idea of a creativity lens for impact investing and getting it to a place where the market can take it to scale.

PND: Have we reached a tipping point with respect to how philanthropy views impact investments in the creative economy?

LC: I certainly hope so. And we think there are three reasons why. One: creativity is cool. The excitement around creativity is palpable. You have mayors and governors commissioning creative economy reports and plans. They recognize that creative activity is going to be crucial to building wealth, ensuring social cohesion, and creating quality jobs in their com­mun­ities. When you look at surveys that ask corporate CEOs what will drive business success in the future, creativity in their workforce is top of the list. Just look at how many billions of dollars people have put through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo — in small increments — to fund creative projects. Even people who don’t think they are particularly creative themselves are happy to invest $25 in someone else’s creativity, whether that's making a film, starting a band, painting a mural, you name it. Creativity is having a moment.

Two: at the same time, impact investing is having a moment. McKinsey & Company, the World Economic Forum, Forbes — all are telling us that impact investing is going mainstream. And as they launch first-time impact investing portfolios, there's no better time to encourage new impact investors to focus on an area that we know they care about: arts, culture, and creativity. As the field of impact investing becomes more devel­oped, there are more targeted opportunities for impact investors to put their money to work: for women and girls, organic food, education, housing, aging in place, sustainable fisheries. These are things that impact investors can support right now. The creative economy is simply too big to be left out of the picture.

The third reason this is a great oppor­tunity is because creative people gravitate toward solving problems, whether that means bringing jobs to the Hudson River Valley or launching an innovation district on the South Side of Chicago. In our research, we identified $1.5 billion in demand for impact capital over the next five years from creative places and businesses catalyzing growth in communities across the U.S. There are investable opportunities searching for values-aligned capital.

At Upstart Co-Lab, we think this is the right moment to apply a creativity lens to impact investing, and we're trying to bring as much energy, intelligence, and workable solutions to the challenge as we can.

— Matt Sinclair

[Review] 'The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It'

August 10, 2017

In The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It (Basic Books: 2017), urban studies theorist Richard Florida offers a mea culpa of sort for the back-to-the-city movement he has long championed. In books such as The Rise of the Creative Class, and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure and Everyday Life (Basic Books, 2002) and Cities and the Creative Class (Routledge, 2005), Florida argued that, if cities hoped to thrive in a competitive global economy, they needed to attract and retain talent — "[t]he knowledge workers, techies, and artists and other cultural creatives who [make] up the creative class.:

Book_the_new_urban_crisis (002)If nothing else, Florida's timing was impeccable. By 2000, the ranks of the creative class in the United States had grown to 40 million — a third of the U.S. workforce — and many of its members had left the suburban or rural communities of their childhood and headed to cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, where they moved into neighborhoods that had been written off by the professional class and city officials. That story was repeated around the globe, as knowledge workers and creatives flocked to already vibrant cities such as London, Paris, and Tokyo; booming Asian metropolises such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Seoul; and sprawling, emerging mega-cities such as Lagos, Mexico City, and Mumbai.

Indeed, today — in a stunning illustration of the power of urban centers to transform societies through what Florida dubs the "3Ts of economic development" (technology, talent, and tolerance) — more than half the population of the globe lives in cities, and the United Nations estimates that by 2050 upwards of 70 percent of the global population will live in urban areas. Little wonder, then, that in recent decades urbanists have proclaimed "the triumph of the city" (the title of an excellent book by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser), or that the future of humanity is urban.

And yet this newfound appreciation for the richness, convenience, and stimulation provided by city living has not been without costs, as gentrification, rising rents, and real estate speculation have squeezed blue-collar and service workers out of neighborhoods and livelihoods, contributed to the re-segregation of public schools, and driven huge increases in wealth and income inequality. It is an economic failure that we should have seen but didn't, and from the Brexit vote in England, to the election of Donald Trump, to the growing popularity of far-right populist parties in Europe, we are living with the consequences of that failure. The New Urban Crisis is Florida's attempt to diagnose where things went wrong — and offer a prescription for how we can recover an urbanism that works for all people, not just elites and the creative class.

If that's too conceptual, allow me an anecdote by way of illustration: As I was finishing Florida's book in Washington Square Park in Manhattan earlier this summer, surrounded on all sides by buildings belonging to New York University (where Florida is a fellow), I could see, firsthand, his 3Ts at work. Across the way, diverse crowds of college students walked to their next class or appointment while sending photos to friends on the latest app; on the corner, a well-heeled couple waited impatiently for their Uber driver; and, a group of foreign tourists were listening to their guide about the history of the square. To the "urban optimist," it was a perfect illustration of "the stunning revival of cities and the power of urbanization to improve the human condition," while for the pessimist, it might suggest just how profoundly "modern cities [are] being carved into gilded and virtually gated areas for conspicuous consumption by the super-rich...."

And that's not the half of it. The juxtaposition of boundless opportunity and desperate poverty found in so many cities has led to mounting alienation and resentment. Indeed, Florida, who counted himself among the optimists "not too long ago," argues that to truly understand this new urban crisis (as opposed to the mid-twentieth-century urban crisis of deindustrialization and white flight), we need to recognize and come to grips with the fact that cities are both "the great engines of innovation, the models of economic and social progress," and "zones of gaping inequality and class division."

Florida identifies five key factors that have combined to create this crisis: 1) the growing economic gap between so-called superstar cities — where a disproportionate share of high-value industries, high-tech startups, and top talent are concentrated — and struggling industrial cities, or what he calls "winner-take-call urbanism"; 2) the steep rise in urban housing costs, which has resulted in the displacement of countless numbers of blue-collar and service workers, not to mention the poor and disadvantaged; 3) a rapid increase in inequality and segregation driven in part by "sorting" — a phenomenon in which creatives and the well-off congregate in neighborhoods formerly favored by the working middle class, creating a patchwork of relatively small areas of privilege surrounded by large tracts of poverty; 4) the growing crisis in the suburbs, where problems typically associated with urban areas — poverty, economic insecurity, crime, and segregation — are growing and becoming entrenched; and 5) the urbanization of the developing world, often without the improvements in standards of living that accompanied an earlier wave of urbanization in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China.

At the core of these challenges, writes Florida, is an economic divide that shapes our built environment and determines where we live. "Simply put," he adds, "the rich live where they choose, and the poor where they can." This reality creates a host of related problems with both short- and long-term consequences (e.g., "people who live in far-flung suburbs and endure long commutes have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, stress, insomnia, and hypertension and are more likely to commit suicide or die in car crashes").

Florida illustrates each of these challenges using the latest demographic and economic data, much of it pulled from the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, which he leads. In fact, the book is filled with interesting graphs and charts, including one showing the number of houses one could buy in various U.S. cities for the price of a single apartment in Manhattan's chi-chi SoHo neighborhood (Memphis, Tennessee, tops the list with 38!). He also highlights his institute's New Urban Crisis Index, which reveals high levels of combined economic segregation, wage inequality, income inequality, and housing unaffordability not only in superstar cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, but in Chicago, Miami, and Memphis. (While interesting, many of the maps and charts could have benefited from better graphic design, and most of the data cited are for U.S. cities — a weakness in a book that purports to be about global trends.)

But what most readers will be looking for is a solution (or solutions) to this complex crisis of inequality. On that score, the glass is half full (or empty, depending on one's perspective). Florida points to the tension between the kind of "urban density and clustering that innovation and economic progress require" — and a "New Urban Luddism" — as the greatest impediment to the kind of equitable development and opportunity needed to overcome rising inequality. He has little sympathy for these twenty-first-century Luddites, who live in well-off communities and neighborhoods and are quick to say no to projects that may pose inconveniences but whose benefits in terms of the greater public good are indisputable. As he writes at one point, "If we are to...enjoy a widely shared and sustainable prosperity, we must become a more fully and fairly urbanized nation."

With that tension in mind, Florida sets out seven strategies designed to foster a "more productive urbanism for all": 1) make clustering work more efficiently by switching from a property tax to a land value tax; 2) invest in urban infrastructure to support greater density and growth; 3) build more affordable housing; 4) convert low-wage service jobs into living-wage work by raising the minimum wage; 5) address urban and suburban poverty by investing in people and places and providing a universal basic income; 6) shift development policies from nation-building to city-building and mobilize behind a global effort to build more resilient, prosperous cities; and 7) empower cities and communities by devolving political power from states and national governments to cities themselves.

As wide-ranging as these solutions are, the recommendations at the core of Florida’s books are fairly straightforward: governments and the private sector need to make investments in new and upgraded infrastructure and adopt tax and land-use policies that encourage increased density. Around the world, he writes, "strategic investments in basic infrastructure can help connect [poor people] to jobs; leverage their talent and productive capabilities and enable them to become more fully engaged; and, ultimately, turn the vicious cycle of urban isolation and poverty into a virtuous cycle of urban progress." In an American context, that means moving beyond the longstanding practice of encouraging suburban sprawl and expansion into rural areas and, instead, putting a new focus on the country’s neglected urban cores — a re-urbanization movement, if you will — that creates jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

While The New Urban Crisis may not be the twenty-first-century equivalent of Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities or Lewis Mumford's The City in History, it is an interesting and highly readable update of Florida's creative class concept and an excellent introduction, for those not familiar with his earlier work, to how a new generation of knowledge workers and creative class types are shaping our economy, our cities, and, for better or worse, our future. The challenges posed by this development are profound, both in the U.S. and around the world, and The New Urban Crisis is a welcome contribution to the conversation around the best ways to address those challenges.

Michael Weston-Murphy is a writer and consultant based in New York City. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

5 Questions for...Laurie Tisch, Founder/President, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

July 26, 2017

Laurie Tisch, whose Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is gearing up for its tenth anniversary and will have given $100 million to support access and opportunity for New Yorkers by year's end, describes philanthropy as something that's in her DNA. Foundation Center's Jen Bokoff, a former employee of the foundation, spoke with Tisch about her recent donation to a new fund, her investment philosophy, and how philanthropy creates impact.

Headshot_laurie_tischJen Bokoff: Your family is known for funding major institutions, but your foundation was set up in part to help you make new, innovative gifts. What's a gift you're particularly proud of that defines your philanthropy?

Laurie Tisch: The New York City Green Cart Initiative, which was a $1.5 million public-private partnership. Initially, it was a city government initiative that created new permits for street vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts in New York, and we signed on to it soon after I started the foundation. It was a large amount of money for us, which some might call risky, but I prefer to think of it as following one's instincts. The data was clear: there are tremendous disparities in the rates of diabetes and heart disease among neighborhoods, with epidemic levels in certain low-income communities. Street vending was a way to increase access to healthy foods, and the program would also create hundreds of jobs for entrepreneurs. With our mission of increasing access and opportunity, the idea was just too interesting not to try; we pretty much went all in! For us, it was big on so many levels, from the number of organization involved to the number of vendors we hoped would be involved.

There were a lot of unknowns, though. No city had ever tried a program like this. How would we measure success? How would we let people know about it? I had a lot of questions, but the answers weren't always there. If we were too rigid, we might not have made the grant. But we're lucky to be a small foundation with the flexibility to see something like this through, which is a philosophy that has really defined our grantmaking. If an organization or initiative decides to change course, it's okay with us so long as the course correction is in dialogue with us.

JB: I read about your recent gift of $500,000 to a new fund established by Agnes Gund with the proceeds of the sale of a famous painting from her collection. Had you ever sold a painting with a philanthropic cause in mind? And why do so now?

LT: I've donated paintings to the Tang and to the Whitney, but I've never sold one with a cause in mind. I was invited to lunch at Aggie's about a month ago by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. The purpose was to meet Ava DuVernay, who directed the film 13th about racial inequity in the prison system. Aggie got up to speak about how the film and over-incarceration made a strong impression on her, and then she announced she was going to make criminal justice her major focus.

When she revealed she had sold her Lichtenstein to establish a new fund focused on criminal justice, it was remarkable. She had a real personal connection to that painting, and seeing her commit so deeply to a cause really showed how serious she was. When Darren later called me to talk about the initiative, I remembered that I had sold a painting a month earlier, and I thought to myself, "This fits perfectly." Max Weber, who painted the painting I had sold, was known for his passion for social justice causes, so it just was bashert! I donated most of the proceeds to Aggie’' fund, because when she and Darren are backing something, trust is not an issue. And the more I think about it, the more I realize there are so many collectors and wealthy people who could do this. It will be interesting to see whether people look at Aggie as a model and start to sell some of the art they've acquired for social justice causes; it really could add up to something significant pretty quickly.

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