16 posts categorized "Racial Equity"

[Review] Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice

June 07, 2018

These days, one doesn't have to look far to find a story about a confrontation involving a school officer and a student of color or to put her finger on a report detailing educational inequities associated with race, gender, and class. In her new book, Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative JusticeMaisha T. Winn, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, makes a compelling case for the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in schools as both an antidote to these troubling trends and as a way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has destroyed the lives of too many young people of color.

Book_justice_on_both_sidesMost readers are probably familiar with the case of Shakara, the sixteen-year-old student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was put in a chokehold by a school officer, forcibly pulled out of her seat, and dragged across the floor and out of her classroom. Her crime? Refusing to put her cell phone away. Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident, and Winn uses it to frame her questioning of the punitive practices and zero-tolerance policies in place at many public schools in the United States.

Indeed, it was Winn's own questions about Shakara's experience that became the impetus for her book. "What resources, other than arrest, were available to the administrators, teachers, and staff at Spring Valley High to address conflict in the classroom?" she asks. "How could the adults involved have responded differently? Why has it become standard practice to arrest students for such minor incidents?...I argue that we have yet to pause and thoughtfully examine such patterns as stakeholders, particularly from the perspectives of new and seasoned teachers, school staff, and students."

In her bookWinn does just that, reflecting on her experiences as a scholar, former teacher, and teacher researcher — experiences that inform her analysis of RJ practice and how best to apply that analysis to create lasting change. Having noted that under zero-tolerance policies, African-American, Latinx, and Native-American students are disproportionately subjected to harshly punitive practices, including removal from classrooms, suspension, and expulsion, she explains restorative justice as an approach to discipline that aims to address trauma that may be responsible for the student's behavior. The idea, she writes, is to build a sense of respect and mutual understanding while giving students space to take responsibility for their actions.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice requires both sides to be "open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right." As Winn explains, the three pillars of the approach are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement — in other words, determining the needs of students who cause harm and recognizing that they may have been harmed; creating a culture of accountability for both students and educators; and cultivating a participatory democracy model in the classroom.

A good deal of what Winn has learned about restorative justice is based on her experience as a participant observer at a Midwestern high school that began to adopt RJ practices in 2014 and 2015. Winn shares the perspectives of the students she got to know, students whose voices should be the most important in conversations about their needs but as often as not go unheard. She explores the technique known as "restorative justice circles," in which participants come together in a literal circle and wait for a facilitator to initiate a conversation with a prompt or question. Circle participants listen until it is their turn to speak, which comes when the "talking piece," which is passed around the circle, reaches them. Rather than being stuck with a fixed identity such as "student" or "sophomore," students are trained to be "circle keepers" (i.e., facilitators), so that they are part of the solution instead of just passive bystanders.

In her interviews with students, Winn was able to tease out their views of restorative justice, what it meant to them, and how the circles helped them evolve their understanding of justice more generally. "Before, I kinda thought [justice] was [if] you did something wrong, something wrong should be done to you. If you do something wrong you go to jail," one circle keeper told her. "But then I came here and started getting into restorative justice, and I started thinking there's a lot of things that's behind it. Not all people deserve to go to jail; some people do need counseling, but for certain crimes they always get sent there...and sometimes a little bit of counseling and connecting could probably fix whatever was damaged to make them do the crime."  

One of the recurring themes in her interviews was equality. The RJ circles allowed students to feel empowered and were a first step in the dismantling of the unequal power dynamic that exists between teachers and students. "There was mutual respect," Winn writes, "as opposed to a culture where students are expected to show respect that they do not see reciprocated." 

To get there, Winn argues, educators need to embrace four key pedagogical stances: history matters, race matters, justice matters, and language matters. Indeed, the four concepts, which are interconnected, with history as the outermost of four concentric circles and language at the center, shape the way educators engage with and build relationships with students. Winn's interviews with educators at the Midwestern high school reveal that while they had embraced the idea of "how local history is inextricably linked to both race and local power dynamics" and had become more "mindful about how one uses language to speak to and about children — especially children from historically marginalized communities," they still had work to do in terms of examining and unlearning "the social construction of race, racism, and racist lenses and ideas" and in adopting an expansive definition of justice that "insist[s] we do right by people" and work to create a world where "everyone — irrespective of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, or ability — is able to live with dignity and is recognized as belonging."

By presenting the perspectives of both students and educators, Winn is able to highlight the impact restorative justice had on the school community as a whole and how it helped bridge the gap between administrators, staff, teachers, and students. Rather than isolating misbehaving students through suspensions and expulsion, restorative justice tries to get to the root of the problem and create a school culture in which students are able to express themselves and feel that they are being heard. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most schools have neither the will nor the resources to introduce RJ practices without compromising other priorities. "If restorative justice circles are to serve as a tool for creating and sustaining boundary-crossing social networks for students and staff," writes Winn, "then everyone in the school community must be held accountable as a stakeholder."

Based on the view that teaching is a justice-seeking endeavor and learning is a civil and human right, Winn makes the case for what she calls "transformative justice teacher education" as a way to equip teachers with the tools they need to implement restorative justice practices in their classrooms. To that end, she provides a series of subject-specific questions for teachers to consider. For example, math teachers might ask themselves: Who am I calling on and at what frequency? How can I physically set up my classroom so that all students have a chance to participate in classroom discussions? How do I create a classroom culture in which all students view themselves as "math people"? The English language arts teacher might ask: Who gets to be the reader/writer/thinker/speaker in my classroom? Who do we need to hear from? What voices/stories/perspectives are missing from the discussion? And the social studies/history teacher might ask: How can I use the subject matter to create a participatory culture in my classroom? What is the role of social studies/history in cultivating purpose and belonging?

Training teachers and enabling them to incorporate RJ practices into their classrooms is just a first step if we hope to dismantle structural racism in our schools and in society. As Winn writes, restorative justice processes "give us an opportunity and an intergenerational way to learn together to talk about race" and develop the vocabularies needed to do so. By engaging "in processes that allow us to listen to one another…we begin the process and practice of restoring justice." Surely, that is something we owe our children.

Zahra Bokhari is a development specialist at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

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, went to work in the private sector at a Richmond law firm, then 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. That was followed by a stint with a private philanthropy that invested in community-based efforts focused on children in Washington, D.C. After this, he spent time as the deputy chief of staff to Virginia governor Mark Warner and commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. Jones then served 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.

PND: I imagine you spend a lot of time thinking about the power imbalance inherent in the kind of work you do with underresourced communities. How do you address and mitigate that dynamic?

MJ: Our work is always informed by what we learn from the people who are going to be impacted by the investments we make in their community. So, we make sure they are at the table when programs or initiatives are being designed, and we spend a lot of time making sure, number one, that the residents of the communities where we work are empowered to make decisions about what that work will look like. Number two: we help residents organize and become powerful, both individually and collectively. We convene local groups, play a supporting role in terms of keeping people together, help them to develop a collective agenda, and see that agenda through to its conclusion. The third thing we do is equip community residents with the resources they need — skills, know-how, networks, relationships — so that they have more power and more agency.

PND: A growing number of foundations — including the Ford Foundation, which provided the seed funding for LISC nearly forty years ago — have moved to apply an equity lens to their grantmaking. Has the renewed focus on racial equity in philanthropy affected the work of LISC?

MJ: LISC has always embraced an equity lens in our work. You can’t work in the communities in which we work without it. Equity is part of the problem we’re trying to solve. It's something we’ve been intentional about and will continue to be intentional about. If you look at the clients we serve, 66 percent of them are people of color, 60 percent are female heads of households, minority female heads of household, and between 30 percent and 40 percent are people reentering the community after incarceration. So, there's no question you need to have an equity lens and be intentional about using it if you hope to successfully address the issues that we wrestle with in the communities where we work. We’re delighted more funders are adopting that lens, and we hope the numbers will continue to grow.

PND: Are you optimistic about the future?

MJ: I am, and the thing that makes me optimistic is that in every community in which we work, whether it's Buffalo, or New York City, or Jacksonville, or San Diego, or San Francisco, we find incredible talent. Many of these communities are considered to be "outside the mainstream," but in all of them we are constantly reminded that genius can thrive in the most unexpected places. The question is, what do we do as a society to ensure that these people are able to fulfill their promise? But, yes, the biggest source of optimism for me is that every time I'm out in a community, I encounter incredible entrepreneurs and activists and artists, and I see firsthand the things that people are doing to make their communities better. We just have to make sure they have as much opportunity to achieve their potential and dreams as anyone else living anywhere else in America.

— Matt Sinclair

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2018)

June 02, 2018

In the movie Groundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray, is assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — an assignment he disdains and decides to skip. There's a price to pay when you ignore Punxsutawney Phil, though, and the next day Connors finds himself stuck in a time loop, condemned to relive the events of Groundhog Day over and over. Which is a sort of how those of us in the Northeast are feeling after what seems like four months of overcast.

Don't despair. Our roundup of the most popular posts on the blog in May includes new posts by Jen Bokoff, Eric Braxton, Arif Ekram, Yaro Fong-Olivares, and Thaler Pekar; a couple of oldies but goodies (by Richard Brewster and Lauren Bradford); and a quick guide to digital marketing by Roubler's Daniel Ross.

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.

Interested in writing for PND or PhilanTopic? We'd love to hear from you. Send a few lines about your idea/article/post to mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Addressing Racial Equity With an Organizational Change Lens

May 21, 2018

Racial equity treeOrganizational change efforts can be daunting, even when the organization and its leaders know that such an effort will lead to a stronger, more sustainable organization in the long term. When it comes to racial equity, such efforts often carry an extra level of pressure. That's because change efforts seeking to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can trigger both conscious and unconscious anxieties when staff and leadership are required to examine personal and organizational values, norms, behaviors, and perceptions. No matter what you do to create and communicate a compelling story and adjust policies and procedures, it all comes down to employee engagement, especially when it comes to "unfreezing" behavior and modeling change, both of which are key to ensuring employee buy-in and setting the stage for a successful change effort.

When tackling racial equity, the amount of individual energy and effort required to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive workplace can create stress at all levels of the organization — particularly for people of color. As with other change efforts, racial equity work requires staff members to personalize the process in order to find their own entry points into the work, and as each of us reflects on our own identity and what it means in both an individual and organizational context, frictions can arise. If not tactfully managed, issues of intersectionality, power dynamics, personal and work-related boundaries, and unconscious biases can become barriers that stand in the way of progress. But when implemented effectively, racial equity change initiatives can spark an examination of our lived experience, both at work and in our personal lives — as well as individual transformation. Not surprisingly then, if organizations can create a culture in which individuals are able to express and work through their own unconscious biases, uncertainty, and shame, they will experience a greater rate of change.

CRE's nearly four decades serving the nonprofit community has taught us that organizations ready to address and embrace racial equity must first examine how race interacts with all aspects of organizational culture, from board governance, to leadership and management, to staffing and talent management, to day-to-day work flow. While not an exhaustive list, below are four simple strategies for moving the needle on organizational change efforts intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion based on what we have learned from our experience promoting racial equity in our own organization and with our client partners.

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It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

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Acknowledging Power Isn’t Enough — Dig Deeper!

May 11, 2018

3-teardrop-illustration-300x256Earlier this month, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) released Power Moves: Your Essential Philanthropy Assessment Guide for Equity and Justice, a comprehensive resource for foundations that explores the role of power and privilege in advancing equity and justice. Acknowledging my own bias as a project advisor, I'm beyond excited to see all the different ways this assessment tool will be used to influence philanthropy, because, let's face it, our sector has a power problem.

"The power dynamic" often comes up in conversations among philanthropoids as "something to watch for" or "be mindful of." But seldom do I see that acknowledgment lead anywhere. From burdensome (and sometimes inaccessible) grant application processes and site visits, to restricted short-term investments, to truncated feedback loops, to the composition of staff and boards, to public silence on too many issues, we're slow as a field to move from acknowledgment to action. Power doesn't have to be negative or something we tiptoe around; indeed, intentionality around knowing where power sits and then building, sharing, and wielding it thoughtfully can be a powerful lever for smarter work and better results. The NCRP guide allows foundations of all types and sizes to explore these topics holistically through both internal reflection and outward-facing learning, and offers a series of actions they can take to advance their equity and justice efforts.

Over the last few years, I've teamed up with various colleagues to lead workshops using improv comedy to talk about power dynamics with the intent of diving deeper into a subject that often makes people uncomfortable. These sessions are fun and usually successful, but they present a two-fold challenge: they're "opt in," which tends to attract people who are ready to step out of their comfort zone, and they're small, which means that all that good reflection, learning, and conversation usually isn't documented. How is an attendee at a session like that — or in any conversation that digs deeper into power and its connection with equity — supposed to bring her learnings back to their workplace? It's hard, and we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't acknowledge our own internal power issues as part of that challenge.

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A Conversation With Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO, Native Americans in Philanthropy

March 21, 2018

In 2011, a report from Native Americans in Philanthropy and Foundation Center found that foundation funding explicitly benefiting Native Americans had declined from 0.5 percent of overall funding to 0.3 percent over the previous decade. While there has been no follow-up to that report, Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, recently told PND that philanthropic support of Native causes hasn't come close to reaching 1 percent of overall funding in any year since then. And while even that level of funding is inadequate, given the need in Native communities, Eagle Heart argues, "it would be equitable."

Last year, Eagle Heart was honored with the American Express NGen Leadership Award, which is presented at Independent Sector's annual conference each fall to a "next-generation" leader whose work and advocacy have had a transformative impact on a critical societal need. Praised for her abilities as a storyteller, Eagle Heart focuses her work at NAP on educating and advocating for the needs of Native communities across the country.

Earlier this year, PND spoke with Eagle Heart about the dearth of research on Native communities in the United States, the need for greater education to raise awareness of Native issues, and the role racial healing can and must play in bringing equity to indigenous cultures.

Headshot_sarah-eagle-heartPhilanthropy News Digest: In announcing you as the winner of the 2017 American Express NGen Leadership Award, Independent Sector praised your talent as a storyteller and your ability to bridge cultures. What's the biggest story today about Native Americans that other Americans aren't hearing or don't understand?

Sarah Eagle Heart: In general, people don't pay attention — and never have paid attention — to Native Americans or our issues. And I believe one of the reasons Independent Sector chose me for the award was to raise the visibility of Native Americans. When philanthropic organizations look at Native Americans, we're just not as noticeable, statistically speaking, as other ethnic groups. As you know, Native Americans in Philanthropy worked with Foundation Center in 2011 to create a report, Foundation Funding for Native American Issues and Peoples, which showed that less than 0.3 percent of philanthropic funding goes to Native communities, even though we’re between 1 percent and 2 percent of the overall population. So, even if philanthropy increased its giving for Native causes, issues, and nonprofits to 1 percent to 2 percent of total funding, it would still be a drop in the bucket. But we're not seeing that level of funding, and we haven't seen that level of funding at any point over the twenty-seven years of Native Americans in Philanthropy's existence.

PND: Why is that?

SEH: There's not enough research to answer that question. When I started at Native Americans in Philanthropy two and a half years ago, I noticed we were not included in a lot of research reports, there was no contextual research for our communities. In philanthropy, a lot of how you get noticed, or heard, or invited to the table has to do with research. In 2015-16, for example, many of the research reports that came out had a little asterisk that said Native American populations were statistically insignificant. The researchers have since tried to walk back some of those disclaimers, but it goes to show how much philanthropy has been paying attention to Native people. I'm aware that our community is hard to gather statistics on, in part because we live in both urban and rural communities. But I don't think that should be an obstacle to better research.

Another complication is that our communities constantly have to educate funders. Our country is slowly beginning to understand, thanks to issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock protests, that we've been working for nearly thirty years to get school systems to portray American Indian history more accurately. We're doing our best to combat stereotypes and propaganda that have depicted Natives as being marginal and unimportant, that we don't count and can be ignored.

PND: Is the situation improving?

SEH: Not really. A recent study found that if you Google "Native American," it doesn't return an image of a contemporary Native person. Google another ethnic group, and you might get images of somebody sitting at a table or as part of a contemporary street scene. But for Native Americans, what you get are depictions of historical images from a hundred or two hundred years ago. You can almost understand why some people think we've vanished.

I really believe that one of the reasons it's so important Native people are heard and seen is that we have so much wisdom to share. When you look at some of the environmental and climate change issues we face, Native people saw it all coming a long time ago and have been raising the alarm for years. It's time philanthropy listened. That's where Native Americans in Philanthropy comes in. We're sharing some of that collective wisdom through our Indigenous Lifecourse research report, which is focused on sharing protective factors from an asset frame rather than a deficit frame.

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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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Cities Are Raising the Bar and Building Beloved Communities Where Black Men and Boys Can Thrive

February 16, 2018

Cbma_promise_of_placeTo build beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and able to achieve their fullest potential — that is the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's (CBMA) core mission and rallying cry.

CBMA's work is driven by the unwavering belief that black men and boys are assets to our communities and our country, that they possess untapped potential and brilliance, and that they thrive when given opportunities to succeed. We cannot truly prosper as a nation when any group is left behind and forced to exist on the fringes of society. The well-being of black men and boys is directly connected to the well-being and strength of our families, communities, and nation as a whole.

Over the past decade, CBMA has supported leaders in cities across the United States who are working to accelerate positive life outcomes for black men and boys and whose efforts are moving the needle in measurable ways. To chart and track the progress happening in these cities, in 2015 CBMA developed the Black Male Achievement (BMA) City Index, which scores cities based on their level of engagement with and investment in black men and boys. In conjunction with the new index, we released Promise of Place, a first-of-its-kind report series that assessed commitments and targeted initiatives across fifty cities focused on supporting black men and boys. A few weeks ago, we released a follow-up report, Promise of Place: Building Beloved Communities for Black Men and Boys, that explores whether those cities are keeping their promises. Encouragingly, we have found that most cities have in fact increased their investments and actions in support of black men and boys.

The new Promise of Place report finds that, since 2015, 62 percent of the cities included in the index have ramped up their efforts to support black males across a variety of focus areas and needs, with scores based on five key indicators: demographic mix, commitment to black men and boys, presence of national initiatives supporting black men and boys, targeted funding supporting black men and boys, and CBMA membership. Detroit and Washington, D.C., remain the two highest scoring cities, each with a score of 95, while Jackson (Mississippi), Seattle (Washington), Omaha (Nebraska), and Mobile (Alabama) saw the greatest improvements in their scores. Cities not captured in the first report — including Denver and Yonkers, New York — have since become highly engaged in leading black male achievement efforts.

To be clear, the BMA City Index is not a ranking of which cities are doing the best with respect to this work. Rather, it is meant to serve as a starting point to see what commitments and engagements cities are making to black men and boys. It is imperative that city and community leaders hold their cities accountable to these commitments and continue to collaborate on measuring the impact of their efforts.

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What’s New at Foundation Center (February)

February 13, 2018

FC_logoLast month, we launched this monthly series as a way to keep you posted on what we at Foundation Center are learning, where we're speaking, what data we're collecting, and how you can contribute to that story. And while athletes from around the world are slipping, sliding, and jumping their way to glory in South Korea, we've been hard at work bringing data and knowledge to the fore for philanthropy globally. Here's the latest:

Projects Launched

  • Our Advancing Human Rights platform was updated with new trends data, revealing a 45 percent increase in human rights funding worldwide between 2011 and 2015, from $1.4 billion to more than $2 billion. In partnership with the Human Right Funders Network, we began to map the landscape of human rights grantmaking in 2010, which led to this first-ever five-year analysis. In addition to the site update, we also launched a blog series featuring human rights funders who provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into key trends related to their areas of focus. And we created an infographic that distills the key findings from the analysis.

Content Published

What We're Excited About

  • We are a founding partner of the first U.S.-based Opportunity Collaboration Conference, taking place in Florida in May.
  • We answered nearly 900 questions about nonprofit management and the social sector more broadly through our online chat service in January.
  • We're giving GrantSpace — our website geared to grant seekers — a makeover so it's simpler to find what you're looking for. Keep your eyes peeled for the new site in April.
  • Our revamped custom training program for grantseekers uses in-person and online tools to connect participants in meaningful ways and promote concrete outcomes. Through assignments, peer review, expert coaching, and workshops, you'll be supported from start to finish. Email our training team at fctraining@foundationcenter.org for more information.
  • A soon-to-be-released GrantCraft Leadership Series paper by Barbara Chow focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy.

Projects in the Pipeline

  • In partnership with Sustain Arts and Audience Architects, a new report mapping the dance ecosystem in the Chicago area
  • In partnership with the Council on Foundations, a report on international grantmaking by U.S.-based foundations

For more on these projects or how to work with us, send us an email.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be speaking at these upcoming events:

Our staff will be attending and/or exhibiting at these events:

Data Spotlight

  • 328,486 new grants added to Foundation Maps since January 1, of which 4,045 were made to 2,591 organizations outside the U.S.
  • New data sharing partners: Austin Family Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation of America, ClimateWorks Foundation, Laffey-McHugh Foundation.

Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email! I'll be back next month with another update.

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

A Conversation With Kavitha Mediratta, Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

February 09, 2018

Chattel slavery — a practice (and later institution) in which enslaved Africans and African Americans were bought, sold, or traded as property at the whim of their "owners" — was common in British America from the earliest colonial days. Gaining a foothold in the tobacco country of Virginia and Maryland in the seventeenth century and spreading north and south from there, it was well established in the mid-Atlantic and South by the time of independence, reinforced, as historian Ira Berlin writes, by a regime of violence that was "systemic and relentless; the planters’ hegemony required that slaves stand in awe of their owners. Although they preferred obedience to be given rather than taken, planters understood that without a monopoly of firepower and a willingness to employ terror, plantation slavery would not long survive."

The violence employed by the slaveholding class to protect and extend its authority was, as Berlin notes, buttressed by special judicial codes, the courts (including the Supreme Court), and the U.S. Constitution itself. As the institution grew in scale and scope in the nineteenth century, driven in part by the invention of the cotton gin, which greatly boosted the profitability of cotton as a crop, and the outlawing of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slaveholding class stepped up its efforts to promote ideologies that justified the institution’s existence — as well as the brutality and means, judicial and extra-judicial, used to maintain it.

While these explicitly racist attitudes were, as Eric Eustace Williams has argued, a consequence of slavery rather than its cause, their regrettable persistence has caused incalculable damage to American society, infected countries such as South Africa — which continues to struggle with its own history of racial apartheid — and even today divide Americans against each other. Indeed, whether America ever comes to grips with the pernicious legacy of slavery remains an open question.

Recently, PND spoke with Kavitha Mediratta, founding executive director of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, a ten-year, $60 million initiative launched by Atlantic Philanthropies, about that question and what her program is doing to support creative leaders dedicated to dismantling anti-black racism in both the United States and South Africa.

Mediratta previously served as chief strategy advisor for equity initiatives and human capital development at Atlantic and before that led the education program at the New York Community Trust and directed school reform programs at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. She has, in addition, written extensively on race and educational opportunity in the U.S., with a focus on inequalities in school discipline, and has taught in elementary and middle schools in New Jersey, Chicago, and India.

Headshot_kavitha_medirattaPhilanthropy News Digest: How did you get into philanthropy and racial equity work?

Kavitha Mediratta: Well, actually, racial equity work is what led me into philanthropy. I came to the United States with my parents, who are Indian, when I was three, and we settled in a community on Long Island where we were pretty isolated. This was in the 1970s, and we thought America's days as a segregated society were behind it, but that's not really how it was on Long Island when I was growing up, and from an early age I was exposed to some of the contradictions between the idea of America as a place of opportunity for all people, and the way in which black people in America and others who are seen as different often are treated.

As a result, I became interested in racial equity pretty early on. I worked as a teacher and then as an organizer and policy analyst before ending up doing a lot of work with parents and high school students to improve public schools, which I saw as a key locus of opportunity for young people of color but that too often failed to deliver on those opportunities to help children realize their full potential. And it's really the work I did with young people that brought me to philanthropy, and Atlantic [Philanthropies], which had long supported people of color who were working to reform public education, and public institutions more broadly, in America.

PND: What are we talking about when we talk about racial equity? Do you have a definition that informs your day-to-day work?

KM: For us, racial equity is about creating a society in which opportunities and outcomes for people are not defined on the basis of racial categories. But we go a little bit further than equity, in that we talk about dismantling anti-black racism, aka white supremacy, as an important step toward building a truly just and inclusive society. And what we mean by a just and inclusive society is a world in which everyone has the opportun­ities they need not only to thrive, but to be seen fully for who they are, which is an important thing, since, at the moment, only some people in America are seen fully. The question is, How can we build a world in which all people are seen fully for who and what they are, and who are treated with the dignity, respect, and right to self-determination that all members of our national and global community deserve?

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Newsmaker: Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation

January 31, 2018

Fred Blackwell joined The San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the United States, as CEO in 2014. An Oakland native, he previously had served as interim administrator and assistant administrator for the city, led the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Community Development and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; and directed the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Making Connections Initiative in Oakland.

In June 2016, TSFF announced a new commitment to racial and economic equity in the Bay Area. PND spoke with Blackwell about the foundation's racial equity lens, movement building in the wake of the 2016 elections and Charlottesville, and what it means for philanthropic organizations to speak out, step up, and actually try to achieve racial equity.

Fred_blackwellPhilanthropy News Digest: How do you define "racial equity"?

Fred Blackwell: I define it as just and fair inclusion in a society where everyone can participate, prosper, and thrive, regardless of their race or where they live or their family's economic status or any other defining characteristic. Obviously, the way we think about equity is colored by our particular focus on the Bay Area — a place where there is tremendous opportunity and prosperity being generated, but also where access to those opportunities is limited for many people. So from an institutional point of view, we need to answer the question: How do we make sure that the region prospers in a way that the rising tide lifts all boats?

PND: When you stepped into the top job at TSFF in 2014, the foundation already had a lengthy history of social justice work. How did the decision to focus the foundation's grantmaking on racial and economic equity come about?

FB: Shortly after I came to the foundation, we conducted a listening tour of the Bay Area. As part of that listening tour, we held what we called our VOICE: Bay Area sessions — a series of large public meetings in seven diverse low-income communities across the region. In addition, we held consultative sessions, half-day meetings with practitioners, policy people, and thought leaders to talk about trends, both positive and negative, they were seeing in the region and how those trends were affecting people. We did a lot of data collection and analysis. And the data all pointed in the same direction: the need for greater levels of inclusion here in the Bay Area. The fact that race and economic status and geography had predictive power over where people were headed and what they could accomplish concerned us, and it was important to try to respond to that.

There are two pieces of the foundation's history that we wanted to build on: one is the social justice orientation of our work, and the other is our regional footprint. We serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. So in focusing on the equity issue, we're also thinking about it from a regional point of view. What makes the Bay Area unique is its diversity and prosperity, and yet we are a prime real-time example of the kinds of inequalities and inequities that you see on multiple levels across the country. It's important to us as a unit of analysis because equity and the issues that emanate from it — whether it's economic opportunity or housing or education or criminal justice or civic participation — none of those issues conform neatly to the boundaries of the various jurisdictions in the region. People may live in Oakland or San Francisco or Berkeley or Richmond, but they experience the Bay Area as a region.

What I think I brought to the foundation is a laser-like focus on the dimensions of social justice work with respect to racial and economic inclusion and equity — making sure that that "North Star" is something that is modeled at the top and cascades down through all levels of the organization. I would say that we are more explicit than we've been in the past about making equity the focus — not just in our grantmaking but also in how we work with donors, how we provide civic leadership in the region, and how we bring our voice to the table and those of our partners in order to make a difference. We view that North Star as guiding not only our programmatic work but everything we do here at the foundation.

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5 Questions for...Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation

January 04, 2018

At 40, Lateefah Simon has spent more than half her life as a civil rights advocate and racial justice leader. She was a 17-year-old mother when she went to work for the Center for Young Women's Development and was just 19 when she became the organization's executive director. In the years that followed, she helped position the center as a national leader in the movement to empower young women of color — an achievement for which she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003. She later led the creation of San Francisco's first reentry services division, headed the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and served as a program director at the Rosenberg Foundation, where she helped launch the Leading Edge Fund in support of the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California.

In 2016, Simon became the second president of Akonadi Foundation, whose mission is "to eliminate structural racism that leads to inequity in the United States." PND spoke with her about the work required to build a movement focused on racial equity — and philanthropy's role in that effort.

Philanthropy News Digest: The Akonadi Foundation, which is headquartered in Oakland, is focused on "building a localized racial justice movement." Why is it important for the racial justice movement to act locally?

Headshot_lateefash_simon_2017Lateefah Simon: What those of us in philanthropy and those working on the ground doing movement-building work know is that many of the racialized policies that have divided communities, from juvenile justice to local policing to school policies, have taken place on the municipal level. We also know that our efforts have to be extremely strategic to undo these policies — for example, the disproportionate overuse of school suspensions and expulsions against black and brown students that has been standard policy for many, many years.

To create racial justice in our communities, we have to go deep — to the source, where the policies come from, and also to the culture. Our work is not just about going after and disrupting racist policy but also about ensuring that all communities of color are working together, understanding that one group's organizing, movement-building, and advocacy work will benefit other groups. If we're fighting for anti-gentrification policies in Chinatown, African-American and Latino communities are going to be able to use those efforts to inform their own organizing, and so on.

PND: The foundation takes an "ecosystem" approach to its grantmaking. What do you mean by ecosystem grantmaking, and why do you believe it's the right approach for your movement at this time?

LS: Five years ago, the Akonadi Foundation set out to envision what Oakland could look like in ten years. Oakland has been a cradle of social movements — and is best known, of course, as the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. There's a historical narrative here around race and the interconnectedness of people of color coming together to defeat horrific racist policies; it's our legacy. In our ambition to create a ten-year period of change, our thought was, even as a small foundation, we need to make grants that address the ecosystem in which "justice" is created and delivered. We know that here in Oakland, for example, we have a responsibility to fund base-building groups that are enlisting people willing to fight back, to fund groups that are going to craft policy prescriptions, and groups that will — when those campaigns have succeeded — ensure implementation of those prescriptions as well as follow-up advocacy and legal oversight of the policies.

And just as importantly, we know that if we are pushing communities to organize and fight campaigns, culture has to be at the center of this work; much of our cultural work as people of color is about staking claim to a city we helped build. So thinking about how change happens, about how the people of Oakland move toward justice — it's broad, and must be led by an "ecosystem" of grant partners who are in movement together.

In 2018, we're going to be engaging our grantees and having them give us a better idea of where we are. The world has completely changed in the last year. And because the world has changed, and the conditions of our city have changed, it's important for us to go back and look at our theory of change and redefine and reexamine how ecosystem grantmaking needs to work.

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The False Slogan of 'Right to Work': An Attack on Worker Freedom

December 18, 2017

NoRTW_buttonToday's economy is rigged against working families and in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. That's not by accident. CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding have written the rules that way, advancing their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Now, they're trying to get the rigged system affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. In a few months, the justices will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make so-called "right-to-work" the law of the land in the public sector, threatening the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.

The powerful backers in this case have made no secret about their true agenda. They have publicly said that they want to "defund and defang" unions like the one I lead. They know that unions level the economic playing field. They know that unions give working people the power in numbers to improve their lives and communities and negotiate a fair return on their work while keeping the greed of corporate special interests in check.

Union membership is especially important for people of color, historically providing them with a ladder to the middle class and helping them earn their fair share of the wealth and the value they generate. More than half of African-Americans make less than $15 per hour. But belonging to a union is likely to lead to a substantial pay raise and superior benefits. African-American union members earn 14.7 percent more than their non-union peers. The union advantage for Latinos is even greater: 21.8 percent.

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5 Questions for…Vanessa Daniel, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Fund

December 07, 2017


Groundswell Fund
 is the largest funder of the reproductive justice movement in the United States. In addition to its CatalystRapid Response, and Birth Justice funds, the organization created the Liberation Fund in the wake of the 2016 elections to support effective grassroots organizing efforts led by women and transgender people of color across the social justice sector. A joint project of the Groundswell Fund and the newly created 501(c)(4) Groundswell Action Fund, the Liberation Fund will announce inaugural grants next week to grassroots organizations selected with the help of women leaders of color, including Alicia Garza, Ai-Jen Poo, Mary Hooks, and Linda Sarsour. 

PND spoke with Vanessa Daniel, founder and executive director of the fund, about intersectionality in the context of reproductive justice and racial equity and her hopes for the Liberation Fund. Before founding the fund in 2010, Daniel worked in grassroots organizing, advocacy, and grantmaking at the Tides FoundationSEIU, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and what is now Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Philanthropy News Digest: You founded Groundswell Fund after working to advance LGBTQ rights as well as economic and environmental justice at various organizations. Why did you decide to focus on reproductive justice for women of color, low-income women, and transgender people?

Heashot_vanessa_danielVanessa Daniel: When I first learned about the reproductive justice (RJ) movement in 2005, I had been working in various social justice movements for ten years. The RJ movement had been founded a decade earlier by a group of black women and was on its way to becoming the largest force in the country in terms of engaging a multiracial base of women of color, low-income women, and LGBT people on reproductive issues and as grassroots organizers and activists. I was a young, twenty-something, queer, biracial woman of color from a working-class immigrant family on one side and raised by a second-wave white feminist single mother on the other.

I had, like many women of color, experienced what I lovingly refer to as a lot of bad "movement dates." Have you ever been on a date with someone who orders for you without asking what you want? Or people who talk about themselves the whole time without asking how your day was? Well, you can have the equivalent of that date with a social justice movement. It's not true for every organization, but for example, you have a lot of labor unions that invite women to the table but don't want to talk about reproductive issues, even though these issues are important to women. You have many immigrant rights groups that don't want to talk about LGBT rights, even though there are lots of LGBT people in the immigrant communities they are organizing. You have way too many white feminist organizations inviting women of color to the table and then not talking about race, even though racism is literally killing us. The reproductive justice movement was, quite simply, the best movement date I ever had, because it was the first time I had encountered a movement that didn't require me to leave any piece of myself or anyone I loved at the door in order to enter. I could be whole.

And here's why. There are three hallmarks of RJ: First, it's multi-issue. That means it says to people, yes, we are standing with you on the right to access abortion and contraception, but we are also standing with you to stop environmental pollution that is harming reproductive health; to stop mass incarceration and immigration detention and deportation that continues an ugly legacy of breaking up families of color that dates back to slavery and mission schools and immigration exclusion acts; to expand comprehensive sex ed in the public schools along with non-stigmatizing supports for young parents that don't shame and shut them out of their education; to expand access to birthing options like midwifery that are finally shifting racial disparities that have left black women four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women in this country; to fight for LGBT rights. It's a holistic movement.

Second, it centers grassroots organizing as a strategy. It doesn't believe major social change trickles down from large organizations sitting "inside the beltway"; it believes it surges up from cities and states, from ordinary people holding their elected officials accountable in their home districts.

Third, it is a multiracial movement with significant leadership from women of color working alongside white women who are able to consider things through a racial justice lens. It is tactically impossible to move the needle on most social justice issues today without the leadership and engagement of communities of color, which, polls show us, vote in a more progressive direction down ballot on nearly every issue progressives care about.

The RJ movement exemplifies what it means to build a movement with the backbone to leave no one behind. And that, I believe, is the kind of movement that all social justice activists should be looking to build. RJ is shining a light on the path the larger progressive movement needs to walk in order to be successful.

PND: It's estimated that African-American women in the United States are three to four times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than their white counterparts, while the infant mortality rate for babies of African-American mothers is more than twice that of babies of white mothers. What's behind these racial disparities?

VD: The data has perplexed many scientists, in part because when they control for education levels, economic status, diet and behavior, and other factors, the disparities still show up in the data. This means that middle-class, college-educated black women who take excellent care of their health are still dying at higher rates than low-income white women without a high school diploma. How does one explain that? There is a growing number of scientists, including epidemiologists who believe that racism itself is a major factor in these disparities. First, the racism and implicit bias of many medical practitioners often leads them to provide substandard care to women of color. Many studies back this up; one recent study, for example, shows that people of color, including children of color, are given significantly less pain medication than are white people.

Second, and very importantly, scientists are pointing to the impact that racism, experienced on a daily basis by people of color, has on the body. The midwifery and doula models of care we support are often run by women of color or by a multiracial staff that provides high-quality, culturally competent care. Our grantee Sacred Heart Birthplace in Espanola, New Mexico, has a 2 percent cesarean section rate, compared with a state average of 24 percent, and a 92 percent breastfeeding rate at six months post-delivery, compared with a state average of 26 percent. In Florida, our grantee Common Sense Childbirth has achieved a 0 percent preterm birth rate among black women, compared with the state average of 14.2 percent.

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  • "Public education does not serve a public. It creates a public. And in creating the right kind of public, the schools contribute toward strengthening the spiritual basis of the American Creed. That is how Jefferson understood it, how Horace Mann understood it, how John Dewey understood it, and in fact, there is no other way to understand it...."

    — Neil Postman (1931-2003), American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic

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