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144 posts categorized "Social Justice"

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

December 01, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PND: Since joining BCF in 2013, you've led efforts to engage local residents through the Brooklyn Insights initiative, you've spearheaded the adoption of a Racial Justice Lens, and you've overseen the launch of initiatives focused on low-income communities and communities of color, including the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, a Racial Equity Fund, and the Brooklyn Girls of Color Fund. Are you beginning to see results from those projects and initiatives?

CC: We've certainly seen the impact of the Racial Justice Lens, in that racial justice is now very much at the center and core of our work. We've held ongoing trainings for staff and board members, we've become much better educated about the issue involved, and we've created a Racial Justice Advisory Council comprised of local and national leaders who have been very helpful in helping us define racial justice, think about racial justice advocacy, and shape the process.

The Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project also has been successful. BCF was a catalyst in getting the city's Department of Education to roll out restorative justice programs, which have been shown to be successful in reducing suspensions and disparities in suspensions for students of color and students with special needs. We have four nonprofit grantees working in three high schools and one middle school, and we've already seen a positive impact, not only on the lives of individual students but also in terms of the leadership at these schools and in their communities. We're working with Professor Anne Gregory at Rutgers University-Newark on a four-year evaluation that will gauge the program's efficacy in real time and generate best practices for models of restorative justice. She can already point to reductions in the number of suspensions, but there also are more nuanced results around how people are starting to think about restorative justice that isn't just incident- or reduction-based. For example, lessons learned from the implementation process include the importance of a comprehensive vision of restorative justice that recognizes the humanity and individuality of students and educators; "all in" support from every segment of the school community; prioritizing community-building aspects of the programming; and investment in capacity building and long-term sustainability. At the same time, the DOE, the schools, and our grantees are in constant communication and learning from one another about what works best.

The other two initiatives are brand new. The Racial Equity Fund was launched as a way to engage and educate donors, with the hope of building a significant resource in the form of a permanent or perpetual fund, as opposed to an endowment. And the Brooklyn Girls of Color Fund is still in the research and planning stage. Our thinking before the election was to address the increase in the rate of young women who are incarcerated or confined in alternative or community facilities, although it's now possible that we'll explore other areas of support. We hope to have a plan by mid-2017.

PND: Advancing equity has become a major grantmaking focus for a number of large private foundations, including the Ford, Kellogg, and Weingart foundations. As a community foundation, do you have to take a different approach to that kind of work than a large national foundation?

CC: As a community foundation, we're placed-based by definition, and so we have more flexibility in that we can directly engage and educate donors and do more around advocacy. At the same time, having been created from the legacy of a private foundation, we're not a typical community foundation that's focused on donor services, and because we're young, we're not as tied to a long list of grantees, which gives us a lot of  flexibility. That said, we see ourselves very much aligned with a growing movement among community foundations to rethink what they can be for their communities and to refocus on strategic work, including by engaging local residents directly. Community foundations offer a valuable perspective because they really are the experts on their local communities, and they can bring the voices and points of view of the people who are most in need to the table as the foundation works to develop solutions to various problems. I was inspired by what I learned about the concept of community leadership when I first came to BCF, and that led directly to Brooklyn Insights, which has led to further work with community engagement through our neighborhood strength programs and by directly engaging with our grantees.

We believe deeply in a bottom-up approach. At Sadie Nash, having the young women serve in the leadership of the organization itself taught me that the first-hand experience and expertise on the part of the constituencies you serve is what can and should guide an organization if it hopes to be effective. So when I got to BCF, I said, "Let's open our doors and speak to people in the community and gain expertise that way."

PND: How do you think the 2016 election changes the role of philanthropy in terms of advancing racial justice and equity?

CC: We just had our quarterly board meeting, and there certainly was a marked increase in the sense of urgency and in the board's support for advocacy. We were already planning to create a strategy around advocacy in 2017, and after the election results came in we knew we had to work even harder and invest even more. We already were looking at immigration as an area of focus — Brooklyn's population is 40 percent foreign-born, and it was very much aligned with our racial equity lens — so the board and staff worked together to launch an Immigration Rights Fund right away. The nice thing about community foundations is that they can galvanize the power of the collective. Donors are really looking for ways to be generous and take action in the face of what might happen under a Trump administration, and we can be a resource for them, engaging with and learning from them, and vice versa.

Since the election, we've been gratified to see an increase in support for many community organizations in Brooklyn. It also happens to coincide with our annual appeal, and we've updated our appeal letter because everyone kept asking, "What can I do?" We've also seen a surge in inquiries about volunteering, and we encourage people to look at our list of grantees, all of whom have been vetted through a pretty rigorous system here. We've also begun thinking about special grants in addition to our regular grantmaking; we've already put two in for board approval — one to an immigrant rights organization that works with Muslim communities, and one to an anti-violence organization that is getting many, many calls from Muslims who are being harassed. So we plan to increase our grantmaking to immigrant rights organizations both on an emergency basis and over the long term.

Across the philanthropic sector more broadly, I think we're going to see increased attention to advocacy and policy. Advocacy is work that philanthropy hasn't always been very comfortable with — it's a long-term game, and the results aren't always clear — but I think we're going to see a shift toward increased support for advocacy work. I also think there will be a lot of thinking around immigration and racial justice. One of the very first things BCF is going to do is to gather immigrant rights leaders who are immigrants themselves to learn from them, with the assumption that those who are on the ground and closest to the issue will be able to help us not only to identify problems but also solutions.

Kyoko Uchida

Weekend Link Roundup (October 29-30, 2016)

October 30, 2016

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

Aging

Next Avenue, a public media site dedicated to meeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans, has released its 2016 list of the "advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts who continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older."

Environment

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the NAACP is mounting an effort to convince African Americans that environmental issues are "closely intertwined with health and economic opportunity for black Americans." Zack Coleman and Mark Trumbull report for the Christian Science Monitor.

Fundraising

Regular PhilanTopic contributor Derrick Feldmann has some advice about how foundations can overcome the biggest challenge they face: turning dues-paying members into committed donors.

Giving

For the first time ever, the top spot in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual ranking of the nation's biggest-grossing charities has gone to a public charity affiliated with a financial services firm. What does that mean for charity in America? Caroline Preston reports for The American Prospect.

For Vauhini Vara, a contributing editor for The New Yorker, the Chronicle's finding "seems to symbolize how the wealth gap in the U.S. is having an influence on all spheres of public life." But Brain Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide (which slipped a notch in the Chronicle list after many years there), tells Vara that "[r]eal social change happens when millions of people get involved, average donors get involved, and work collectively on big issues."

Health

Over the first ten years of its existence, the New York State Health Foundation awarded $117 million to more than four hundred grantee organizations to improve the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. To mark its ten-year anniversary, the foundation has released a report with some of the lessons it has learned.

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 8-9, 2016)

October 09, 2016

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

Communications/Marketing

Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has some good advice re the dangers of committee writing and the three-verb fumble.

Disaster Relief

Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, killed more than seven hundred people in Haiti and ravaged the southwestern tip of that impoverished nation. On the Center for Disaster Philanthropy blog, Regine A. Webster answers three questions for donors: When should I give? How should I give? And where should I give?

Derek Kravitz and a team from ProPublica have uncovered documents that purport to show local officials in Louisiana were "irate" over the American Red Cross’ response to the August flooding in that state, the country's worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Education

On Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet blog, author and education expert Alfie Kohn explains why pay-for-performance schemes for students and teachers are counterproductive.

International Affairs/Development

According to the World Bank, "[t]he number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than 100 million across the world despite a sluggish global economy," with 767 million people were living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, down from 881 million people the previous year.

On the UN Foundation blog, Aaron Sherinian shares thumbnail bios of seventeen young people who are working to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nonprofits

With pension costs rising and stock market returns flat, a growing number of municipalities are "looking for ways of taxing what until now have been tax-exempt sacred cows." Elaine S. Povich reports for the Pew Charitable Trust's Stateline initiative.

Beth Kanter has officially announced the launch of her third book, The Happy Health Nonprofit (with Aliza Sherman), which "explores why burnout is so common in the nonprofit sector and simple ways to practice self-care and bring a culture of well-being into the nonprofit workplace." 

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Weekend Link Roundup (August 13-14, 2016)

August 14, 2016

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

African Americans

In a review of Mychal Denzel Smith’s new memoir, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watchingfor the New Republic, Jesse McCarthy reflects on "what has changed in our politics over the course of the Bush and Obama years, and in particular on the reemergence of an activist consciousness in black politics (and youth politics more broadly)."

In Fortune, a seemingly nonplussed Ellen McGirt reports on the Ford Foundation's investment in the Black-Led Movement Fund (BLMF), "a pooled donor fund designed to support the work of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)...." And be sure to check out this profile of the Ford Foundation-led #ReasonsForHope campaign by Fast Company's Ben Paynter.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Is anyone in corporate America measuring the impact of their CSR programs? In Forbes, Ryan Scott shares a few considerations for companies that are approaching impact measurement for the first time.

Data

Intrigued (and a little alarmed) by the decision of the Australian department that manages that country's census to collect and store real names with its census data, Philanthropy 2173's Lucy Bernholz has some good questions for all of us.

Education

Committed reformer or Department of Education apparatchik? Newsweek senior writer Alexander Nazaryan, himself a former New York City school teacher, tries to make sense of the puzzle wrapped in an enigma that is New York City public school chief Carmen Fariña.

In The Atlantic, Emily Deruy reports on the nascent efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement to reshape K-12 education policy at the local, state, and federal levels.

At its recent annual convention, the NAACP approved a resolution that included language calling for a moratorium on the expansion of privately managed charter schools. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss takes a closer look at the issue on her Answer Sheet blog.

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LGBTQ Groups Call for Unity in Wake of Orlando Shooting

June 14, 2016

The following statement of unity was issued yesterday by more than 50+ major LGBTQ organizations and funders in response to the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Arcus Foundation and other signatories, and is available in the following languages:

العربية | Español Français

_________

We the undersigned organizations working on the front lines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement share in the profound grief for those who were killed and many more who were wounded during Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Their lives were lost or forever altered in this devastating act of violence targeting LGBTQ people. Our hearts go out to all the family and friends touched by this horrific act. We know their lives will never be the same again.

This national tragedy happened against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping this country and we must not forget that in this time of grief. Unity and an organized response in the face of hatred is what we owe the fallen and the grieving. Collective resolve across national, racial and political lines will be required to turn the tide against anti-LGBTQ violence. Our response to this horrific act, committed by one individual, will have a deep impact on Muslim communities in this country and around the world. We as an intersectional movement cannot allow anti-Muslim sentiment to be the focal point as it distracts from the larger issue, which is the epidemic of violence that LGBTQ people, including those in the Muslim community, are facing in this country.

The animus and violence toward LGBTQ people is not news to our community. It is our history, and it is our reality. In 1973, 32 LGBTQ people died in an arson fire at an LGBTQ Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans. More than forty years later, similar acts of anti-LGBTQ violence are commonplace. Crimes motivated by bias due to sexual orientation and gender identity were the second largest set of hate crimes documented by the FBI in 2015 (over 20 percent). Murders and violence against transgender people globally have taken more than 2,000 lives over the last nine years. Bias crimes against U.S. immigrant populations, which include significant numbers of LGBTQ people, have increased over the past decade as anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated.

For those of us who carry multiple marginalized identities, the impact of this violence and discrimination has even more severe consequences. These intersectional identities and their ramifications are apparent at every level in the Orlando tragedy, which disproportionately affected Latino/a members of our communities, and has xenophobic consequences that threaten LGBTQ Muslims. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 24 reports of hate violence related homicides in 2015, and 62% of those victims were LGBTQ people of color. Transgender and gender nonconforming people made up 67% of the homicides, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. The violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people has continued into 2016 with 13 reported individual homicides this year alone. NCAVP research on hate violence shows that LGBTQ people experience violence not only by strangers, but also in their everyday environments by employers, coworkers, landlords and neighbors. The Orlando shooting is simply an extreme instance of the kind of violence that LGBTQ people encounter every day.

As LGBTQ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, we know what it looks like and feels like to be scapegoated and isolated in the midst of a crisis that actually requires solidarity, empathy and collaboration from all quarters. We appeal to all in our movement and all who support us to band together in rejecting hatred and violence in all its shape shifting forms. Let us stand united as a diverse LGBTQ community of many faiths, races, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds.

Signed,

The Arcus Foundation
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity, Inc.
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
The Council for Global Equality
Courage Campaign
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom for All Americans
Freedom to Work
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
Gay Men's Health Crisis
The Gill Foundation
GLAAD
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
GLSEN
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
The Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
The Johnson Family Foundation
Lambda Legal
MAP
Marriage Equality USA
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of La Raza
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Minority Aids Council (NMAC)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
OutRight Action International
The Palette Fund
PFLAG National
Pride at Work
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
SpeakOUT Boston
The T*Circle Collective
Tarab NYC
Transgender Education Network of Texas
Trans People of Color Coalition
Transgender Law Center
The Trevor Project
The Williams Institute

[Review] Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change

April 30, 2016

When I think back to the social movements I learned about as a kid — from women's suffrage to civil rights — I picture grainy, black-and-white photos of people, young and old, with picket signs marching through the streets. While social movements today share many of the same elements, they would be largely unrecognizable to the early to mid-twentieth century leaders and social reformers who paved the way for today's activists. In Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, Derrick Feldmann adeptly dissects many of the social movements we've become familiar with, distinguishing them from movements of the past and, in so doing, reveals how contemporary social movements emerge, gain momentum, and, in some cases, sustain themselves long enough to change the world.

Bookcover_social_movements_for_goodFeldmann, the founder of cause engagement firm Achieve (and a regular contributor to Philanthropy News Digest), begins by drawing a distinction between the social movement traditionally understood and social movements for good. The latter, argues Feldmann, "establish a platform of awareness, individual action, outcomes, and sustainable change beyond initial participation and triumph," in contrast to social movements "focused solely on injustice and policy change in the immediate term." The ultimate outcome of a social movement for good may not be policy change but rather continued support and awareness at the level of the individual, as is the case with the "Movember" prostate-awareness campaign that takes place during the month of November.

In addition to this difference in end goals, the vehicles through which social movements for good tend to disseminate their message also differ from those used by more traditional social movements. In an age in which technology affects nearly every aspect of our lives, it shouldn't surprise anyone that it has become a key driver of the way we champion the issues we care about. In fact, our ability to reach potential supporters and champions for the causes we care about has never been greater, thanks to the virtual social networks that connect us. More than mere distribution channels, those networks and platforms have changed the nature of how we communicate. And yet, as Feldmann notes, social movements today "are more challenged than ever to get to the viral stage, given the rise in mass media outlets and the onslaught of shorter messages."

What makes Feldmann's narrative believable is his inclusion of first-person accounts. His interviews with individuals who have actually succeeded in catalyzing social change range from social sector celebrities such as Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, to passionate millennials on college campuses. And while they've all managed to garner a fair amount of public attention and inspire individuals to take action, their narratives also demonstrate that there are many ways to get there. Indeed, their stories reinforce a point that Feldmann makes from the beginning: empathy — a trait we all possess, regardless of age, race, or gender — is at the heart of all social movements.

To illustrate his point, Feldmann tells the story of a marketing campaign that asked Alaskans to donate some of the annual payout they receive from the Alaska Permanent Fund, an endowment funded by the state's mineral royalties, to a nonprofit of their choice. The campaign featured two different messages: "Make Alaska Better" and "Warm Your Heart." The latter resulted in a higher response rate of more than 30 percent than the former and a donation rate of 55 percent — proof, of sorts, that the "warm glow" feeling one gets from helping others isn't just something concocted by fundraising professionals to separate you from your hard-earned cash, but rather one of the key building blocks of any social movement.

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Flint’s Crisis Raises Questions — and Cautions — About the Role of Philanthropy

April 08, 2016

Dirty-bottled-waterThe public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues to unfold before the eyes of the world. For nearly eighteen months, water drawn from the Flint River was sent without proper treatment into the city's infrastructure, corroding aging pipes and fixtures. Lead leached into the water supply and flowed to local homes, schools, and businesses. The results: a near doubling in the number of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood, a wave of other health concerns throughout the community, severely damaged infrastructure, and despair regarding the city's prospects for economic recovery.

This terrible situation in the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation's hometown has sparked numerous questions, including one that should be of interest to every foundation: What is the role of philanthropy in responding to a community in crisis? At Mott, we've felt the need to act immediately on some issues and with great deliberation on others. We've also been called upon to discuss the role of philanthropy in funding infrastructure projects. It's my hope that our experiences thus far might be helpful to other philanthropies that could face similar challenges in the future.

When the high levels of lead exposure among Flint children were revealed in September of 2015, Mott acted quickly to begin the long process of bringing safe drinking water back to our hometown. In addition to a grant of $100,000 to provide residents with home water filters, we pledged $4 million to help reconnect Flint to the Detroit water system. With an additional $6 million from the state of Michigan and $2 million from the city of Flint, that switch took place on October 16.

Our decision to help pay for the switch was a no-brainer. Since our founding ninety years ago, we've had a deep and unwavering commitment to our home community. We couldn't sit on the sidelines while the children of Flint were being harmed. Our role as a catalyst for the return to safer water speaks to one of philanthropy's most valuable attributes: the ability to respond swiftly when disaster strikes to help people meet their basic needs.

But after taking swift action, the question then becomes "What next?"

As important as it was to act quickly to reconnect Flint to the Detroit water system, we also realized that it sometimes makes sense for philanthropies to fight the impulse to make major commitments while a disaster is still unfolding. Two aspects of Flint's water crisis show us why.

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An Alliance for Action — and a Safe Space for Conversations About Race

April 05, 2016

On Easter Sunday, my godson, Elijah, had his first encounter with the police. He is not yet three years old. His mother was pulled over because her Volkswagen Touareg has tinted windows. The tint is legal, and she wasn’t given a ticket. Nonetheless, in thinking about law enforcement and how to explain the situation to Elijah, we all grew anxious. We recognize that this will be one of many discussions we will need to have with him about the law, the police, and discrimination — simply because he is a black boy living in America.

Elijah_marisa_lee_for_PhilanTopicThe lessons we intended to teach Elijah on Easter — how to properly crack an Easter egg, why the Easter bunny brings baskets only to good little boys, and how Peeps expand dramatically in the microwave — were all interrupted by the lessons we felt compelled to start teaching him about what it means to be a black man in America. My cousin, Elijah's mother, is a critical care nurse, her husband a doctor. They live in an affluent neighborhood in Maryland. Yet I can't help but dread the day Elijah stops being seen as "adorable" and begins to be perceived as a "threat." What will we need to tell him then about how to behave in public? Will we stop him from wearing hooded sweatshirts so that others don't automatically think he's a "thug"? Will we tell him he can't run through his own neighborhood with his friends out of fear the police might see them and assume the worst?

Even if we teach him all the "right" things, and even if he actually listens (which, if he's anything like his godmother, he won't), we still won't be able to guarantee his safety. That's the concern that comes with being responsible for a young black man in America. I would never wish for Elijah to be white, but I do wish he didn't have to bear the burden of being a black boy. And the lack of control over the situation I feel surely is only a fraction of the anxiety that must haunt his parents — a shared anxiety that, despite their advanced degrees, fancy jobs, and above-average paychecks, will continue to fester as they, and I, work to guide Elijah safely into adulthood.

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5 Questions for...Pamela Shifman, Executive Director, NoVo Foundation

April 01, 2016

Of the 1.8 billion young people in the world, approximately half — some 900 million — are adolescent girls and young women. In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before the age of 15, 38 percent are married before the age of 18, and more than half never complete their primary school education. In the United States, girls and young women, especially girls and young women of color, face a different but related set of challenges. African-American girls are suspended from school, sent to foster care, and incarcerated at rates higher than other girls. Latina girls have the lowest four-year high-school graduation rates and highest pregnancy rates. And Native-American girls are two and half times more likely to experience sexual assault.

In response to these challenges, the NoVo Foundation, a private foundation created in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett that has long worked in the U.S. and Global South, last week announced a $90 million commitment to support and deepen the movement for girls and young women of color here in the U.S. The day after the announcement, PND spoke via email with Pamela Shifman, the foundation's executive director, about the investment, the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color, and how the initiative complements NoVo's ongoing support for girls and young women in the Global South.

Philanthropy News Digest: I think a lot of people were surprised by the size of the investment NoVo has decided to make in improving the lives of girls and young women of color in the United States. In fact, it's the largest commitment ever made by a private foundation to address the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color. In going "big," is the foundation making a statement about what it elsewhere calls the "invisibility" of girls and young women of color?

Headshot_pamela_shifman_philantopicPamela Shifman: We're making a major investment in this work because it is central to our mission. NoVo has always worked at the intersection of racial and gender justice, and we've included a focus on adolescent girls going back to our inception in 2006. We are a social justice foundation, with a deep commitment to dismantling the structural barriers that perpetuate inequality, so it's always been clear to us that we needed to focus on girls. To date, much of our work with adolescent girls has focused on the Global South. That work is essential to our foundation and will continue to be a significant focus of ours.

But the need is also great in the United States. We began working with girls and young women of color in the U.S. over four years ago and launched an initial strategy in 2014. We've been guided by the groundbreaking work of partners like Sister Sol, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, The Beautiful Project, Young Women Empowered, and many others. Our new commitment will allow us to deepen this work.

As we've pursued grantmaking in this area, we've been struck by the pervasive and deep-seated myth that girls, including girls of color, are doing fine. By being public about our commitment, we hope to join with others in sending a clear message: girls and young women of color face specific disparities that are holding them back. Women of color activists have led a national movement to name and address these disparities, and there is a huge opportunity for philanthropy, government, and others to step up and support this work.

PND: What kinds of structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color do you hope to address through the initiative?

PS: If you look at the lived experience of girls and young women of color, you'll find structural inequities almost everywhere. Let's start with education. According to a landmark report from the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy, across the nation black girls are six times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. Among indigenous girls, almost half, 49 percent, do not finish high school.

Safety — both inside and outside the home — is a huge issue. According to Black Women's Blueprint, 60 percent of black girls experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. Sixty-two percent of Latina girls report not feeling safe in their communities, and indigenous girls are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other girls. Twenty-two trans women and girls were murdered in the US in 2015, with women and girls of color making up a disproportionate number of the victims. The fear and threat of violence shapes every aspect of a girl's life, impacting her mobility, sense of safety, and bodily integrity.

Barriers to economic security also are very real. Thirty-five to 40 percent of Asian-American/Pacific Islander girls, for example, live in poverty, despite a widespread perception that suggests otherwise.

These disparities are deeply unacceptable in their own right, but they're even more troubling when you see how they combine into new disparities in adulthood. Today the median wealth for single black women is just $100, compared to $44,000 for single white men. Inequality starts early, and it must be addressed early if we want to create lasting change.

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If Philanthropy Won’t Take Risks, Who Will?

March 03, 2016

Black lives matter images-GettyAs an activist in the Bay Area for nearly two decades, I worked on the front lines advocating for ideas that were considered "radical" at the time. I led organizations that organized and trained young people to fight for criminal justice reform and gender justice, and I helped organize rallies and protests calling for an end to mass incarceration for youth and adults. All of this work required money, but back then those issues were a tough sell to even the most progressive foundations.

A big part of my work was convincing foundation executives and program officers that previously incarcerated young people were worthy of not just redemption but also of leadership opportunities to shape their own destinies and even the very systems that oppressed them. The foundation leaders who listened believed deeply in our movement's idealism and power; they trusted us and placed big bets. And their gambles made California a more equitable state.

Now that I am in philanthropy, I take those experiences with me. At the Rosenberg Foundation, we spent the past year identifying emerging leaders across California who have the guts, skills, and audacity to take on issues and problems that many have deemed impossible to solve. This month, the foundation is announcing the creation of the Leading Edge Fund, which will invest $2 million over three years in brave leaders with their own radical and far-reaching ideas to fundamentally change how the most disenfranchised Californians experience democracy and freedom.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 2-3, 2016)

January 03, 2016

Jan_fresh_startHappy New Year! Read on for our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. And for more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

In an open letter to friends, supporters, and fellow activists, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Shawn Dove looks back on a year that was filled with "both progression and painful reflection."

Children and Youth

"Spending on children makes up just 10 percent of the federal budget, and that share is likely to fall," write Giridhar Mallya and Martha Davis on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog. In part as a result of that underinvestment, child well-being in the United States ranks 26 on a list of 29 industrialized nations in a UNICEF report. If we want to change that calculus, add Mallya and Davis, "the best thing we can do to give kids a healthy start in 2016 [is to] support parents and families."

Education

Can America's troubled public schools be fixed? In The Atlantic, a group of "leading scholars of, experts on, and advocates for K-12 education" offer reasons to be both discouraged and hopeful.

In Education Week, Doug Allen, principal of the Bessie Nichols School in Edmonton, Alberta, and a member of the Mindful Schools network, offers some reflections for educators on why they should implement a mindfulness practice.

Environment

According to Environmental Health News' Doug Fischer, 2015 was the year that "[c]overage of environmental issues, especially climate change, jumped traditional boundaries to pick up broader — and slightly ominous — geopolitical and health angles."

Environmental Defense Fund's Fred Krupp shares five reasons why 2016 will be a good year for the environment and environmental progress.

Food Insecurity

Before you donate the unwanted canned goods in your pantry to your local foodbank, read this article by the Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz.

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A Journey Toward Social Change Funding Starts With a Simple Step

December 04, 2015

When I came to Surdna Foundation in 2007, I spent several months just talking with people about the foundation and what they knew of it. Thanks in large measure to the extraordinary family and executive leadership up to that point, Surdna had a stellar reputation for creative, impactful grantmaking. But as I dug deeper, I realized that Surdna staff and board didn't have the language to explain why we funded the things we were funding. We couldn't articulate why some things felt right, while others simply didn't make the grade. I helped us get started on a process to carefully examine what we'd been doing for the previous twenty years — and to think together about what it was that was the glue that held that work together. Most of us could feel it and even identify which grants were bull's eyes, and which weren't.

Families_Funding_ChangeSeveral concepts emerged from that examination, concepts that formed the basis of our new mission statement: family, community, sustainability, and social justice. These core concepts felt both broadly consistent with the values that had been set forth by our founder, John E. Andrus, nearly one hundred years ago, and relevant to the work we wanted to do going forward.

Our story suggests that sometimes it only takes the simple step of naming what it is that you care about to begin the journey toward more effective, responsive philanthropy. Since adopting our new mission statement, social justice has become the key to understanding who we are as a family foundation and what work we want to do to help communities thrive across the United States. We're proud to have this process featured in a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy: Families Funding Change: How Social Justice Giving Honors Our Roots and Empowers Communities (16 pages, PDF).

We share with NCRP the view that empowering communities to solve the problems of poverty, injustice, and inequity should become more prominent in the work of foundations, especially family foundations. We have long supported the work of NCRP and the principles they stand for. We have done so even as we have been on our own journey as a funder working towards those principles. We have always believed that learning is a key part of who we are and, really, core to what makes good philanthropy. I encourage you to read the Families Funding Change report and consider how Surdna's experience with social justice philanthropy, and the experiences of other featured funders, can inform your own work.

By choosing to frame our mission as one "grounded in principles of social justice," the board made explicit their understanding that equity and social justice must be a frame of reference for all of our work. Indeed, this framework reflects the values of the family today. Of course, a mission statement is merely words on a page unless it is put at the center of the work. And with our board's leadership, we have kept that mission in mind as we have built grantmaking programs and revamped the foundation strategies and staff. It has been a remarkable thing to see how our explicit naming of social justice has shaped the foundation from the bottom to the top.

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Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

September 21, 2015

Headshot_darren_walkerPhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in December 2013. Enjoy.

In September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

PND: The Ford Foundation has been a long-distance runner when it comes to addressing social issues like poverty. Today, we face some of the most serious social challenges we've seen since the 1960s -- both in terms of holding the line on the progress we've made and in putting forward new solutions designed to help low-income individuals and communities build assets and resilience. Are you discouraged by the magnitude of the challenges we face?

DW: It's easy to be dismayed by the current state of social justice in our country and around the world. But it is important to remember the remarkable progress we have made. There was a time, not too long ago, when every indicator of social mobility for low-income and marginalized communities was improving -- employment among urban black males in the 1990s saw tremendous gains, we saw significant reductions in the level of homelessness, and more African-Americans and Latinos were matriculating to institutions of higher education. Although it wasn't always even, for almost forty years, from the early 1960s through the 1990s, we saw progress. We've fallen back some, so it's particularly important we remember that history and not be discouraged. A certain set of circumstances contributed to the conditions which prevail today. That said, we have faced these problems before and made huge progress in addressing them, and we can do so again.

I am actually hopeful and quite excited about what the Ford Foundation can do to address some of these challenges. There are thousands of new foundations out there, and together we have an opportunity and the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of poor and vulnerable people. That is very exciting. So, no, I am not discouraged. I am energized. We have work to do, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The journey toward justice is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back affair. That process will always be with us.

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Katrina 10: Recovery, Resilience, and a City Back From the Dead

August 29, 2015

Weekend Link Roundup (April 18-19, 2015)

April 19, 2015

National-cherry-blossom-festivalOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Data

How can nonprofits use data to create a culture of continuous improvement. Beth Kanter explains.

Evaluation/Effectiveness

In a post on her Giving Evidence site, Caroline Fiennes suggests that charities are being asked to do too much evaluation -- and presents some evidence to support her argument.

Writing on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Nancy Baughman Csuti, director of research, evaluation and strategic learning at the Colorado Trust, says that funders can and should

engage in deeper conversations with grantees to understand their needs regarding evaluation, continue to provide general operating support, and, with that, encourage time to review results, reflect, and adapt. We can encourage grantees to share what they have learned and provide resources and assistance for them to do so, and do the same ourselves. As funders, we should jump on the opportunities to encourage our grantees to embrace a culture of evaluation and learning that results in seeing problems and solutions differently. And always, we must do ourselves what we ask of grantees....

Human/Civil Rights

Civil society and human rights groups find themselves in a new world characterized by "multiplicity," public disillusionment, and growing non-institutional activism, writes Lucia Nader on the Transformation  blog. And if they want to remain relevant, she adds, they'll need to find a balance "between preserving what has already been achieved, and deconstructing, innovating, reinventing and transforming [themselves]."

Journalism/Media

Is the nonprofit news model sustainable? Based on his reading of Gaining Ground, How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability, a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Inside Philanthropy's Paul M.J. Sucheki has his doubts.

Nonprofits

$23.07/hr. That's Independent Sector's latest estimate of the value of volunteer time. More here

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    — Lao Tzu (605-531 BCE)

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