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Weekend Link Roundup (January 23-24, 2016)

January 24, 2016

Melted_snowman_ice_cubesOur 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

Are the residents of Flint, the majority of whom are black and many of whom are poor, the victims of environmental racism? Would Michigan's state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water if the majority of the city's residents were white and affluent? The New York Times' John Eligon reports.

"Recent events have shone a light on the black experience in dozens of U.S. cities. Behind the riots and the rage, the statistics tell a simple, damning story," writes Richard V. Reeves on the Brookings Institute blog. "Progress toward equality for black Americans has essentially halted." 

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tamara Copeland, president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, writes that, despite the election and re-election of Barack Obama, America is not a post-racial society, and that until the public — and philanthropy — acknowledge that the "negative treatment of a group of people based solely on race is a major contributor to poverty and inequality,...we won't be able to take the steps needed to end racial inequities."

How can America narrow its racial wealth gap? the Annie E. Casey Foundations shares four policy recommendations designed to help low-income families boost their savings and assets, "the currency of the future."

Children and Youth

On First Focus' Voices for Kids blog, Karen Howard shares the five things every presidential candidate needs to know about poverty among America's youngest children.

On the Chronicle of Social Change site, Inside Philanthropy's Kiersten Marek takes a closer look at what new leadership at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation — Peter Laugharn is the first non-Hilton family member to lead the foundation — and a doubling of assets is likely to mean for the foundation's future support of child welfare initiatives.

Community Improvement/Development

Returning to the subject of the most popular post on his blog in 2015, "trickle-down" community engagement, Vu Le argues that communities of color and other marginalized communities too often are "infantalized" by funders, a dynamic that plays out in a number of ways: a lack of trust that communities have solutions to their own problems; unrealistic expectations for communities to "get along"; and demands for communities to prove themselves with little initial support. Instead, writes Le, "[w]hy don't we try the reverse for once, and invest significant amounts in organizations led by the people who know first-hand the inequity they are trying to address." We are tired, he adds,

[of] being asked to attend more forums, summits, focus groups, answer more surveys, rally our community members, only for our opinions to be dismissed. One funder told me, "Communities need to stop complaining and start proposing solutions."

We have been. We propose solutions all the time. But if there's no trust that we actually know what we're talking about, if there's no faith that the qualitative experiences and perspectives of people who have lived through decades of social injustice are just as valid as double-blind quantitative meta-studies written up in a glossy white paper or whatever, then what's the point? The investments will be token, oftentimes trickled-down, and then that will be used to say, "You know what, we invested in you, and it didn't lead to what we wanted," further perpetuating the cycle....

In his last blog post as president of the Vermont Community Foundation, Stuart Comstock-Gay, who is leaving VCF after seven years for the top job at the Delaware Community Foundation, reflects on four questions that all Vermonters — and many other Americans — should be asking themselves.


"You may be swamped with data," says Michael Jordan, the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, "but you're not swamped with relevant data. Even in a huge database, there is often only a small amount of it that is relevant." On the Cal site, Wallace Ravven reports on the efforts of Jordan and his colleagues to extract key information from huge amounts of data by combining computer science and statistics.


Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, has a good post on  the Huffington Post's Davos blog about the ways in which impact investing is "revolutionizing" conservation efforts globally.


We all know that when it comes to giving, taxes are important. But according to a recent study of high-net worth philanthropy by U.S. Trust and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, we might be surprised by just how much they matter. Andrew Blackman reports for MarketWatch.


Social Velocity's Nell Edgington has a good post on an always sensitive topic: the fidiciary responsibilities of the board.

International Affairs/Development

On the final day of the World Economic Forum, a distinguished panel moderated by Janine di Giovanni, the Middle East correspondent for Newsweek, discusses the historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals adopted by more than a hundred and fifty world leaders in September. (Video; running time: 56:26)

On the HistPhil blog, Helen Anne Curry, Peter Lipton Lecturer in the History of Modern Science and Technology at the University of Cambridge, explores how the Rockefeller Foundation's "involvement in the conservation of crop biodiversity offers insights into how the foundation navigated the science and politics of a problem that it had itself contributed significantly to generating." 


In a piece on the NeimanLab site, newspaper industry veteran Ken Doctor says the nonprofit reorganization of Philadelphia's two major newspapers (and their joint online portal) so that they can continue to operate as they been as money-losing for-profit entities is NOT the future of the newspaper industry. The problem, writes Doctor, is that the folks who own the papers "don't have a big vision or plan for the future....[And sprinkling] some nonprofit pixie dust won't save the newspaper industry. Only new ideas can do that."

Open Initiatives

On the Hewlett Foundation's Work in Progress blog, Hewlett president Larry Kramer applauds the work of Creative Commons, a Hewlett grantee, whose "open licenses — now used in connection with more than a billion works — provide the legal underpinning for sharing... [and whose] leadership has been pivotal in shaping a new understanding of the importance and feasibility of making art and research and all manner of information easily accessible and useable."


On the PhilanthroFiles blog, the Helen J. Serini Foundation's Kerry McHugh and Katherine Palms of the HP Family Foundation share some good advice designed to help older family members introduce their millennial kids and grandkids to "the wonderful, incredible, and challenging ride that we all know philanthropy can be."

And in an article written for Project Syndicate, Bill Gates argues that while "[t]here is good reason for optimism about progress on reducing inequity...[s]uccess will require political will, global cooperation, and human ingenuity." For its part, Gates writes, the Gates Foundation will continue to support institutions that have helped it get to where it is now; will endeavor to empower women and girls globally; and will invest in innovation.

That's it for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org or via the comments section below....

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