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Weekend Link Roundup (March 5-6, 2016)

March 06, 2016

Ronald_Reagan_and_Nancy_Reagan_aboard_a_boat_in_California_1964 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....

Climate Change

After months of negotiation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fossil Free MIT have reached an agreement that will end the group's sit-in in front of the school's administrative offices. The plan agreed on by MIT and the student-led group includes four "action areas": moving toward campus carbon neutrality as soon as possible; establishing a climate action advisory committee to consult on the implementation of the Plan for Action; developing a set of strategies and benchmarks for MIT's engagement with industry, government, and other institutions; and convening a forum on the ethics of the climate issue. In response to a recent essay in the Boston Review titled "Carbon on Campus," Benjamin Franta argues that campus divestment efforts like the one at MIT are not "primarily [designed] to starve big carbon of capital," but rather "to force hard, accountable moral analyses to take place and...put an end to equivocation and dissembling on climate change by demanding action involving real money.  [Moreover doing] so helps to shift institutional and social norms and to democratize the climate debate." 

Criminal Justice

More than two decades after the federal government prohibited taxpayer dollars from being used for college-degree programs in prisons, forty-seven states have applied to participate in a Department of Education that makes Pell grant dollars available to inmates. The AP's Donna Gordon Blakenship reports.


The television commercials are charming. But Forbes contributor Bernard Marr thinks Watson, IBM's natural language analytics platform, just might be the solution to the big data skills gap in America.


Bob Dylan -- or at least an archive of his work dating back to his earliest days -- is going "home," spiritually speaking, to Oklahoma (Woody Guthrie's birthplace), thanks to the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation. The New York Times' Ben Sisario untangles the story behind the gift.


The Oakland-based New Schools Venture Fund has announced its first group of Diverse Leaders ventures -- part of an initiative by NSVF to improve public education in America by supporting a community of entrepreneurs who are committed to changing the face of K-12 leadership and being truly inclusive.

"Research findings have made clear the persistence of strong connections between arts learning in earlier years and overall academic success and pro-social outcomes," writes Marinell Rousmaniere in the Boston Globe. "[And for] the past six years, Boston has been ahead of the curve reinvesting in arts education by generating, and sustaining, a collective effort in the city among the public, private, and philanthropic sectors...."


Even as it scrambles to respond to the lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan, the Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation found itself in the spotlight last week, as a group organized through Facebook traveled to Miami, scene of the this year's Environmental Grantmakers Association annual conference,  to protest the foundation's controlling interest in U.S. Sugar, a major polluter of the Florida Everglades. Deirdra Funcheon reports for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.

Higher Education

Only 14 percent of the nearly two million students enrolled at the top 256 institutions of higher education in the U.S. come from the lower 50 percent of American households by family income. "Many factors cause this discrepancy," writes Daniel R. Porterfield, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, in Forbes, "but a huge factor is the lack of investment, across the board, in financial aid." In his piece, Porterfield spotlights the efforts of Philadelphia-based philanthropists Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest to change the equation for talented low-income students from small towns and agricultural communities in Pennsylvania.

"Sometimes it takes a calamity...to get people mobilized about something they care about." The Washington Post's Susan Svrluga reports on how the alumnae of Sweet Briar College, an all-women's school in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, saved the school from near-collapse and may have created "a national model for sustaining both liberal arts and women's education."


From Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Greenville, South Carolina, Chicago to Los Angeles, segregation based on income segregation has become a defining force. Indeed, Robert D. Putnam, the Harvard-based political scientist, argues that "the biggest threat to national cohesion is not the income inequality that has drawn so much scrutiny from the news media and the political class, but the social segregation" — in where people live, where they go to school, and whom they marry — "that inequality has helped to create." The Boston Globe's David Scharfenberg reports.


The folks at the Nonprofit Tech for Good site have pulled together a good list of useful apps and online tools for nonprofits.


On the National Center for Family Philanthropy blog, Katherine Lorenz, president of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (click here to read our recent Q&A with her), explains why, today more than ever, it's important for family foundations "to take a united stand in favor of overhead."

"There is an important opportunity for philanthropy as we celebrate the 50th anniversaries of many more civil rights victories over the next few years," writes NCRP field director Jeanné Isler in a blog post recounting a conversation she had, five years ago, with Black Panther Party founding chair Bobby Seale. "I have seen many foundations engage civil rights elders to learn about successful strategies that might be replicated or built on today. But it is rare for foundations to ask these elders what philanthropy did right, and what philanthropy could have done better to support their efforts."

"[W]hat we have learned [over years of funding policy groups] is that well-financed, savvy, and nimble grantees are essential to making change happen," writes Phillip Henderson, president of the Surdna Foundation, on the Surdna website. "Because the windows of possibility for change often open and close with little warning," adds Henderson, "flexibility is paramount. As funders we need to continually ask ourselves — and our grantees — if we are doing enough. Are we giving our nonprofit partners the resources they need to sustain an argument? To sustain a policy fight and deliver victory? — knowing that victory is more often than not incremental.

The Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments has announced "a new strategic focus that includes making the Pittsburgh area more sustainable with initiatives [focused on] clean air and water, green and energy-efficient buildings, healthy food, and plenty of services for veterans and military families." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Joyce Gannon reports.

In the Harvard Business Review, Paula Goldman, vice president and global lead for impact investing at Omidyar Network, has some good advice for business leaders who are questioning the traditional divide between commerce and philanthropy.


And the Center for Effective Philanthropy has issued a new report, Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency (52 pages, PDF), that examines a number of important questions related to foundation transparency, including: Who do foundation CEOs see as the key audiences for transparency? How do foundation CEOs define transparency? And how transparent do foundation CEOs currently believe their foundations are?

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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