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8 posts from February 2022

Child mental health and social risks: A Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine

February 28, 2022

Headshot_Andrea_Spencer_Boston_Medical_CenterA study led by researchers at Boston Medical Center found that the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw increased depression, anxiety, and social risks among urban children of color between the ages of 5 and 11. Based on surveys of caregivers of 168 children—of whom 54 percent of identified as “non-Hispanic Black” and 29 percent as “Hispanic” and 22 percent were non-English speaking—rates of emotional and behavioral symptoms rose from 8 percent in September 2019 to 18 percent in January 2021. The children’s families also faced higher social risks during the pandemic, with 50 percent reporting food insecurity mid-pandemic, up from 16 percent; 38 percent having difficulty paying bills, up from 16 percent; 12 percent reporting housing insecurity, up from 3 percent; 10 percent having difficulty with dependent care, up from 1 percent; and 10 percent experiencing unemployment, up from 3 percent.

According to the study, the share of children with depression and anxiety problems increased from 5 percent pre-pandemic to 18 percent mid-pandemic. The study also found that, while mental health symptoms in children were significantly correlated with the number of social risks before the pandemic, this was not the case mid-pandemic; the symptoms were worse due to factors beyond those unmet social needs, such as their caregivers’ anxiety or depression.

The study’s lead author, Andrea E. Spencer, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center, and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine. PND asked Spencer about the study’s implications for public health, health equity, and public policy.

Philanthropy News Digest: The study, “Changes in psychosocial functioning among urban, school‑age children during the COVID‑19 pandemic,” found that before the pandemic, the children’s emotional and behavioral symptoms were associated with unmet social needs such as food or housing insecurity. How significant was the correlation, and what are the implications?

Andrea E. Spencer: Our clinic screens for mental health symptoms and social needs as part of routine child annual visits to be sure we know when a child and family is struggling with symptoms or needs that we might be able to address at our hospital or via our partnership with community organizations. For the study, we were able to access this information from participants’ medical records to obtain a pre-pandemic baseline.

We saw a significant and moderate correlation between unmet social needs and emotional/behavioral symptoms before the pandemic. This is similar to our findings in another paper published several years ago that also used data from our electronic medical record system. The significance of the finding refers to the probability that random chance generated the data. A small p-value means that the results are very unusual if they were due to chance only. We set our significance level at 0.05, which means that we considered the finding “statistically significant” if there was a 5 percent or lower random chance of getting that result if there really is no correlation. The correlation between unmet social needs and mental health symptoms before the pandemic was in fact highly significant with a p value of less than 0.001—meaning that this finding would have been generated only 0.1 percent of the time if only due to chance. The moderate correlation indicates that as social risks increased, mental health symptoms also increased, but that this relationship is not perfectly linear. This makes sense, because we know there are other factors that relate to child mental health other than social risks. What this doesn’t specifically tell us is the directionality of the association.

PND: The study also found that during the pandemic, by contrast, the children’s symptoms were not significantly correlated with unmet needs, knowing someone with COVID-19, or exposure to COVID-related media. What, then, are the factors that contributed to the jump in children’s mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression?

AES: In our study, the increase in anxiety and depression symptoms during the pandemic were associated with increased screen time, low school engagement, and parent depression symptoms. In addition, families felt that the lack of activities outside of the house, the change in normal routines, social isolation, stress and fear of COVID-19, and lack of physical activity were negatively impacting their child’s well-being....

Read the full Q&A with Andrea E. Spencer, director for pediatric integrated behavioral health care at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

‘How do the humanities figure in a socially just world?’: A Q&A with Phillip Brian Harper, Program Director for Higher Learning, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

February 24, 2022

Headshot_Phillip_Brian_Harper_mellon_foundationPhillip Brian Harper joined the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in October 2020 as program director for the new Higher Education grantmamking area. As part of the foundation’s new strategy to prioritize social justice in all of its grantmaking, the program supports inclusive humanities education and diverse learning environments, with a focus on historically underserved populations, including nontraditional and incarcerated students. In January 2022, the foundation announced grants totaling $16.1 million to 12 liberal arts colleges in support of social justice-oriented curricular development in the humanities.

A literary scholar and cultural critic, Harper previously served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University and, prior to that, taught at Harvard University and Brandeis University. He is the author of Framing the Margins: The Social Logic of Postmodern Culture (1994); Are We Not Men? Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African-American Identity (1996); Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations (1999); and Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture (2015).

PND asked Harper about the Humanities for All Times initiative, the role of a humanities education in advancing social justice, and the insights he brings to those philanthropic efforts as an academic and a writer.

Philanthropy News Digest: The grants awarded through the Humanities for All Times initiative will support curricula “that both instruct students in methods of humanities practice and clearly demonstrate those methods’ relevance to broader social justice pursuits.” Can you give an example of what such a curriculum might include?

Phillip Brian Harper: Yes, it would include courses that not only familiarize students with certain bodies of knowledge that are relevant to humanities inquiry—accessible, for instance, through a specific set of texts or in a particular archive—but also consciously and explicitly train students in humanities methods for conducting research and analysis on relevant materials: archival investigation, textual interpretation, oral history interviewing, etc.

Furthermore, it would provide students with some concrete demonstration of how those methods can be put to use in real-world social justice work. To give an example, one of the institutions that has received a Humanities for All Times grant, Austin College, will establish 18 different “humanities labs,” each of which would focus on a pressing social justice challenge—for instance, contestations over the definition of U.S. citizenship, appropriate modes of historical memorialization, or medical ethics questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic—and deploy humanities methods in exploring potential solutions to it....

Read the full Q&A with Phillip Brian Harper, Program Director for Higher Learning, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Career insights: Four strategies for retaining top talent

February 22, 2022

Diverse_women_GettyImagesRetaining employees during the ‘Great Resignation’

We are in the midst of an extraordinary period of change in the talent market. The “Great Resignation” is a phenomenon that is impacting every sector and level of talent and is leading to fierce competition for leaders. As a recruiter focused on the nonprofit sector, I see the effects of this situation in my daily conversations with candidates and hiring managers. Candidates are in demand and talented leaders are very open to new opportunities. Hiring managers are losing team members and facing very difficult searches to replace them at a higher rate than ever.

According a September 2021 report from McKinsey, record numbers of employees are quitting or thinking about leaving their jobs: 40 percent of employees said that they were at least somewhat likely to leave their current job in the next three to six months, and 53 percent of talent management professionals reported greater voluntary turnover than in prior years.

It’s critical that managers and leaders understand what’s driving this trend and take steps to retain talent. Here are four things you can start doing right now to help ensure that your top performers stay with your organization and remain engaged....

Read the full column article by Molly Brennan, founding partner at executive search firm Koya Partners.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Philanthropy must support students who learn differently—where they are: A commentary by Marcus Soutra

February 15, 2022

Eye_to_eye_capitolTo fund anti-ableism solutions, listen to students

I was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia in the third grade, but it wasn’t until I misspelled “Wednesday” at my first teaching job that people outside my inner circle knew. One in five Americans have some form of learning disability, yet many still choose to live their lives in the shadows—due to shame and isolation.

As the president of Eye to Eye, a nonprofit that supports individuals with learning disabilities, I find this unacceptable. The stigma that surrounds learning disabilities should not persist in 2022. Having ADHD and dyslexia doesn’t mean you are “difficult” or “lazy.” It means you take in information differently.

Funding for invaluable resources and tools has the potential to chip away at this stigma. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom included $60 million for early childhood dyslexia screening and other advancements for young children in his 2022-23 budget. In the philanthropic world, Charles Schwab, who himself has dyslexia, pledged $20 million in 2019 to an initiative to study dyslexia and other learning disorders.

While it’s fabulous that such leaders are putting the power of government and philanthropy behind research and early screening, the funding must go beyond that goal. Philanthropy must support students who learn differently where they are—so they feel seen, heard, valued, and empowered to build community and act or advocate for what they need to be successful. Right now, the system they are in perpetuates the stigma that forces so many to hide their true selves....

Read the full commentary by Marcus Soutra, president of Eye to Eye.

(Photo credit: Eye to Eye)

Integrating a focus on equity into our processes: A Q&A with Katy Knight, Executive Director and President, Siegel Family Endowment

February 11, 2022

Headshot_Katy_Knight_Siegel_Family_EndowmentKaty Knight is executive director and president of Siegel Family Endowment, a foundation focused on understanding and shaping the impact of technology on society.  Knight joined the foundation in 2017 as deputy executive director. Her earlier career included working on community engagement at financial sciences company Two Sigma; various positions at Google, most notably on the public affairs team; and roles in education, technology, and community-based organizations. She also previously served on her local Community Board in Queens, New York, and earned recognition in 2015 as a 40 Under 40 Rising Star in City & State. In addition, she serves on the boards of a number of nonprofits, including READ Alliance, CSforALL, Pursuit, and the Regional Plan Association.

PND asked Knight about philanthropy’s influence on infrastructure, the sector’s approach to equity, Big Tech’s impact and philanthropy’s technological future outlook, the politicization of science, and how philanthropy could fill gaps and drive change in education and workforce development.

Philanthropy News Digest: You’ve stated that you believe philanthropy should champion a new definition of infrastructure—like a bridge between social impact work and the infrastructure all communities need to thrive. What does that look like?

Katy Knight: The old definition of infrastructure is outdated: In the 21st century, the systems that are supposed to serve us all are more than just bridges, tunnels, and highways. Infrastructure today means broadband, satellite arrays, data, public spaces like libraries and parks, and more. We see infrastructure as multidimensional—meaning it includes physical, digital, and social elements.

Collectively, we need to recognize the multidimensional nature of infrastructure in order to design, govern, and fund it in a way that actually serves and benefits everyone in every community. As philanthropists, we can help advance and then implement this thinking by demonstrating what’s possible when it comes to infrastructure. We invest in organizations and initiatives that take an ecosystem approach, accounting for the physical, social, and digital dimensions of their impact....

Read the full Q&A with Katy Knight, executive director and president of Siegel Family Endowment.

Equitable application processes in the social innovation space: A commentary by Sarah Gass, Noam Lindenbaum, and Emily Lezin

February 09, 2022

Business_handshake_fundraising_GettyImagesCreating more equitable application processes

Social entrepreneurs who apply to a program, fellowship, or funding opportunity are essentially raising their hands to say, “I have a vision for the future, and I want to take my best shot at making it a reality.” At UpStart, we support a network of entrepreneurial Jewish ventures and leaders—and we know that every decision we make on an application can have long-term implications for what our community looks like and who receives support in building it.

In October 2021, our friends at the Harvard Kennedy School of Social Innovation + Change Initiative (SICI) published “Transparent Gatekeeping: Part 2,” which sheds light on their application and selection processes in the (secular) social innovation space. Given UpStart’s role in shaping this space within the Jewish community, we wanted to take a page from SICI’s playbook and share the changes we’ve implemented in our own application and selection processes.

Our learning journey

As conveners of a network of Jewish social entrepreneurs, we take seriously our responsibility to not only level the playing field in selection and recruitment, but also develop what we call “equity-informed entrepreneurial leaders”—leaders with the capacity to acknowledge, account for, and disrupt systemic inequities as they build new Jewish initiatives. We’re sharing these changes in hopes that those in our network and beyond will be inspired to create more equitable application and selection processes....

Read the full commentary by Sarah Gass, Emily Lezin, and Noam Lindenbaum, director and program experience coordinator of the Entrepreneurs and Ventures and program operations associate in the Intrapreneurs and Institutions program, respectively, at UpStart.

The sustainable nonprofit: 'Influencing Young Americans to Act: 2021 Year in Review'

February 07, 2022

Youth_social_media_rawpixel_McKinseyWe just published our final research report for 2021 on the social issues, movements, and causes sparking interest in young Americans (ages 18-30) as reflected by their actions and who influenced their behaviors. We saw three major themes emerge over the course of the year:

a) Digital and out-of-home (OOH) experiences influence awareness and action.

b) Issues and actions remain consistent despite major moments.

c) Mental health is an ongoing concern.

Influence comes through digital and out of home (OOH) experiences

Even as restrictions imposed by the ongoing pandemic continued into 2021, so too did evidence that digital participation in social issues complements but does not replace offline engagement. Our 2021 research shows that calls to action still reach most young Americans through social media platforms, as continually evidenced in newer platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok; however, digital platforms are an “and” and not an “or” medium.

Young people are influenced digitally and in other ways, including what marketers refer to as OOH experiences, even in a pandemic. We also found that moments witnessed firsthand via experiential marketing, billboards, and other exposure influence this age group to take action.

Recommendation: Those working to address social issues must consider both digital and OOH when trying to influence this cohort to act in support of their specific causes. While influencers, content creators, and those with a platform inform and generate awareness, their efforts must be coupled with additional strategies (such as OOH and experiential marketing) to saturate the social issue space enough to influence desired behaviors....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

(Photo credit: rawpixel/McKinsey)

Climate change adaptation networks and collaboratives: A commentary by Melissa Ocana

February 02, 2022

New_orleans_hurricane_katrina_David_Mark_pixabayClimate adaptation networks drive resilience and transformation

The challenges local governments and nonprofits face today are almost absurdly daunting. Setting aside the perennial struggle to reconcile ever-growing needs and ever-shrinking budgets, the pandemic has devastated community health and local economies. Then there’s the massive, long-term challenge that exacerbates everything: the unprecedented storms, floods, fires, droughts, and heat waves of a changing climate.

Yet some local government and nonprofit staff charged with preparing for the effects of climate change have found hope—and help—in an unlikely source: their peers in other cities, near and far, in their region, and across the country. And philanthropy is playing an important role in nurturing these connections.

Networks offer a solution

Today, climate change adaptation networks and collaboratives are sprouting across the country, bringing people together for coordinated action and learning to protect human and natural communities.

Climate change is a complex and all-encompassing challenge, which requires innovative, multidisciplinary, cross-sectoral, and cross-government solutions. Climate adaptation networks foster connections among people who might not otherwise cross paths, and serve as structures for building capacity and expertise that enable more effective responses to climate change, from planning to implementing projects on the ground. By investing in these nascent efforts, funders can target their support to the frontline professionals best positioned to build resilience and transformation in response to climate impacts....

Read the full commentary by Melissa Ocana, the climate adaptation coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Extension and founder of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP)-affiliated Network of Networks Group.

(Photo credit: David Mark via pixabay)

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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