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6 posts from August 2022

Sustaining progressive change through community-based participatory research: A commentary by Sarah Bobrow-Williams

August 12, 2022

Doctor_woman_patient_GettyImages_croppedHow many of us have spent countless days producing exacting research reports informing the most salient social issues today—only to find a box of undistributed reports in the office storage closet a year later? Even the most impactful research aimed at influencing public policy makers and other targeted audiences has a short shelf-life. By contrast, participatory action research (PAR), also known as community-based participatory research, can make a far greater, longer-term impact—especially when the intended audience for the research includes communities that are the most marginalized and affected by the issues being studied.

Many marginalized communities have long and often sensitive histories of being “researched”—being the object of the research, while the job of identifying, defining, and assessing the issues is left to outside “experts.” Regrettably, excluding instead of centering the expertise of community members who are directly impacted by the issues not only leaves them feeling used but is a missed opportunity to catalyze and sustain progressive community change on many levels.

Those of us who have worked alongside communities have witnessed the consternation and dispiritedness felt by individuals when they are placed under the microscope without being given the opportunity to define challenges as they experience them. This omission also precludes the synergy and devotion that is often generated by problem solving from multiple perspectives. Conversely, community-based participatory research offers a collective, dialogic process for expression, reflection, perspective taking, and information sharing, and, ultimately, creative solution-based action among stakeholders. This process helps form a nexus of dynamic connections and relationships that can lead to sustained change over the long term....

Read the full commentary by Sarah Bobrow-Williams, a community-based participatory research consultant for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI).

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Review: 'Choose Abundance'

August 10, 2022

Book cover_Choose AbandanceIn his 1989 best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey coined the terms “abundance mindset,” the belief in a benevolent world rich in resources, and “scarcity mindset,” the belief in a competitive world lacking in resources. Three decades on, most of us are still struggling to choose abundance over a scarcity mindset. Every day, we’re besieged with messages from a consumer culture that encourages the desire for new things and manifests the fear of not having enough. As Lynne Twist notes in her book, The Soul of Money, which Laurie Herrick considers required reading: “This mantra of not enough carries the day and becomes a kind of default setting for our thinking about everything, from the cash in our pocket to the people we love or the value of our own lives.” In this environment, can a nonprofit organization made up of complicated individuals choose abundance? Yes! In her book Choose Abundance: Powerful Fundraising for Nonprofits — A Culture of Philanthropy, Herrick, founder and president of Rainmaker Consulting, reveals step by step how nonprofit staff and their organizations can choose abundance by building a “culture of philanthropy” and reframing their attitudes toward fundraising.

What is a “culture of philanthropy”? After stating her preferred gender-neutral definition of philanthropy, “love of humankind,” Herrick explains, “A Culture of Philanthropy exists when organization-wide attitudes, actions and systems reflect an understanding, respect and responsibility for philanthropy’s role in the success of the organization.” In this culture, all stakeholders within the organization and in the larger community are engaged and active in advancing the cause through their individual strengths. Everyone has something to offer, whether financial assets, time, wisdom, experience, connections, or special skills. A culture based on deep relationships and a common goal opens the door to infinite possibilities....

Read the full book review by Kati Neiheisel, senior liaison at Candid.

'Resiliency care' for unhoused people: A commentary by Kris Kepler

August 08, 2022

Homelessness_seattle_credit_Phil_Augustavo_GettyImages-533775261When we first met Kevin, he was living in a shelter, having struggled earlier in life, he says, with “poor decisions, procrastination, and self-loathing.” He came to the LavaMaeX’s site in Gladys Park, in the heart of Skid Row, once or twice a week to take a shower or spend time talking to our staff. This spring he finished his junior year at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Kevin was able to turn his life around with the help of numerous nonprofits, including LavaMaeX, which provides mobile showers and other essential care services for unhoused people and teaches organizations around the world to do the same. “LavaMaex helped me get clean when I was dirty, both inside and out,” he says. “They offered welcoming faces and clean, amazing showers when the local shelters could not consistently do so.”

Our services and Radical Hospitality approach—meeting people wherever they are with extraordinary care—gave Kevin the dignity and hope he needed to heal, find work, and return to school. His story is a perfect example of how crucial “resiliency care” delivered through ongoing relationships can be for unhoused people. There is no grantmaking category for this—we don’t see any funders focused on what to do for people on the streets who can’t access or don’t feel served by traditional services. It’s time to rethink that—particularly now, with homelessness in the United States continuing to rise....

Read the full commentary by Kris Kepler, CEO of LavaMaeX.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Phil Augustavo)

The sustainable nonprofit: An opportunity to take stock and reset

August 05, 2022

Setback_woman_head_down_with_laptop_GettyImages_PoikeBy inspiring large numbers of people to take sustained action, leaders can turn a cause into a social movement with everyone working in concert to achieve a specific change. Cultural and societal norms do not shift easily, however, so painstaking efforts are required to move them incrementally to a place where the desired change can actually take place–in policy, legislation, behavior, etc. But what happens to a social movement’s supporters when progress seems slow or when they think all their efforts have been undone?

I’m thinking, of course, of two currently high-profile social movements–one aimed at protecting a woman’s right to an abortion, the other seeking additional measures to control guns–that some social movement leaders see as having experienced setbacks. Though I won’t debate the merits of any strategies or positions related specifically to these issues, we can keep them in mind as examples when discussing how social movement leaders should respond to inevitable setbacks....

Social movement leaders should view any setback as a prime opportunity to take stock and reset in certain areas to strengthen community....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, founder of the Millennial Impact Project and lead researcher at Cause & Social Influence.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Poike)

Ensuring equitable access to mental health care in communities of color: A commentary by Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.

August 03, 2022

Youth_mental_health_FatCamera_GettyImages-1317882681All people deserve equitable access to quality and comprehensive mental health care. But unfortunately, some of the populations most in need of such care have historically been, and continue to be, the most underserved.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress such as sadness, hopelessness, and feeling like everything is an effort. And according to one survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Latinx adults reported significantly higher rates of depression during the pandemic compared with other populations. Yet in 2020, only one in three Black adults with mental health conditions received treatment. And only 10 percent of Latinx people with a psychological disorder contacted a mental health specialist.

We at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have been reflecting on these disparities during July in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named after a pioneering mother who strove to end stigma associated with mental illness, particularly in communities of color. But we must also commit beyond raising awareness—to taking action....

Read the full commentary by Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

(Photo credit: Getty Images/FatCamera)

Learning environments that prioritize trust building: A commentary by Cierra Kaler-Jones and Jaime T. Koppel

August 01, 2022

Female_teacher_middleschool_class_GettyImagesIn the last 20 years, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office moved more than $1 billion in grants for school policing, hardening, and militarization. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed quickly in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, is another effort that advances the illusion of “school safety” by increasing funding for police in schools, threat assessments, and school hardening—despite significant evidence that surveillance technologies and police presence undermine students’ trust. According to the U.S. Department of Education, millions of students attend schools where there are police officers but no counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers. Further, Black and brown students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities face the brunt of the harms of policing. Since investments in school policing have ballooned in recent years, many students and staff have never been in a school without police and policing infrastructure. This reinforces the myth that safety comes from police. Why keep investing in a strategy that’s never worked?

Philanthropy is too often complicit in these efforts. As a sector, we overwhelmingly invest in tidy policy wins that seem attainable within a grant cycle or two. We privilege groups with larger budgets, typically because we believe they have the greatest likelihood of “winning”....

Read the full commentary by Jaime T. Koppel and Cierra Kaler-Jones, co-director and director of storytelling at Communities for Just Schools Fund.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

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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