211 posts categorized "African Americans"

Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

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[Review] 'You Can't Be What You Can't See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives'

September 26, 2018

Concrete, practicable solutions to society's urgent challenges are rare, in part because the debate around such issues too often is driven by philosophical differences and partisan political calculation. What is needed instead are compelling stories that explain those challenges through the eyes of the people affected and suggest possible solutions based on their lived reality. You Cant Be What You Can't See, by Milbrey W. McLaughlin, tells one such story.

Book_you_cant_be_what_you_cant_seeIn the book, McLaughlin, the David Jack Professor Emeritus of Education and Public Policy at Stanford University and founding director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, documents what happened to more than seven hundred young people from Chicago's Cabrini-Green public housing project who participated in CYCLE, an out-of-school-time tutoring program started in 1978 in the basement of Cabrini-Green's LaSalle Street Church. Over the next decade and a half the program evolved into a comprehensive afterschool and summer support program for neighborhood youth, the history of which McLaughlin traces through the lives of the young people who participated. Along the way, we learn, through the kids' own voices, how the program altered the trajectory of their lives for the better.

For much of its existence, Cabrini-Green — which comprised the Frances Cabrini Row-houses and the William Green Homes — was portrayed by the national media as a sort of urban version of the Wild West, a place where crime, drugs, and guns were all-too-common and lawlessness prevailed. Like many narratives, this one was overly simplistic. McLaughlin starts her story at the beginning, in the early 1940s, when the Chicago Housing Project built Cabrini-Green "to replace the crime-ridden slum widely known as Little Hell with clean, family-friendly, affordable housing" for (mostly) white families. As those families grew more prosperous in the post-WWII boom and began moving to suburbs, low-income black families, many on public assistance, moved in.

The 1950s and 1960s were "a time of hope and relative racial calm" in Cabrini-Green. The two-story row houses were a great option for low-income families with children, and major high-rise expansions of the complex in 1958 and 1962 meant that more low-income families could afford to live there. "It was paradise compared to what you had before," remembers Craig Nash, a CYCLE alum who became coordinator of CYCLE's I Have Dream scholarship program. "When the high-rises first went up, they were beautiful. There were trees, there were families — mother, father, children, working families."

But over time, the effects of the "redlining" practices that were common at the Chicago Housing Authority during the period began to shift "the make-up of Cabrini-Green from the 1960s-era community of two-parent, working families to, by the late 1970s, "an economically, racially, and socially segregated" series of projects comprising thousands of units, mostly occupied by struggling black single mothers. "Neighborhoods are not accidents," Tim Huizenga, an early CYCLE board member, told McLaughlin. "They are the products of systematic sorting processes….For a while, the high-rises were decent places to live. But, for a variety of reasons, eventually they became the place where people that just had no options were living." As the condition of the buildings and in the neighborhood declined along with expectations, gang violence, teenage pregnancy rates, and social and institutional isolation increased, creating a toxic dynamic that fed on itself.

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Achieving Racial Equity Through Cross-Sector Partnerships

September 20, 2018

Peopleincircle600Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans and recipient of the 2018 JFK Profiles in Courage Award for his decision to remove four Confederate monuments from that city, noted on accepting the award that "[c]enturies-old wounds are still raw because they were not healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart."

Historically, the failure to increase fairness and equity in America through cross- sector collaboration and public-private partnerships represents a complete failure at the "systems level." Fifty years of effort by government, educational and advocacy groups, corporate diversity programs, and consultants, not to mention intense media focus on the issue, have failed to make a substantial impact.

The fact is, tackling racial equity is hard, the structural and policy issues complex. As an African American, the issues of income inequality and progress on the corporate diversity front are of keen interest to me. Seeking to answer the question "What does good enough look like?", I recently spoke with more than two dozen leaders from the nonprofit, government, and business sectors and discovered that there is broad consensus that much more needs to be done to address racial inequity in America.

Public-private partnerships that pool resources and expertise and facilitate broad community support are one way to do that. The decision by Congress to include, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, $1.6 billion in tax incentives over the next ten years to create Opportunity Zones for private investment in distressed communities is the latest attempt. While the social sector is slowly coming around to the idea that the private sector can be a force good, however, new "playbooks" are required if we hope to see meaningful change.

Unfortunately, the racial inequality debate too often resembles the debate over climate change. Most people concede that the long-term consequences of leaving the problem unaddressed would be devastating, but getting people to agree on the root causes of the problem is impossible. Despite overwhelming evidence of continued discriminatory practices in education, health care, housing, hiring, and the criminal justice system, not to mention the emergence of a field of study focused on the psychology of racial bias, many Americans remain in denial. In fact, in some areas, the data suggest that the problems of discrimination and racial bias are getting worse.

Economic Impacts

In a joint study entitled "The Competitive Advantages of Racial Equity" (32 pages, PDF), FSG and PolicyLink estimated that the elimination of racial wage gaps in the U.S. economy would boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $2 trillion, or 14 percent. In other words, sticking with the status quo represents a huge cost to society.

Similarly, the 2018 edition of the National Urban League’s "State of Black America" report includes an "Equality Index" that measures the status of blacks compared to whites. On a scale of 1 to 100, the 2018 index finds that blacks on average capture 72.5 percent of the American economic pie (compared to 100 percent for whites), earn 58 percent of what whites earn, and have 4 percent of the wealth that whites have.

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5 Questions for...Timothy P. Silard, President, Rosenberg Foundation

August 30, 2018

Since taking the helm at the Rosenberg Foundation in 2008 — after having served as chief of policy in the San Francisco District Attorney's Office — Timothy P. Silard has worked to deepen the advancement of statewide and national criminal justice reform, immigrants' rights, and racial justice as areas of focus for the foundation. The foundation has joined other funders, for example, to create two affinity groups focused on criminal justice reform, Funders for Safety and Justice in California and the national Criminal Justice Funders Forum; supported efforts to end mass incarceration and dismantle barriers to opportunity and restore the rights of formerly incarcerated people; and is supporting reform at the intersection of criminal justice and immigrants' rights.

In 2016, in partnership with the Hellman Foundation, Rosenberg launched the $2 million Leading Edge Fund to seed, incubate, and accelerate bold ideas from the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California. Eight fellows working to address inequity and injustice in the areas of criminal justice, immigrant rights, and racial justice were selected to receive $247,500 each over three years, as well as technical assistance in the areas of strategy, program design, fundraising, and communications.

As the grant period for the first group of Leading Edge fellows nears its close and the foundation prepares for the next group, which will start in January 2019, PND spoke with Silard about how Rosenberg and its partners plan to support progressive leaders who are shaping the future of criminal and racial justice reform in California and across the United States.

Philanthropy News Digest: The Leading Edge Fund was launched in early 2016, which seems almost prescient in hindsight. What was the impetus for creating a fund specifically designed to support "bold ideas from the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California"?

Timothy_silard_250Tim Silard: Lateefah Simon was program director at Rosenberg at the time and the genius behind the Leading Edge Fund. She and I were talking about how there was tremendous "movement energy" going on. There was the #BlackLivesMatter movement that had been sparked specifically around the killings of unarmed mostly black young men and broadened from there; new leadership around gender and gender identity; and, certainly here in California, an increasingly muscular immigrant rights movement. And our sense was that unrestricted support for movement leaders — because movements depend upon leaders — could have enormous value. Not in any way to replace the important grantmaking that philanthropy does for organizations and coalitions, but on top of that, unrestricted support to give movement leaders the space to innovate, dream, and play the long game.

Philanthropy is one of the few sectors with the ability to fund work that may take decades, but as a field we need to do that much more. Our feeling was that there was a need to invest in ideas that the world may not be ready for and may never be ready for. We thought about who funded the handful of lawyers in the 1980s who were fighting for marriage equality before even most people in the LGBT community thought that was an achievable goal. Those kinds of ideas, those kinds of innovative approaches to social justice and equity that may take a long time to come to fruition, ought to be funded.

And in California, while our population has changed so dramatically, the policies and the vision don't yet reflect the values of a non-white-majority state, a fundamentally progressive state, a state with an incredible richness of communities of color, so we also have the opportunity to go far. Playing that long game made sense here in California.

PND: What was the most important criteria in selecting the first cohort of fellows, and what are some of the highlights in their accomplishments over the last two and a half years?

TS: We have three primary criteria. One is what we call leadership skills but has to do with the depth of their engagement and connection with the community they're serving — some refer to that as "servant-leadership." A second is whether they have a compelling, innovative idea for change. Many wonderful leaders are, understandably, very focused on the nuts and bolts of running an organization and may not have the space yet to articulate such an idea for change. And a third is whether they're deeply personally committed to focusing on trying to advance that idea, or set of ideas, over the next few years — whether they have that space to really focus on their dream.

We're most of the way through the selection process for the next "formation" of fellows — we stopped calling them "cohorts" because it sounds like a scientific study — and it's definitely more art than science. This time we started with a large group of about a hundred and fifty nominees and we asked each of them for a one-pager describing their work and their "big ideas." After we've narrowed it down to about twenty semi-finalists, we ask for a five- to seven-page description of their vision for the broader work, their connection with the community, and the longer-term goals they want to achieve. We do a lot of calls and site visits, and we also talk with folks in their community and their colleagues in the field to learn more about the nominees.

As for highlights, all the fellows are doing important work, and I'll just mention a few. Raj Jayadev, who founded an organization called Silicon Valley De-Bug, is thinking very creatively about how to upend and change the courtroom process and bring organizing and activism and community voice into criminal courtrooms. He spearheaded something called "participatory defense" — which enables families and communities to impact the outcome of cases — in Santa Clara County, where we first funded him. He's now built nine other participatory defense hubs in major jurisdictions in California and fifteen outside the state, with other major cities like Las Vegas and Chicago coming online in September. So that's been amazing to watch — the rapid growth and replication of Raj's vision. And now he's bringing the participatory defense model into bail reform, engaging and bringing community members into the courtroom to push back against and provide alternatives to money bail and pretrial detention in jail.

Raha Jorjani, who is with the public defender's office in Alameda County, launched the first immigration practice at the county level, which has been incredible during this time of federal hostility toward immigrants. So many folks are caught up in both the immigration deportation system and the criminal justice system at the same time, with all the complicated legal implications of that. And of course, you have no right to an attorney in the immigration system, so her work is really bringing, in real time, the right to an attorney into that system — and an attorney who is coordinating with your defense attorney in your criminal case. That model has now been replicated in eight other California jurisdictions. So that's really catching fire. Also, last year she organized the first-ever major legal symposium on prosecutorial misconduct across both of those systems.

Patrisse Cullors, who co-founded #BlackLivesMatter, has written a best-selling book, created rapid-response networks in Los Angeles and other counties across California to eliminate state violence against people of color, and also launched a new initiative called JusticeLA. That group is organizing and advocating in L.A., which is an enormous county — almost a third of the population of the state lives in and around L.A. County — to divest from incarceration and corrections spending and instead invest that money on long-term safety solutions for communities most impacted by incarceration and violence.

Another example is Sam Sinyangwe, who co-founded an organization called WeTheProtesters with DeRay Mckesson and others. He's built an online platform for advocating and organizing against police violence and for police reform; he's built an incredible database; he's done extensive research on the hundred largest cities and their policing policies and practices and published tons of reports; and he's helped other advocates engage directly in a number of cities to get new policies and practices adopted.

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It's Time to Invest in Youth Power

August 16, 2018

Youth_power_summitRecent opinion polls show that young people across the country are deeply dissatisfied with the nation's elected leaders and eager to see government pursue progressive policies on issues ranging from gun violence, to sexual assault prevention, to immigration. Young people also are registering to vote in record numbers, creating new hope that change may be at hand.

But whether this surge in interest and engagement among the nation's young people turns into a surge in advocacy and activism — and actual voting — is far from a slam dunk. There is an urgent need and opportunity for philanthropy to invest in efforts to organize and inspire young people, including young people of color, so they can become the transformational force we need in our communities and our country. 

The California Funders for Boys and Men of Color, a group of foundation CEOs dedicated to improving outcomes for boys and men of color through systems change, are supporting one such effort. This August, hundreds of youth advocates of color from across California gathered in Sacramento for four days of learning and advocacy during the Youth Power Summit, where participants had the opportunity to speak directly with candidates for California's superintendent of public instruction, among others. 

The young people who gathered at the summit are leading campaigns for racial and economic justice across the state — fighting for quality schools, an end to youth incarceration, immigrant rights, a healthy environment, healthier communities, and more. Organized by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and PolicyLink, the summit gave them an opportunity to bring their diverse movements together and build their power, leadership, and voice. One of the highlights was a rally on the steps of the state Capitol, where participants shared their vision for a more just and equitable future — a future that includes police accountability, sentencing reform, workforce opportunities, and trauma recovery services.

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Baltimore Children and Youth Fund: Community-Based Grantmaking Comes to Baltimore

August 08, 2018

BCYF-logoThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Riots are the cry of the unheard." If that maxim is true, Baltimore children, youth, and young adults were crying out long before the 2015 killing of Freddie Gray, Jr. sparked demonstrations and unrest in the city.

Gray’s death was the tipping point, but it was not the cause of the unrest, which was driven by a decades-long pattern in Baltimore of divestment in education, affordable housing, employment, and recreational outlets for children and youth. Whether by intent or impact, young people were not being heard.

Fortunately, while a broad-based coalition of young people, youth-centered organizations, and community leaders had been working to address the vacuum in opportunities for children, youth, and young adults, Baltimore City Council president Bernard "Jack" Young, a longtime advocate for children and youth, was focused on increasing investments in future leaders. His vision eventually spawned the creation of the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund, which distributes grants ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 to persons and groups with a passion for, or a track record of, authentic engagement with young people.

BCYF was a long time coming. Young twice wrote legislation intended to create such a fund, and his dream was finally realized when voters approved a 2016 ballot referendum to create the fund. That it was established by referendum is key; politicians don't necessarily get what they want absent public support. And everything from the inception of the fund to its day-to-day management is a testament to end-user demand and public support. In this case, the support isn't just for getting resources to the community but doing so in the most inclusive and transparent way possible.

To achieve that goal, several individuals and groups have agreed to partner with BCYF. My organization, Associated Black Charities, is the fiscal agent charged with managing the fund. Frontline Solutions International and UPD Consultants are technical assistance partners, with the former covering everything from consultant collaboration to community engagement, and the latter charged with providing strategic thought-partnership throughout the design, planning, and proposal review and grantee administration processes. Kinetics is the strategic communications partner covering everything from social media engagement to online marketing to media relations.

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Every Person Counts: Why Philanthropy Must Help Save the Census

July 31, 2018

2020_censusIn philanthropic circles, when we talk about protecting democratic institutions and values we often focus on expanding voting rights, improving representation, and connecting impoverished communities with the resources they need. However, all these issues — and many others — are tied to another fundamental pillar of American democracy: the decennial census.

Every decade since 1790, the government has counted the American population, as mandated by the Constitution. While it took the Fourteenth Amendment to ensure that all people were counted equally, the census has nonetheless performed an essential role in maintaining and improving our democracy. Today, our country uses census data to apportion congressional representation; to draw federal, state, and local legislative districts; and to enforce civil rights laws. Businesses use census data to decide where to open, offer jobs, and provide goods and services. The census helps cities and states identify locations for large infrastructure projects like schools, senior centers, public transportation, hospitals, and police services. It determines how roughly $700 billion in federal funds in 2015 were distributed and allocated to programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and Section 8 housing.

If the 2020 census yields inaccurate data, programs like these — and the people who depend on them — will be in serious jeopardy. Projects may be deprived of crucial funding and entire communities denied fair representation in government. In other words, the consequences of a poorly conducted census will ripple through the public and private sectors, and through civil society, for at least the next ten years.

Unfortunately, there are mounting challenges to achieving a fair, accurate, and complete census in 2020.

The Census Bureau notes that certain populations — people of color, young children, and rural households among them — have been undercounted historically. On top of that, Census Bureau researchin 2017 revealed that the current political climate could further discourage census participation. According to the bureau's own Center for Survey Management, concerns about data sharing and privacy are growing, "particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants," which in turn could have a "disproportionate impact on hard-to-count populations."

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A Conversation With La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Philanthropy and Racial Healing

July 16, 2018

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was one of the first large foundations in the U.S. to apply a racial equity lens to its grantmaking, beginning in the mid-1960s with its investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, continuing in the 1990s with initiatives aimed at narrowing the digital divide in poor and rural communities, and more recently under the banner of America Healing, a five-year, $75 million initiative launched in 2010 to improve life outcomes for vulnerable children and their families through the promotion of racial healing and the elimination of barriers to economic opportunities.

In recent years, the foundation has moved to amplify its racial equity and reconciliation work through its Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (THRT) framework, a national and place-based process launched in 2016 to bring about transformational and sustainable change and address the historic and contemporary effects and consequences of racism.

Recently, PND spoke with Tabron, who became president and CEO of the foundation in January 2014 after serving in numerous leadership positions there over twenty-six years, about the foundation’s TRHT work, the importance of emerging leadership in such work, and what institutional philanthropy can do to advance those efforts.

Headshot_LaJuneMontgomeryTabron1gallery

Philanthropy News Digest: The Kellogg Foundation launched its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort in 2016. Are you pleased with the results of the effort to date?

La June Montgomery Tabron: As you know, the Kellogg Foundation has been working in this space strategically for several decades. Roughly a decade of that work was done under the banner of America Healing, which was an initiative aimed at addressing what we believed was a lack of connection and of mutual understanding in American society. The goal of America Healing was to foster a different level of awareness of how relationships are built by sharing stories and enabling people to come together in their common humanity. And what we learned is that, yes, we need to encourage people to build these relationships and share these stories, but at the same time the real levers for change are at the local, grassroots level, and that by embedding this kind of work in communities, it truly can be transformative.

That realization led directly to the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation effort, which took what we learned from America Healing and our knowledge that relationships were at the root of this kind of work and placed it squarely in a local context. Racial healing has to be rooted in relationship building and common experience, and so TRHT brings together people who live in the same community to think about how they can create a better, more equitable community together.

To your question of where we are to date, I think it is moving in exactly that direction, of making change happen locally. We have fourteen places in the United States working in this space. They all are creating their own plans. And no plan looks alike, which is exactly what we expected. But those plans all are characterized by the richness of diversity that comes from being place-specific, from different sectors coming together to work on a common problem, from identifying a starting point and coming up with real, practical solutions for how transformation can be achieved. We are very pleased with the work to date and the fact that it's taking place at the ground level, which is where the Kellogg Foundation is most comfortable.

PND: Would you say the country is more divided or less divided on issues of race today than when you launched TRHT?

LMT: I'm not sure we know. We see and hear the divisive discourse in the media. We look at polls, but polling data can be informed by the divisive discourse we all are exposed to. What I see and hear is a weariness in people with respect to the division in the country. Personally, I don't believe we know whether things are better or worse, because back when we launched our Truth, Racial Heal­ing & Transformation work the conversation was different, and it's hard to compare conversations that are rooted in different circumstances.

However, I can say that when we bring people together in communities and there's a space made for authentic dialogue, which is the basis of our TRHT work, people are willing to be open with each other. Even if they don't start there, that's where they end up. There's a positivity that emerges when a group of people decides to leave the divisive rhetoric behind and engages in a very local and often personal conversation. No one wants to live in a community where the police are seen to be racially biased. No one wants to live in a community where the public schools are failing, and kids are being denied the opportunity to achieve. No one wants to live in a community where a few people have a lot and most people don’t have enough. Most people see those kinds of communities as the exception, the anomaly, and they're eager to make sure their community isn't one of them. That's the kind of thoughtfulness and commitment we are trying to leverage as we engage with community leaders and ask them to be more forward-looking and equitable.

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Disrupting Arts Philanthropy: Five Lessons Learned

July 10, 2018

Memphis_music_initiative_1The work of Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), which was featured in the recent study Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy, is centered on  community empowerment through arts funding. The study explores MMI's funding and programmatic practices in the context of promoting equity and inclusive practices in arts funding, access to arts education, and youth development and offers a potential strategic framework for other capacity builders committed to equity in the arts.

The effects of race and place on access to funding and other resources are evident in what we call "philanthropic redlining" — patterns of exclusionary funding practices that all too regularly frustrate arts organizations led by people of color and hamper their efforts to serve marginalized communities. As noted in our study, public funding for the arts at the state and federal levels is down as much as 30 percent over the last decade, and the situation for black- and brown-led organizations, which are often dependent on such funding, is even more precarious. At MMI, a crucial aspect of our work is our commitment to address this issue through a proactive, and corrective, approach we call "disruptive philanthropy."

In addition to operating direct programs that provide music engagement opportunities for black and brown youth, we work to nurture and expand the arts ecosystem in Memphis by supporting community organizations working on the frontlines to increase access to music programs for youth of color. We believe that investments in black-led organizations are an investment in long-term community sustainability. We invest to build strong and efficient organizations — with a focus on communities of color — through general operating support grants as well as supports aimed at fostering sustainability and improving the quality of their programs. Our goal is to enhance the capacity of nonprofit organizations to deliver programs and secure sustainable funding and other resources beyond those provided by MMI. We are working to build a pipeline of community-based leaders dedicated to improving conditions for black and brown youth and to give black and brown leaders the space and time to fulfill their potential and achieve their goals.

In our direct programs, we take our people-centered investment to an even higher level. Our summer program, MMI Works, provides paid opportunities for high school students to work in arts nonprofits and businesses. Participating black and brown youth gain access to career training as well as professional and personal development, building the skills and the networks needed for long-term success. We also invest in the region's creative economy through our In-Schools Fellowship program, which pairs local musicians with Memphis schools and reaches more than four thousand students through instruction and mentorship.

We are a learning organization and constantly evaluate what is working well and what we can improve on. Here are five takeaways from our work that continue to inform our disruptive approach:

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5 Questions for...Ruth LaToison Ifill, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Council on Foundations

July 05, 2018

Ruth LaToison Ifill was named vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the Council on Foundations in May, succeeding Floyd Mills. A military spouse, LaToison Ifill previously served as the manager of national career development services for veterans and military family members for Goodwill Industries International, where she also spearheaded initiatives to improve organizational understanding of and engagement with diversity and inclusion issues internally and in program implementation.

PND spoke with LaToison Ifill about the ways in which the council is working with member foundations to promote DEI across the sector and support systems change; the importance of data and intersectionality to that work; and the impact funders can have on the racial leadership gap at nonprofits.

Headshot_Ruth_LaToison_IfillPhilanthropy News Digest: The position of vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion was created in 2016 "to advance the council's work to promote inclusiveness as a fundamental operating principle in philanthropic organizations." How has philanthropy's approach to DEI changed over the last two years? And do you feel there's a greater sense of urgency now given the current political environment?

Ruth LaToison Ifill: I think the biggest change is that there is now a very robust ecosystem of philanthropic organizations and philanthropy-serving organizations that are working to drive diversity in the field in a myriad of ways. The council, specifically, has been partnering with, but also is being held accountable by, its member organizations. Together, we are demonstrating leadership and developing a diverse talent pipeline in philanthropy through our Career Pathways program, which has already seen great success and graduated sixty-one people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs, 87 percent of whom have gone on to take senior and executive appointments at foundations. At the same time, the council's board is more diverse than it's ever been, which has led us to be more vocal and strategic in our internal efforts and in the services we deliver to our members.

We engage with over a thousand philanthropic organizations, and we are seeing incremental changes in the way our members are doing business. More and more of our members are focusing on racial equity and on the LGBTQ community in ways they were not before. So, we are seeing the sector change, but there's still much work that needs to be done, and we're collaborating with the sector and our partners to accomplish that work.

I hate to give credit to the current political environment, and I want to be fair to the previous administration, which was instrumental in raising DEI up as an issue. But the council had already been actively working to make the world a more inclusive place and highlighting the importance of respecting people regardless of which group they belong to or how they identify — and that became even more important as we saw people whom we love and care about being disparaged. We need to respond to that, of course, but our work on these issues started well before the current environment and only has become more urgent.

PND: What has the council been doing to support foundations' efforts to advance DEI in the field? And what is your number-one priority for that work over the next year or so?

RLI: It's about advancing the work and "inching" our members forward. The philanthropic sector is a big ship with a lot of moving parts and a complicated ecosystem of different types of organizations led by different kinds of people. We first need to demonstrate the cultural humility needed to do the hard work of expanding our perspective and understanding marginalized populations; there are leaders in this space who are already doing work that we can learn from. Philanthropy must be intentional about listening and learning, and that's a process that takes time. We at the council want to be a part of our members' process of learning and broadening their perspectives.

My priorities in this new role are intersectionality and data. Sometimes we can get stuck on the one issue we care about most or the one issue that gets the most attention, but I firmly believe this is not a zero-sum game. We really want people to see the importance of focusing on multiple communities and of paying attention to the data about how local communities are affected. For example, if you're a foundation and immigration is a major issue in your community, the data you are collecting about the impact of your work in that community should help you respond. Paying attention to the data specific to each community is how we want foundations to approach this work: to look at the focus on their giving, the composition of their boards, their staff, and then determine when and where they need to make changes in order to more closely align their work with their mission.

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CBMA Turns 10: A Decade of Daring Work for Black Male Achievement

June 26, 2018

Campaign_for_black_male_achievementThis month, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) marks ten years of progress: catalyzing more than $200 million in investment in black male achievement while building a national movement to eliminate barriers to the success of African-American men and boys.

From the beginning, we committed to building beloved communities across America where black men and boys are healthy, thriving, and empowered to achieve their fullest potential — that is our core mission and rallying cry.

Leaders in philanthropy, government, and business were not always as focused on mobilizing the necessary investment to ensure that black men and boys — and boys and men of color more broadly — were recognized as assets to our communities and country. That's why in 2008, at the Open Society Foundations, we launched CBMA in response to the growing need we saw in cities and communities across the nation where outcomes for black men and boys lagged far behind those of their white counterparts in all areas, including education, health, safety, jobs, and criminal justice involvement.

Over the last decade, together with our partners, we have catalyzed multiple national initiatives, including the Executives' Alliance for Boys and Young Men of Color, the BMe Community, and Cities United. We played an instrumental role in helping former President Barack Obama launch My Brother's Keeper, an initiative developed in the wake of his speech in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin — asking ourselves, "How should philanthropy respond to Obama's speech on black men and boys?"

CBMA was spun off from OSF as an independent entity in 2015, and today our work resides at the intersection of movement and field building, bolstered by a membership network of more than five thousand leaders and three thousand organizational partners. Our network includes inspired individuals like Robert Holmes, who directs the Chicago Aviation Career Education Academy at the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. In partnering with CBMA, Holmes has widened the reach of his efforts to create an educational pathway for young black men interested in becoming pilots, helping diversify a critical industry that has little to no black male representation.

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[Review] Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice

June 07, 2018

These days, one doesn't have to look far to find a story about a confrontation involving a school officer and a student of color or to put her finger on a report detailing educational inequities associated with race, gender, and class. In her new book, Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative JusticeMaisha T. Winn, a professor of education at the University of California, Davis, makes a compelling case for the use of restorative justice (RJ) practices in schools as both an antidote to these troubling trends and as a way to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline that has destroyed the lives of too many young people of color.

Book_justice_on_both_sidesMost readers are probably familiar with the case of Shakara, the sixteen-year-old student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina who was put in a chokehold by a school officer, forcibly pulled out of her seat, and dragged across the floor and out of her classroom. Her crime? Refusing to put her cell phone away. Unfortunately, it wasn't an isolated incident, and Winn uses it to frame her questioning of the punitive practices and zero-tolerance policies in place at many public schools in the United States.

Indeed, it was Winn's own questions about Shakara's experience that became the impetus for her book. "What resources, other than arrest, were available to the administrators, teachers, and staff at Spring Valley High to address conflict in the classroom?" she asks. "How could the adults involved have responded differently? Why has it become standard practice to arrest students for such minor incidents?...I argue that we have yet to pause and thoughtfully examine such patterns as stakeholders, particularly from the perspectives of new and seasoned teachers, school staff, and students."

In her bookWinn does just that, reflecting on her experiences as a scholar, former teacher, and teacher researcher — experiences that inform her analysis of RJ practice and how best to apply that analysis to create lasting change. Having noted that under zero-tolerance policies, African-American, Latinx, and Native-American students are disproportionately subjected to harshly punitive practices, including removal from classrooms, suspension, and expulsion, she explains restorative justice as an approach to discipline that aims to address trauma that may be responsible for the student's behavior. The idea, she writes, is to build a sense of respect and mutual understanding while giving students space to take responsibility for their actions.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice requires both sides to be "open to the possibility of not always being right but instead making things right." As Winn explains, the three pillars of the approach are harms and needs, obligations, and engagement — in other words, determining the needs of students who cause harm and recognizing that they may have been harmed; creating a culture of accountability for both students and educators; and cultivating a participatory democracy model in the classroom.

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Building Democracy: People and Purpose in San Diego County

May 25, 2018

On a March evening at a community center in San Diego, Francisco "Panchito" Martinez stood at a public forum, a bedrock exercise of democracy, and before three District 8 City Council candidates.

With microphone in hand and more than a hundred people in the audience, several of whom wore headphones to listen in Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese, the college student asked the candidates about cultivating and supporting youth leaders in the eighth most-populous U.S. city.

Martinez's participation was a form of engagement in more ways than one. The youth questioned those seeking the privilege of representing people in government while also addressing the need for multi-generational civic involvement.

For Martinez, who often goes by Panchito, and other residents who questioned the candidates in English and Spanish, the forum marked a continuum of a broader community-leadership initiative in San Diego County — one driven by residents and grassroots organizations seeking greater voice and more meaningful representation in government and community affairs.

Like other parts of the U.S., San Diego County's population has been transformed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, people of color are the majority among the county's 3.3 million residents. Together, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders make up four out of every ten residents.

In Barrio Logan, the San Diego neighborhood that Panchito and about five thousand other people call home, there are industrial businesses as well as residences.

In this primarily Latino neighborhood south and east of the city's popular Gaslamp Quarter and within view of the Port of San Diego and U.S. Navy facilities, concerns over health are one reason why residents say local government should better mirror the makeup of this diverse region.

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Addressing Racial Equity With an Organizational Change Lens

May 21, 2018

Racial equity treeOrganizational change efforts can be daunting, even when the organization and its leaders know that such an effort will lead to a stronger, more sustainable organization in the long term. When it comes to racial equity, such efforts often carry an extra level of pressure. That's because change efforts seeking to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can trigger both conscious and unconscious anxieties when staff and leadership are required to examine personal and organizational values, norms, behaviors, and perceptions. No matter what you do to create and communicate a compelling story and adjust policies and procedures, it all comes down to employee engagement, especially when it comes to "unfreezing" behavior and modeling change, both of which are key to ensuring employee buy-in and setting the stage for a successful change effort.

When tackling racial equity, the amount of individual energy and effort required to achieve a truly equitable and inclusive workplace can create stress at all levels of the organization — particularly for people of color. As with other change efforts, racial equity work requires staff members to personalize the process in order to find their own entry points into the work, and as each of us reflects on our own identity and what it means in both an individual and organizational context, frictions can arise. If not tactfully managed, issues of intersectionality, power dynamics, personal and work-related boundaries, and unconscious biases can become barriers that stand in the way of progress. But when implemented effectively, racial equity change initiatives can spark an examination of our lived experience, both at work and in our personal lives — as well as individual transformation. Not surprisingly then, if organizations can create a culture in which individuals are able to express and work through their own unconscious biases, uncertainty, and shame, they will experience a greater rate of change.

CRE's nearly four decades serving the nonprofit community has taught us that organizations ready to address and embrace racial equity must first examine how race interacts with all aspects of organizational culture, from board governance, to leadership and management, to staffing and talent management, to day-to-day work flow. While not an exhaustive list, below are four simple strategies for moving the needle on organizational change efforts intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion based on what we have learned from our experience promoting racial equity in our own organization and with our client partners.

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It’s Time to Invest in Youth Leaders

May 16, 2018

DCPSWalkout_AFA-1024x681In the months since the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the response of youth activists has captured the attention of the nation. What has largely gone unnoticed, however, is that across the country a dynamic youth-organizing field has emerged. Over the past twenty years, groups — many of them led by low-income young people of color — have been organizing to improve education, end the school-to-prison pipeline, protect immigrant rights, and address other critical issues.

New research demonstrates that not only does youth organizing result in concrete policy changes, it also promotes positive academic, social/emotional, and civic engagement outcomes. Yet despite recent investment in youth organizing from funders like the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, overall funding remains modest. That's unfortunate, because even as a new generation demonstrates its willingness to take on some of our toughest issues, the need for investment in the leadership of young people, especially those most impacted by injustice, has never been more important.

According to the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing's National Youth Organizing Landscape Map, there are more than two hundred youth organizing groups across the country, the majority of them focused on middle and high school students of color. These groups support the development of young leaders and organize campaigns to address inequity in their communities. In Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition led the campaign to ensure a rigorous college preparatory curriculum for all students. Groups such as Communities United in Chicago, Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver, and the Philadelphia Student Union have gotten their school districts to create policies that address racial disparities in school discipline, resulting in changes that have benefited hundreds of thousands of students. 

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  • "Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated...."

    — Kofi Annan (1938-2018)

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