120 posts categorized "Children and Youth"

The Power of the Arts to Heal

November 20, 2018

Muzika2The Nord Family Foundation has been exploring the role we can play regarding emerging evidence about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), a significant risk factor for a variety of health and social problems across the lifespan and a major factor in much of the work we fund. One of our recent grantees in this area is the Resilient Richland Initiative (RRI) in Columbia, South Carolina, one of several NFF-funded projects that are working to address trauma-informed care.

Our decision to support RRI is based on numerous conversations with leaders and officials from nonprofits, government, and schools who struggle to address complex social issues rooted in ACEs, which researchers have defined as physical or emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness in the home, parental separation or divorce, having an incarcerated household member, and, in rare cases, not being raised by both of one's biological parents. According to researchers, the effects of sustained trauma during childhood and adolescence have an impact on adolescent health and educational status, increasing the likelihood of an adolescent having to repeat a grade, lowering his or her resilience, and increasing his or her risk for learning and behavioral issues, suicidal ideation, and early sexual activity and pregnancy. For too many in our nation, these factors can lead to a life of poverty and desperation.

Once ACEs have been diagnosed, the goal is to create resilience in the individual in which it has been diagnosed, with a focus on the assets — as opposed to risks and deficits — that he or she possesses, including such things as coping skills and family and community supports.

Our own strategy to address resilience has deferred to organizations in the health and social services arenas. Upon further consideration, however, we've begun to see our local arts community as an important and perhaps overlooked asset. Many of the arts programs we support play an invaluable, if underappreciated, role in addressing this piece of the poverty puzzle. As Mother Teresa once noted, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." To which the poet Robert Browning might have replied: "Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once."

Trauma produces isolation, a feeling of "I am in this alone." Arts programming — be it music, theater, or visual arts — helps erase that sense of aloneness and provides a platform for building the kind of resilience all of us, but especially young people who have struggled with ACEs, need. For vulnerable youngsters in need of connection, a community theater company can serve as a second family. Through our grantmaking, we have found that access to adequately funded music programs such as Education Through Music provide hope and spiritual buoyancy to children and their families, many of which quietly struggle from crisis to crisis. The empowerment one feels when she hears, as I heard a director of a day center for homeless women assure her clients, that in "this studio you are not seen as someone who is poor, you are seen as an artist" is incalculable.

The potential of the arts to heal is captured beautifully in Seen and Heard: Women and Girls in the Midlands, a documentary from the extraordinary Indie Grits media center in Columbia, South Carolina. The film opens with a picture of laundry detergent and cleaning materials taken by one of the program's participants, who then describes it to her group of peers. She explains why the images are so powerful, saying, "If this picture had smells, this picture would smell sooo good." She then elaborates: "It would be days when I would pretty much be in the bathroom — you know in the sink with a pump 'cause we didn't have nowhere to live." The group murmurs its support, and one woman says, "I know where you're coming from. We used to bathe in the sink at McDonalds."

The trauma of homelessness, of not having a place to bathe or wash your children's clothes, is something most of us struggle to understand. And living with that anxiety day-to-day is only one example of the kinds of trauma that affect so many of our fellow citizens. In Denver, a theater director at Mirror Image Arts moved our program director and me to tears by sharing with us how their arts outreach effort in a youth detention center changed the life trajectory of a nineteen-year-old who, like so many in his situation, was about to be released from detention with no supports in his life aside from the "family" that the theater program had created for him.

ACEs and building resiliency may seem like complex problems to which immediate interventions are scarce. Unaddressed, however, the consequences inevitably impose a significant economic burden on the larger community and lead to more people falling into poverty. As philanthropy looks for solutions, it is important to remember that this is an area where our well-intentioned desire to focus on measurable outcomes is best set aside. Foundations that focus on health and, in the process, declare, "We don't fund the arts" might want to have a conversation or two with the leaders of arts groups that work in and with low-income communities. As I first began to learn about the therapeutic value of the arts years ago, a wise leader in the field told me, "If you cannot deal with ambiguity, you should not be working in philanthropy." Artists in particular struggle to demonstrate outcomes of their work to ardent program officers. As behavioral therapists and social services agencies work to address these complex problems, direct support for arts organizations will continue to play a significant, if unappreciated, role in supporting both healing and resilience.

Headshot_John_MullaneyJohn Mullaney is the executive director of the Nord Family Foundation, a private family foundation in Amherst, Ohio, dedicated to supporting charitable and philanthropic purposes in Lorain County and several other communities of interest to the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Walter and Virginia Nord.

What's New at Foundation Center Update (October)

October 24, 2018

FC_logoAs the change of seasons brings cooler weather, I spend more time thinking about cozying up with a good book. Here at Foundation Center, we've released a lot of new content that might make for good armchair reading material. Read on to learn more:

Projects Launched

  • We're thrilled to have launched GrantCraft's latest guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking, a first-of-its-kind look at how funders can cede decision-making power about funding decisions to the communities they aim to serve. The guide is complemented by a suite of resources at participatorygrantmaking.org. This was a labor of love for me over the past nearly two years and I’m biased, but I really think you should read this!
  • September was Nonprofit Radio Month and a number of Foundation Center staff, including Grace Sato and David Rosado of our Knowledge Services team and Susan Shiroma of our Social Sector Outreach team, were guests on Tony Martignetti’s Nonprofit Radio show, which was broadcast to viewers across the country from our beautiful library at 32 Old Slip in Manhattan's Financial District. Be sure to check out Grace, David, and Susan talking with Tony about why data matters, community foundations, and family foundations.
  • Foundation Maps: Australia was launched at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference. A joint effort of Philanthropy Australia and Foundation Center, this interactive platform is designed to facilitate greater transparency and insights about the grantmaking practices of Australian foundations.
  • In partnership with a group of community foundation leaders, CF Insights conducted a field-wide survey of community foundation CEOs to determine the level of demand for a formalized network that would help them connect with one another on issues relevant to the community foundation field. Check out the results of the survey here.
  • Foundation Center, GlobalGiving, and GuideStar released BRIDGE (Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities) information as open data, making it easier to identify and share information about entities around the world that are working to advance social good. The launch of BRIDGE open data represents both a cross-organizational collaboration as well as a collaboration between our Data and Technology and Knowledge Services teams.
  • During this webinar, Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, Northeastern Pennsylvania Grantmakers, and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia announced the joint launch of Pennsylvania Foundation Stats, a new online dashboard that provides a window on the philanthropic landscape in Pennsylvania as well as four distinct regions in the state.

Content Published

In the News

What We're Excited About

  • We're partnering with the Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative and the Heising-Simons Foundation on a new interactive mapping tool that will serve as a valuable starting point for funders and practitioners looking to support the learning and development of young children across the country. The tool is expected to launch in December
  • Foundation Center South doubled its Boys and Men of Color (BMOC) Executive Director Collaboration Circle funding with a $20,000 grant from the Charles M. & Mary D. Grant Foundation. The funds will support BMOC in the metro Atlanta region through a range of activities, including building the capacity of leaders and organizations, identifying and actively engaging leaders in and outside of philanthropy committed to investing in BMOC, and improving public policy in support of BMOC.
  • We'll be launching a brand-new self-paced e-learning course, How to Start a Major Gift Program, in November.
  • And we'll be participating in a panel discussion, Demystifying Nonprofit and Foundation Collaboration, at the IS-sponsored Upswell gathering in November, where we'll discuss valuable insights related to how you can create collaboration opportunities among your peers and with your grantees.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Our staff will be attending these upcoming events:

Services Spotlight

  • 212,359 new grants added to Foundation Maps in September, of which 45,078 grants were made to 6,810 organizations outside the U.S.
  • Update Central is back in Foundation Directory Online. Register for monthly alerts to ensure you’re up-to-date on grantmaker leadership changes and new foundations.
  • New data sharing partners: Muncie Altrusa Foundation; Harry M., Miriam C. & William C. Horton Foundation; Catherine McCarthy Memorial Trust Fund; and United Way of Western Connecticut. Tell your story through data so we can communicate philanthropy's contribution to making a better world — learn more about our eReporting program.
  • 18 new organizations have joined our Funding Information Network this year, including the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust, the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania, and the Roswell Public Library in Georgia.

Data Spotlight

  • Did you know that 8 percent of all human rights funding is granted to support civic and political participation? Funders around the globe are working to support the right to peaceful assembly, informed voting, and full participation in political processes. Explore humanrightsfunding.org to learn more.
  • In honor of Global Handwashing Day (October 15), we're highlighting the fact that more than 920 funders have made grants totaling $273 million to support basic sanitation and health education around the world. Check out WASHfunders.org to learn more about funders working to solve the world's water and sanitation crises.
  • Lastly, we completed custom data searches for Oregon State University, the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Bush School, Texas A&M University, McKinsey & Company / Minnesota Community Foundation, and California Environmental Associates (CEA).

If you found this update helpful, feel free to share it or shoot us an email. I'll be back next month with another update!

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center.

Weekend Link Roundup (October 6-7, 2018)

October 07, 2018

0930-bks-kabaservice-superJumboA weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Advocacy

"[W]e are in a season when the electorate has the obligation to choose our future," writes Richard Marker on his Wise Philanthropy blog. "And the philanthropy world has an obligation to weigh in on many of these matters. We have everything at stake in re-asserting a stable and civil society, eliminating poverty, rejecting racism and xenophobia, and urging systemic equity. The challenge for us is to not be intimidated by those who would limit our outspokenness under the guise of accusing us of partisanship. Of course, there are legal limitations to what we can lobby for and what lobbying we can support. But our rights, I would say even our obligations as funders, to advocate for constitutional rights, civil society, and equity for all are virtually unlimited."

Children/Youth

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Martha Davis, a senior program officer at the foundation, shares six recommendations for communities that are developing collaborative, place-based approaches aimed at ensuring that all children have a solid foundation of safety.

In a Q&A on the Case Foundation blog, Justin Cunningham, the millennial co-founder of Social Works, discusses what he and his colleagues are doing to empower youth in Chicago.

Giving

The team at GiveWell has made a number of changes to the organization's cost-effectiveness model.

Grantmaking

In a post on the GrantCraft blog, Jen Bokoff, director of stakeholder engagement, announces the release of the latest GrantCraft guide, Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources through Participatory Grantmaking, which was created in partnership with researcher/writer extraordinaire Cynthia Gibson.

Continue reading »

[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.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (February 24-25, 2018)

February 25, 2018

George-harrison-guitar-1963-via-APOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

In an op-ed piece originally published in The Hill, Mott Foundation president Ridgway White argues that eliminating funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, as the Trump administration has proposed, would strip "resources from a successful initiative rooted in communities, dismissing decades of evidence proving that consistent participation by students in quality afterschool programs leads to improved school attendance, better grades and higher graduation rates...."

Education

New York has the nation's most diverse public school system. It also is the most segregated. Michelle Chen reports for The Nation

With lots of support from the tech industry, "computer science for all" is making its way into k-12 curricula across the nation. But whose interests are being served, students' or the industry's? And given rapid advances in artificial intelligence, will the short-term focus on filling today's tech-sector jobs ultimately backfire? Benjamin Herold and the Education Week team explore theses questions with some leading thinkers in the field, including Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, the CSforAll Consortium's Ruthe Farmer, the National Science Foundation's Janice Cuny, and University of Michigan professor Megan Tompkins-Stange, who tracks trends in education philanthropy.

On Medium, Nellie Mae Education Foundation president Nick Donohue lays out his hopes for a strategic planning process recently announced by the organization — a process that aims to build on its belief that "to prepare all of New England’s students to succeed, [it needs] to focus on where the need and opportunity gaps are...[which] means thinking more deliberately about how [it] serves low-income students and students of color."

Fundraising

On the GuideStar blog, Adam Weinger shares five strategies designed to boost your fundraising results with matching gifts.

Gun Violence

Inside Philanthropy's Philip Rojc has a roundup of the handful of celebrities and philanthropists who have gone public with support for the student-led #NeverAgain movement that has dominated headlines and acted as a focal point for gun reform advocates nationwide since the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ten days ago.  

Continue reading »

This Holiday Season, Don't Forget Families Mourning a Loss

December 21, 2017

Nylife_foundation_bereavementDecember is the "season of giving" — a time when we're all made aware of the many ways we can give back to those less fortunate. On streets and in stores, on TV, and through our social networks, causes and organizations doing good work compete for our attention and year-end donations. But one group in need of support at this time of year often remains invisible: those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. It's time that philanthropy paid more attention.

The holidays are a difficult time of year for grieving children and families. For most, it is a season characterized by family traditions and poignant memories — memories that can trigger powerful emotions when someone significant is missing from the festivities, even when his or her loss is no longer fresh. In fact, a new nationwide survey conducted by the New York Life Foundation demonstrates the profound, enduring nature of loss. According to the survey, for those who lost a parent as a child, the pain was still raw years — and sometimes even decades — later, with 77 percent of respondents saying they would always feel like a part of them was missing and 78 percent saying they still thought about the departed parent every day. 

The survey also revealed a troubling "grief gap" — a disconnect between the length of time that grievers took to move forward after a loss and the time during which they received support. On average, those who lost a parent growing up said it took them six or more years to move forward, with a full 30 percent admitting that they'd never come to terms with their loss. Yet most reported that support from family and friends tapered off within the first three months after a loss, 21 percent reporting that support tapered off within a month of a loss, and 20 percent saying support from others tapered off after just a week.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Laura Speer, Associate Director, Policy Reform and Advocacy, Annie E. Casey Foundation

October 30, 2017

Children are the future. In a country whose population is aging faster than expected, the implications of that truism should be of special concern. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy based in Baltimore that works to improve the lives of America's children and their families, certainly believes so. And it backs that work up with data — lots of it, including its signature KIDS COUNT data book and center.

Earlier this month, the foundation published the second report (28 pages, PDF) in its Race for Results series, a KIDS COUNT spinoff that explores "the intersection of kids, race and opportunity" and describes many of the barriers to success facing children of color in America. The report also includes a section devoted to immigrant families and children, as well as policy recommendations designed to ensure that all children in America have the opportunity to realize their full potential.

PND spoke with Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, about the new report's findings, the potential consequences of Trump administration policies for immigrant children, and the economic argument for boosting spending on programs designed to improve health, education, and economic outcomes for kids of all races and color.

Headshot_laura_speerPhilanthropy News Digest: Your new report, the second in the Race for Results series, is based on data from 2013 to 2015 and shows general improvement across the board in most of the twelve indicators the foundation uses to measure how children from different racial backgrounds are faring on the path to opportunity. Were you surprised by any findings in the report?

Laura Speer: Well, we were happy to see improvement across the board in many of the measures we track. Of course, both reports covered periods when the country was recovering from the Great Recession, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see improvement in many of the measures — things like the percentage of young people who are graduating from high school or teen pregnancy rates. Those are areas where we're seeing improvement for all kids. What is disheartening, however, is that there really wasn't much of a change in the gaps that existed previously for African American, Native American, and Latino kids, all of whom, in the aggregate, are still lagging behind other groups of kids in terms of meeting these milestones.

PND: The report argues that we can't afford to ignore those disparities any longer. Moral arguments aside, why do we need to pay more attention to the barriers that prevent kids of color from reaching their full potential?

LS: We made the case in the first report, and we reiterate it again here, that in the United States today, slightly less than 50 percent of the child population are kids of color. However, demographic pro­jections show that that is going to change pretty quickly, and that kids of color will be the majority of the child population in just a few years. And, because kids grow up to be adults, people of color will comprise the majority of the workforce within the next couple of decades and the population of the country itself will be majority people of color by 2040 or so. In other words, today's kids of color are our future work force, the future parents of the next generation of American kids, the future leaders of our country. And that is why it is more important than ever that we not accept or get comfortable with these disparities, and why we've got to identify the factors that are contributing to the barriers to success that exist for kids of color and figure out how, as a country, we can design policies and programs that help more young people achieve their full potential. We need these kids and all the talents they possess if we want to be able to compete on a global scale and be successful as a country in the long run.

Continue reading »

5 Questions for...Ebony Frelix, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Engagement, Salesforce.org

September 28, 2017

The push to ensure that all students receive the high-quality computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education needed to compete in the twenty-first-century economy has been gaining urgency. This week, global Internet companies, foundations, and wealthy individuals announced commitments totaling $300 million in support of K-12 computer science education, including a pledge of $50 million and a million volunteer hours from customer-relationship management software provider Salesforce. That commitment was on top of grants totaling $12.2 million that Salesforce.org, the company's philanthropic arm, had awarded recently to the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts to enhance computer science and STEM education, which included unrestricted funding of $100,000 each to middle school principals.

Earlier this month PND spoke with Ebony Frelix, senior vice president of philanthropy and engagement at Salesforce.org, about the organization's model of giving back 1 percent of equity, product, and employee time; its focus on equality in education; and the importance of expanding access to computer science education for tomorrow's diverse workforce — especially in a sector in which women and people of color are underrepresented.

Ebony_frelixPhilanthropy News Digest: This is the fifth consecutive year that Salesforce.org has provided financial support to schools in San Francisco and the second year it has done so in Oakland. What results are you seeing thus far in terms of enrollment in computer science courses specifically and overall curriculum quality in general?

Ebony Frelix: We know that computer science in general is essential in today's job market and it's imperative that students gain the technical skills they need to be successful in the future. Our goal is to provide opportunities for underrepresented youth in the communities where we live and work to gain exposure and experience in computer science that will help them become college- and career-ready. Ultimately, we believe this will lead to a more talented, skilled, and diverse workforce.

In the San Francisco Unified School District we've given $7 million this year and $21 million in grants to date. Over five years we've seen the enrollment of girls in middle school computer science classes go from nearly two hundred to more than thirty-eight hundred, and of underrepresented student populations from less than one hundred to more than thirty-eight hundred. What that means is that computer science enrollment now mirrors the San Francisco community, with women and underrepresented groups making up nearly half of the students. We also funded twenty-four hundred hours of math content coaching, and we've cut the percentage of students repeating Algebra I in half, from 51 percent to 23 percent, and we hope to see that number continue to drive down. We've also seen a drop in D and F grades in math classes, from 18 percent to 12.6 percent.

In Oakland, we've given $5.2 million this year and $7.7 million in grants to date. We saw an enrollment of nine hundred OUSD middle school students in computer science classes in the first year alone. That was very encouraging, and what was really neat was that those computer science classes are 45 percent females, 38 percent Latinos, and 29 percent African Americans, again closely aligning to the district as a whole. What's even better is that 80 percent of those students received either an A or a B in computer science.

PND: Through the Principal's Innovation Fund (PIF), this year's awards include grants of $100,000 to middle school principals in San Francisco and Oakland. How are principals using those funds?

EF: We like to think that principals are like the CEOs of their schools; they know best how to address the unique needs of their schools. We often hear from principals that failure is not an option, things like "We can't spend money on things that don't work," "We can't take a chance with the district's money." The PIF allows principals to try things and experiment with what works, and then share those learnings with the district. That way we can avoid potentially making a district-wide faux pas with funding or with a program that may not be successful.

We know also that, with a limited budget, principals haven't been able to modernize their schools to align with a twenty-first-century workplace. So if you go into a classroom, they look like they did decades ago — the teacher at the front of the room, the kids sitting in rows, facing the teacher — and that's preventing students from learning in a collaborative workspace. Principals can use the PIF to redesign the classroom, to create a twenty-first-century environment where students are able to learn at standing desks, couches, or pillows; move tables around; have LCD screens all around them. You don't know where the front of the classroom is versus the back of the classroom, because it's flexible. That's a really good way for students to learn, and it also mirrors the workplace they're going to be entering.

In addition, students continue to enter middle school far below grade level, so teachers are faced with having multiple grade levels within one class and having to provide differentiated instruction. Principals are using the PIF to hire additional staff to teach different levels within a multi-tiered computer science curriculum as well as to teach engineering, animation, and robotics courses. And they can implement online personalized learning programs to address the needs of each student and create lesson plans to bring them up to grade level.

Continue reading »

Once and for All: Lead-Free, Healthy Kids

September 26, 2017

Baby_mother_playing_400x300We want all our children to be safe and happy — that's why we have safeguards in place to protect them. Newborns are taken home from the hospital in car seats, kindergarteners must have all their vaccines to enter school, even playground equipment is closely regulated. Yet, despite these investments in their health and safety, children are still at risk in their own homes. While we are closer than ever to eliminating lead in homes, it's still all too prevalent, seeping into the lives of our children through peeling paint, unfiltered water from unsafe pipes, and other sources.

Even though lead poisoning is entirely preventable, 535,000 children under the age of six in the United States are exposed to the dangerous toxin each year through water, paint, soil, and other sources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "at least four million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead." Lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities, speech delays, attention deficit disorder, reduced motor control and balance, and aggressive behavior. In fact, kids with lead poisoning are seven times as likely to drop out of school than their non-lead-poisoned peers, are six times as likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system, and as adults face increased risks of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, and early mortality.

When the Flint water crisis became international news, it was easy to brush it aside as an anomaly — something that would never happen in your own town. But in 2016 a report by Reuters found three thousand localities across the country where at least 10 percent of children — double the rate of lead poisoning in Flint at the height of the crisis there — had elevated levels of lead in their blood. In some cities, "the rate of elevated [lead] tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent." Many of the affected communities are low-income and majority African-American and Latino populations, a sadly unsurprising fact given the stark racial disparities when it comes to addressing lead poisoning. In fact, African-American children are roughly five times more likely and Latino children nearly twice as likely to be poisoned by lead than their white peers.

Continue reading »

[Review] 'Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America'

August 17, 2017

When you're able to do something that sparks your passion and leverages your skill set, it feels pretty good. When you can make a living doing it, it's even better. But getting to that place can be hard; you have to have opportunities to learn a new skill or stretch a new muscle, learn from the experience, and improve. I've been lucky to have had some great mentors, informal and formal, who have guided me through such learning experiences — from a cross country coach who taught me that slow and steady will get you to the finish line (if not always win the race), to entrepreneurial friends who offered marketing tips for my side hustles, to my parents, who stressed to me the importance of writing thank-you notes. Many young people, however, aren't as lucky to have received the kind of coaching that can give them the confidence and skills to tackle new or unexpected challenges. That's where mentoring programs can provide significant value; they provide learning opportunities to young people who may not otherwise have them.

Book_teach_to_work_3dPatty Alper is a seasoned mentor with fifteen years of experience mentoring inner-city high school students. She's "adopted" classrooms through Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international nonprofit organization that I first learned about in the Mary Mazzio documentary Ten9Eight. The film showcases the transformational learning that happens when students are given the opportunity to create a business, benefit from a curriculum that allows them to dive into critical skills, and have a supportive adult serve as their mentor during the process. As an NFTE donor and board volunteer, Alper wanted to "allow supporters [of the organization] to go beyond financial giving and share their knowledge as well," so she created an Adopt-a-Class program that recruits professionals to sponsor an entrepreneurship class, work with teachers, and commit to mentoring students for a full academic year. I remember being struck by how many of the kids featured in Ten9Eight went from expressing little hope about their future to confidently tackling and successfully delivering a big on-stage presentation about the businesses they had created. Seeing the obvious pride and sense of accomplishment in these young people, it's easy to overlook the other piece of the story, which, I confess, I had done until I picked up Alper's new book, Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America. But once I started reading, it didn't take long for me to be persuaded that mentoring involves both art and science, and that done well, it can truly unlock the potential of underserved youth.

For many, the act of mentoring is something one just does, based on one's hard-won experience. But in her book, Alper takes a very granular, how-to approach to mentoring, starting with this key bit of advice: one of the best things a mentor can do is to listen and not share everything she has learned over the years with her mentee. (Note: Alper relies on an adult-student framework throughout the book and, unfortunately, does not touch on any other kind of mentor-mentee relationship. As the book is based on a particular model of mentorship, so, too, does this review.)

"The fastest way to turn kids off is to tell them how great you are," Alper writes. Instead, mentors should relate to their mentees as "peers." You do that, she adds, by telling them, "[Y]ou are the boss. You can accept or reject my suggestions because this is your project. What I bring to bear is experience, ideas, and support. We can brainstorm, but the ultimate decisions here are yours."

That's only a start, though. There are lots of other things mentors need to be mindful of — from body language, to support systems, to hopes and dreams — and for each, Alper lays out solid advice designed to help mentors approach the challenge at hand in a manageable way. In a chapter about lesson planning, for example, there's a terrific line-by-line guide that adapts the Harvard Business School-developed case method into a ninety-minute classroom exercise. It's hard to tell accomplished adults they may not be good teachers or thoughtful lesson planners (a truth many of us are happy to acknowledge about others, though not ourselves), and so Alper doesn't try to tell us; she shows us instead with tools that no mentor ought to ignore.

But while her advice is grounded in deep experience and mostly useful, there are elements of it that feel outdated. A very thoughtful section on key components to establishing a one-on-one dialogue ended up falling flat for me, as there was no mention of asking a mentee herself if she had any ground rules she'd like to suggest. Without such reciprocity, the dialogue you hope to have often ends up a one-way street. Another example: the advice in a section about preparing a student for an interview ("[W]omen should wear dress slacks or a knee-length skirt with a blouse and possibly a blazer, or a dress...also wear low heels") and, in a later section, about dressing for presentations ("What is inappropriate? Clothing that is too sexy, too baggy, too dirty, too ripped, too short, or too bare") felt too prescriptive and gendered. Like most of the  examples Alper provides in the book, this one is more appropriate for "traditional" professions and contexts, even though the book purports to be about preparing students to pursue any passion and path. And finally, Alper tries so hard at times to be actionably prescriptive that she loses sight of the human touch that, as she reminds readers elsewhere, is essential to successful mentoring. (Do kids actually say, "How do you do?")  

That raises another question: Beyond the grateful letters from students she cites throughout the book, did Alper consult young people about what works (and what doesn't) when writing it? After all, feedback loops are embedded in the mentorship process for mentees, but I wonder whether the same can be said for mentors, or whether the inevitable power differential in any mentor-mentee relationship makes that difficult. And how might authentic feedback be obtained and heard? While there's a nice suggestion for reflective debriefing at the end of each program (a group meal outside the school setting, with some reflective questions kept handy on an index card), it doesn't seem to provide sufficient space for meaningful critique. And still another question I had is whether the pay-to-mentor model she discusses actually limits the diversity of the mentor pool? While this isn't the only model Alper discusses, it is prominent and many examples in the book seemed to refer to careers in which mentors likely could afford to sponsor a class. Which begs the question: Is there a bias in favor of mentoring among people who are paid well, have lots of social capital, and have the wherewithal to be flexible with their time and choices? And how well does such a pool of mentor candidates reflect students' passions and needs?

Those questions aside, Teach to Work left me with a renewed sense of gratitude for the mentors I've had, and pride in the mentoring I've done. There are lessons in the books that anyone — young or old, accomplished or with as-yet–unrealized potential — will find relevant to them in some way. And perhaps most powerful is the assertion implied by the book's subtitle: that the mentoring young people receive can be a lever to help close America's skills gap and bring increased diversity and talent to the workforce. As Alper's book describes and the aforementioned Ten9Eight brings to life, project-based mentorship can be transformational, and, done at scale, there's no doubt it would be a gamechanger. And, besides, this millennial is into placing big bets on solutions that will make the world a better place.

To volunteer as a mentor — and commit to doing it well – is about wanting to create change and catalyze potential. I would suggest there's an added value proposition: maybe mentoring a young person isn't so much a one-way learning opportunity as it is a way for us all to get smarter. Alper certainly acknowledges how much she has learned and grown from her experiences in the classroom. And as I've seen through any number of youth grantmaking programs, philanthropy as a sector has much to learn from students in terms of how they approach community needs assessments and discussions of impact. What more could we learn and apply to our own careers by pairing up with a young person who is wrestling with difficulties in her life and, with our help, coming up with her own solutions to those challenges?

Jen Bokoff is director of stakeholder engagement at Foundation Center. For more great reviews, visit the Off the Shelf section in PND.

From New York City to New South Wales: Bringing Evidence-Based Practices to Child Welfare Systems

June 14, 2017

ChildWelfareEvidence-based practices geared toward preventing foster care placements, reducing disruptions to children already in a foster home, shortening the length of stays, and reunifying families are saving many of New York City's most vulnerable children and have the potential to reduce out-of-home-care populations elsewhere.  Indeed, the successful track record of one of New York City's oldest and largest child welfare organizations, The New York Foundling, has prompted it to offer its experience and expertise to governments overseas, even as far away as New South Wales, Australia.

New South Wales' child welfare system closely resembles New York's a decade ago. In New South Wales, the number of children entering foster care has doubled over the past five years; today there are approximately 16,000 children in foster, kinship, or residential care there at any given time — about 8.1 children per 1,000. By comparison, the foster care population in New York City in 2007 totaled 16,911, with a ratio of 8.9 children per 1,000.

Since then, with the help of organizations like The Foundling, New York's Administration for Children's Services has achieved dramatic improvements — leading child care professionals around the world to take notice. In New York, a cohesive family foster care model called Child Success NYC has reduced the number of children in foster care by nearly 50 percent over ten years. In partnership with five participating foster care agencies, the program uses evidence-based models to provide care for children and families (e.g., Keeping Foster Parents Supported and Parenting Through Change [KEEP]). Child Success NYC operates under the philosophy that families possess unique strengths that can be built on to keep their children at home. As a result of the program, the number of children in out-of-home care has dropped to 9,000, a ratio of 4.9 per 1,000, while the average length of time a child stays in care has been reduced to less than two years.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (June 10-11, 2017)

June 11, 2017

HonnoldOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Children and Youth

On the Annie E. Casey Foundation blog, Tracey Feild, managing director of the foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, shares five lessons from the foundation's recent efforts to develop tools to measure and address racial disparities in child welfare systems.

Education

"If Facebook’s [Mark]. Zuckerberg has his way, children the world over will soon be teaching themselves — using software his company helped build." The New York Times' Natasha Singer considers the efforts of Zuckerberg, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Netflix chief Reed Hastings, and other Silicon Valley billionaires to remake America's public schools.

Giving

In an article for Nature, Caroline Fiennes, founder of Giving Evidence, an organization that promotes charitable giving based on sound evidence, argues that "[p]hilanthropists are flying blind because little is known about how to donate money well." The solution to the problem, she adds, "lies in more research on what makes for effective philanthropy [and donor effectiveness]."

And here, courtesy of the International Council for Science's Anne-Sophie Stevance and David McCollum, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, is an SDG-related example of exactly the kind of approach and methodology Fiennes would like to see more of.

A recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks in which Brooks asks, "What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?" raises other interesting questions, writes John Tamny on the Real Clear Markets site, including: Why do the superrich think their skills in the commercial space render them experts at charity? And: Why should the supperrich be expected to do "good" after they have created wealth — and the jobs and social advances that usually come with it?

Reid Hoffman, a supperrich Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of networking site LinkedIn, tells The Atlantic's Alana Semuels that having people who know how to apply capital in the service of getting things done is a good thing for social causes, as long as those same people are careful about big-footing the politics of the issue.

Continue reading »

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (May 2017)

June 02, 2017

Like many of you, we're trying to make sense of all the tweets, charges/counter-charges, and executive orders emanating from the White House. One thing we do know, however: you found plenty to like here on the blog in May, including a stirring call to action from Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits; some excellent grantmaking advice from Peter Sloane, chair and CEO of the Heckscher Foundation for Children; a new post by everyone's favorite millennial fundraising expert, Derrick Feldmann; posts by first-time contributors Nona Evans and Jaylene Howard; and an oldie-but-goodie by fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. But don't take our word for it — pull up a chair, click off MSNBC, and treat yourself to some good reads!

What have you read/watched/heard lately that got your attention, made you think, or charged you up? Feel free to share with our readers in the comments section below. Or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

President's Budget Proposal Targets Foundations

May 26, 2017

TargetWhile most of the media coverage of President Trump's proposed budget has focused on his plan to eliminate sixty-six programs and slash funding for hundreds more, until now one major aspect of the plan has escaped attention: the White House budget blueprint silently, yet effectively, targets private philanthropy as the fallback subsidy for government programs that would be downsized or eliminated.

For Fiscal Year 2018, which begins October 1, 2017, the Trump budget proposes to cut $54 billion from "non-defense" (mostly domestic) programs that provide jobs, food, housing, safety, health care, education, and more for tens of millions of individuals across the country. Yet, the president's Budget Message to Congress, Budget Summary, Major Savings and Reforms, and Appendices all fail to disclose how the budget would simultaneously cut government spending and address people's ongoing needs. Where will those tens of millions of people turn if these programs are cut on October 1?

As the Washington Post reports, "Trump's plan would put the onus on states, companies, churches and charities to offer many educational, scientific and social services that have long been provided by the federal government."

The White House cannot realistically expect the states to meet the markedly increased unmet human need caused by its proposed cuts to domestic spending. More than half the states have been in deficit mode during the last year, and more than half already are projecting budget shortfalls for their next fiscal year. Compounding the problem: the states, on average, receive 30.1 percent of their revenues from the federal government. When the federal government cuts domestic spending, that includes cuts to the states. For example, the FY2018 budget blueprint proposes eliminating the Community Development Block Grant ($2.9 billion) and Community Services Block Grant ($731 million) programs, which together provide funds for states and localities to spend on anti-poverty programs, emergency food assistance, affordable housing, public improvements, and public services. The proposed budget is rife with recommended cuts that the states cannot absorb, and which would leave tens of millions of people without a safety net.

Contrary to the Washington Post analysis above, anyone thinking that for-profit companies will step in to fill the gap is misguided. The very reason people in need turn to charitable nonprofits and governments is because they cannot afford what for-profit businesses charge.

Continue reading »

Does the DeVos Education Budget Promote "Choice" or Segregation?

May 24, 2017

Public-privateThe American public education system should provide all students with the opportunity to receive a rigorous, quality education — regardless of class, race, or ethnicity. In direct opposition to this goal, the FY2018 budget recommendations issued by the Trump administration would limit and even reduce opportunities, support, and civil rights protections for students across the country.

The proposed Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS), a new Title I program, is a thinly veiled attempt to open the door for the voucherization of all federal, state, and local public schools funding. As such, the push to funnel public money to private schools with the aim of "improving student academic performance" ignores the lessons of the past.

Attempts at voucherization by school districts across the country have resulted in overwhelmingly negative academic outcomes for students and the promotion of segregation. In the District of Columbia and Louisiana, both of which implemented district-wide voucher programs in an effort to "rescue" poorly performing school districts, evaluations of student performance showed a negative impact on student achievement, with students who participated in the Louisiana voucher experiment exhibiting steep declines in math performance — 13 percent lower, on average, after two years — compared to students who attended traditional public schools.

Why would we voluntarily expand a program that has proven to have the opposite effect of what we all hope to achieve?

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council, like other members of the National Coalition on School Diversity, is not opposed to expanding the range of opportunities available to students and their families. In fact, our research advocacy efforts are centered around the thoughtful, responsible expansion of public school choice approaches that bring children together in racial and economically integrated schools.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "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)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Archives

Other Blogs

Tags