169 posts categorized "Community Improvement/Development"

The Black community finds ways to restore dignity: A Q&A with Garnesha Ezediaro, Bloomberg Philanthropies

August 31, 2022

Headshot_Garnesha Ezediaro_Bloomberg PhilanthropiesGarnesha Ezediaro leads Bloomberg PhilanthropiesGreenwood Initiative, an effort to accelerate the pace of wealth accumulation for Black individuals and families and address systemic underinvestment in Black communities.

Ezediaro has worked across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to design, direct, and scale mission-focused programs, brands, and content that inspire change. She previously served as a senior program officer for the Government Innovation program at Bloomberg Philanthropies and also led global leadership development programs at Verizon Media, delivering training and targeted development programs for over 12,000 employees. Prior to that, she was the communications director for New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu and director of marketing at Brick City Development Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, under the leadership of former mayor Cory Booker.

Philanthropy News Digest asked Ezediaro about the long-lasting effects racism and violence have had on the Black community’s ability to achieve generational wealth and its impact on Black philanthropy, how Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative seeks to address racial wealth inequities, the initiative’s mission of reducing wealth disparities in Black communities, its investments and plans for future funding, Ezediaro’s role in the decision-making process, her background working in government innovation and communications and marketing for the mayors of two large urban cities, and her experiences discussing economic mobility for the Black workforce and closing wealth gaps.

Philanthropy News Digest: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that occurred in the neighborhood of Greenwood, once known as “Black Wall Street,” took hundreds of lives and stymied the growth of wealth proliferation in the Black community. What impact do you think it also had on Black philanthropy?

Garnesha Ezediaro: Throughout U.S. history, deep-seated racism and violence have shown up and disrupted thriving Black communities. A horrific event like the Tulsa Race Massacre not only immediately robs a neighborhood of life but simultaneously seizes invaluable community assets. In order to recover from such tragedy and to respond to the persisting inequity in housing, health care, education, and employment, Black communities donate their time, talent, and treasures. From places of worship to community groups to local giving circles, we have seen the Black community consistently find ways to restore dignity within their communities and to give to a range of causes and organizations. According to a report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Black households give 25 percent more of their income annually than white households, and nearly two-thirds of African American households donate to organizations and causes, and their contributions total $11 billion each year....

Read the full Q&A with Garnesha Ezediaro, Greenwood Initiative lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Innovate and invest in communities: A commentary by Angela F. Williams

August 24, 2022

Soup_kitchen_kuarmungadd_GettyImagesAmericans are hurting. More than one million people across our nation have died from COVID-19, a staggering and profound loss. Even as we continue to grieve, the other crises we face—rising costs of living, surging gun violence, and increasing division—can feel like a second pandemic.

The last several years have exposed deep fault lines in our society. As our problems become increasingly complex, so do their solutions. There is no silver bullet that will solve systemic problems like income inequality, hyper-polarization, or poverty. But as CEO of United Way Worldwide, the largest community-based nonprofit in the world, I believe that progress is possible. It starts by reimagining philanthropy to focus on the place where all of our global ills and solutions ultimately begin: community.

Communities are the cornerstone of society. But too often, philanthropies view local investment as a nicety that can be overlooked, instead of a necessary first step in solving global problems. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to abandon the power of local community. We need to innovate and invest in it like never before....

Read the full commentary by Angela F. Williams, CEO of United Way Worldwide.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/kuarmungadd)

Closing the wealth gap: A Q&A with Denise Scott, President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation

August 22, 2022

Headshot_Denise Scott_LISCDenise Scott has served as president of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) since December 2021. She joined LISC in 2001 as the executive director of the organization’s New York office and served as LISC’s executive vice president for programs from 2014 through 2021. Prior to joining LISC, Scott served as a White House appointee to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and as the managing director and coordinator responsible for launching the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.

Philanthropy News Digest asked Scott about settling into her new position as president of LISC, one of the nation’s largest community development financial institutions, how the organization uses its investments to work with local community and government leaders at a time of historic crisis in the housing market and major economic uncertainty, the organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Justice agenda and how it shapes the work, and how and when LISC evaluates its job as “finished” in a community.

Philanthropy News Digest: Since joining LISC in 2001, you’ve seen the organization evolve over multiple presidents’ tenures. How has the organization’s approach to housing policy advocacy changed over that time?

Denise Scott: Our approach has changed in response to market shifts. We started many years back with a focus mainly on multi-family tax credit projects, and then we evolved to a broader housing strategy that included preserving single-family housing, both occupied and vacant, with a real push to focus on home ownership—not across the entire LISC footprint, but in certain strategic markets. I’ll call out New York because that’s where I started in LISC. Over time, we came to focus on both multi-family and some single-family homes, and then we started turning our attention to issues around community resiliency.

That, of course, has tied into disasters like hurricanes. LISC’s focus on rebuilding after disasters has grown to include attention around climate and resiliency to be more proactive.

Read the full Q&A with Denise Scott, president of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Review: 'Nonprofit Neighborhoods: An Urban History of Inequality and the American State'

July 27, 2022

Book_cover_Nonprofit NeighborhoodsIn 2014, when Massachusetts launched its “pay for success” social impact bond program—in which private investors would front the funding for nonprofit efforts to address a social issue—it was hailed as an innovative, data-driven public-private partnership that would deliver demonstrated results and cost savings. Yet, as Claire Dunning illustrates in Nonprofit Neighborhoods: An Urban History of Inequality and the American State, it was just the latest chapter in a long history of public-private initiatives that so far have not fulfilled their promise.

An assistant professor of public policy and history at the University of Maryland, College Park, Dunning defines “nonprofit neighborhoods” as “places where neighborhood-based nonprofit organizations controlled access to the levers of political, economic, and social power and mediated the local manifestations of the state and market.” While that definition might suggest the nonprofits have power, Nonprofit Neighborhoods illuminates how, through government and public-private grantmaking, nonprofits in Boston’s low-income and minority neighborhoods came to provide the services that government should have provided and, even more disturbingly, how that funding mechanism was used to appease, manage, and control grassroots movements for policy reform and inclusion....

Read the full book review by Kyoko Uchida, features editor at Philanthropy News Digest.

Effective violence reduction strategies: A Q&A with Jocelyn Fontaine and Anita Ravishankar

July 01, 2022

Jocelyn_Fontaine_Anita_Ravishankar_Arnold_Ventures_credit_Todd SpothOn June 2, Arnold Ventures issued a research agenda and an RFP focused on violence reduction, including gun violence, citing an increase in violent crimes and incidents over the past two years across U.S. cities “regardless of their size, geographic location, or political leanings.”

Jocelyn Fontaine is Arnold Ventures’ vice president of criminal justice research; she previously served a senior researcher in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where she directed projects focused on corrections and reentry issues, gun violence, violence reduction programs, and police-community trust-building efforts. Anita Ravishankar is director of criminal justice research; she was a founding member of The Lab @ DC and the research and innovation team within the DC Metropolitan Police Department.

Philanthropy News Digest asked Fontaine and Ravishankar about the rise in gun violence, the priorities of the new research agenda and RFP, how violence reduction intersects with racial justice, and the role of philanthropy in driving solutions.

Philanthropy News Digest: Presumably the development of this research agenda and RFP on solutions for reducing violence was under way well before the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. What do you see as the main causes of the surge in violent crimes and incidents nationwide—many of which have targeted specific populations for their race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other marginalized identities?

Anita Ravishankar: Gun violence has long been at unacceptably high levels in the United States. The nearly 30 percent nationwide increase in homicides in 2020, on the heels of massive social disruptions due to the pandemic, brought that reality into sharp relief. As we noted in our materials, the increase in violence was widespread, affecting communities regardless of their size, location, political leadership, or policy environment....

But we do not have precise explanations, which is unsatisfying and hinders policy makers’ ability to address violence. So through this research agenda we are prioritizing studies that can help us understand both the immediate causes of violence—e.g., how do we understand what the particular problem of violence is in a given jurisdiction and respond in the near term—as well as the underlying or root causes of violence that require longer-term and more holistic strategies or solutions to address. Our work focuses on the people and places most at risk of involvement in violence, as perpetrators of violence and victims of violence, which has not changed much over time, and understanding what works to support police solutions.

PND: The research agenda comprises three pillars: address immediate crises of violence, identify and address the underlying causes of violence, and promote effective police investigations to solve violent crime. Did the most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde shift or sharpen your priorities for the research agenda in any way?

AR: Arnold Ventures has been making substantial investments to understand the efficacy of different gun policies and different violence reduction strategies for several years. The notable increase in community violence over the past few years made clear the need to increase our research efforts to match the urgency of the moment in needing answers on effective solutions, spurring our research agenda and RFP. The events in Buffalo and Uvalde are absolutely heart-wrenching, leading so many of us to want our elected leaders to “do something, anything” to prevent these tragedies from happening. Those leaders will need to understand what policies and practices are effective, however, and building the evidence is a critical contribution to ensuring that decision makers do have high-quality information to navigate these challenges. Identifying evidence-based policy solutions has been and continues to be a key driver of our research investments, across all of our areas of work.

PND: The announcement notes that “[t]he distribution of these violent incidents remains predominantly concentrated in communities that have been subject to chronic underinvestment”—which would suggest that violence reduction is a racial and social justice issue. How do you see the intersectionality of those issues?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Homicide remains the #1 cause of death for young Black men, and the second leading cause of death for young Hispanic men. These statistics are sobering and unacceptable. We must develop effective tools and responses—including policies, interventions, and resources–to address the problem of high levels of violence effectively to save lives and reduce victimization and harm. Yes, violence reduction is an issue of racial equity. Several studies have found that the majority of crimes often occur in a small number of specific streets or blocks and those trends are largely stable over time. Further, Black and Brown people are significantly more likely than white people to be victims of serious violence and homicide. As violent crime is concentrated in economically disadvantaged Black and Brown neighborhoods, which have been historically underserved and marginalized and where residents have a relationship with the police and the justice system that has been defined through a history of marginalization, oppression, surveillance, coercion, and control, effective violence reduction strategies is absolutely consistent with efforts to advance racial equity....

Read the full Q&A with Jocelyn Fontaine and Anita Ravishankar, Vice President and Director of Criminal Justice Research, Arnold Ventures.

(Photo credit: Todd Spoth)

What grassroots activism means: A commentary by Priscilla Enriquez

June 02, 2022

Census_gettyimagesWhen the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States in early March 2020, the James B. McClatchy Foundation was in the midst of hosting roundtables to better understand our community in California’s Central Valley and the organizations serving it. While many foundations engage in this process, we believe these conversations are critical to the impact of our work, as it helps us understand what is happening in our community while building relationships and trust with key partners.

Even as COVID-19 case numbers began to rise and shutdowns were announced, our new chief impact officer, Misty Avila, was deep in the field, hosting meetings with community leaders. As the foundation’s CEO, I felt responsible for her safety in the face of this new public health threat; after a few moments of wrestling with what to do next, I called her and asked her to cancel her appointments and return home.

It soon became clear that this crisis would directly affect our work and our lives. We paused our community roundtables. Rather than just shifting in-person meetings to virtual ones and continuing with our plan, we took a moment to recognize how this global event was impacting the communities we cared about. At the end of March, we convened our community of grassroots leaders and sincerely asked the only question that really mattered: “How are you doing?” I look back at that defining moment as the cornerstone of our work.

At that meeting, one of the leaders shared that by standing in a food line with a client, he was also able to do some census outreach. This act of caring, combined with activism in that same moment, helped me to gain a deeper understanding of what “grassroots” activism means. It means acting on an unselfish drive to seek out opportunities, even in grim conditions, to improve people’s lives, because the future matters. While this leader was helping an elder navigate an unfathomable crisis, he also saw a future in which an accurate census count could help that elder.

And as funders, we need to act in a similar fashion....

Read the full commentary by Priscilla Enriquez, CEO of the James B. McClatchy Foundation.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

How impact investments can support economic development, community change, and corporate purpose: A commentary by Hallie Bradley and Allison Swagler

May 26, 2022

Investment_charts_Nicholas Cappello_UnsplashIt is still relatively uncommon for corporate foundations in the United States to make impact investments, despite the fast growth of investments in sustainable strategies. At Alabama Power Foundation, the corporate foundation of Alabama’s largest public utility, we seek to use our experience to demonstrate how impact investments, in addition to grants, can accelerate economic development, deepen positive community change, and align with corporate purpose.

Our own impact investing journey began with a challenge from the foundation’s leadership in 2017 to partner with Alabama Power’s economic development team and develop charitable strategies that grow the tech sector’s workforce pipelines. That initial challenge sparked a transformative initiative to align the foundation’s social impact aims with the utility’s core knowledge of community needs, economic development, and local leadership....

Read the full commentary by Hallie Bradley and Allison Swagler, strategic initiatives manager and charitable giving specialist, respectively, of Alabama Power Foundation.

(Photo credit: Nicholas Cappello via Unsplash)

Building more resilient communities: A Q&A with Nicole Taylor, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

April 17, 2022

Headshot_Nicole_Taylor_SVCFNicole Taylor joined the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), the largest community foundation in the United States, as president and CEO in December 2018. She previously served as vice president of the ASU Foundation, as deputy vice president and dean of students at Arizona State University, and as associate vice provost of student affairs and dean of community engagement as well as managing director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, where she had earned her bachelor’s degree in human biology and master’s in education. She also has served as president and CEO of Thrive Foundation for Youth, the East Bay Community Foundation, and as CEO of College Track.

Since April 2020, Taylor also has served as co-chair of the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, a group of 59 business and community leaders working to chart a path to “a better normal” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taylor discussed SVCF’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, center racial equity in its grantmaking, and help address systemic inequities in the region; her experience as a Black woman in the C-Suite and the challenges women of color continue to face in the sector; and the role of donor-advised funds in democratizing philanthropy and the potential impact of currently proposed reform legislation.

Philanthropy News Digest: Can you share some highlights of how the more than $50 million raised in the early months of the pandemic helped address community needs across the region?

Nicole Taylor: In 2020, SVCF raised more than $65 million for pandemic response. This money went toward seven different funds to ensure that we supported the varied individuals and organizations affected by the pandemic and met their unique needs. Through our COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, we granted more than $20 million to core agency partners across the 10-county Bay Area region, which in turn provided relief—food, housing and financial assistance—to low-income individuals and families. We launched additional funds to support local nonprofits, small businesses, education systems, and childcare providers. Nearly $13 million was granted as part of the Regional Nonprofit Emergency Fund, which supported Santa Clara and San Mateo County nonprofits. Over $3 million was granted from the Small Business Relief Fund, which supported small businesses with employees at risk for lost wages.

As the pandemic continues to affect individuals and families, nonprofits, and small businesses, we will continue to serve these communities with just as much urgency, particularly in our own backyard. In 2021 alone, thanks to our donors, we distributed $777 million in grants to Bay Area organizations, a 48 percent increase compared to 2020 and the most distributed in any region. Our hope is that this community-focused giving will provide necessary support while building more resilient communities....

Read the full Q&A with Nicole Taylor, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Investing in CDFIs to drive equitable economic growth: A commentary by Carolina Martinez

March 25, 2022

Minority_women_owned_business_GettyImages Three ways philanthropies can support community development financial institutions

Over the last two years—as many businesses struggled to stay afloat amid COVID-19 lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, and staffing shortages—community development financial institutions (CDFIs) provided a lifeline to small business owners, especially women and people of color.      CDFIs have a mandate to funnel much-needed responsible capital to small business borrowers in low-income communities, communities of color, and other populations facing structural barriers to credit access, and are well positioned to offer financing to these underserved borrowers as the economy continues to recover.

Investing in CDFIs is a winning strategy for philanthropic funders aiming to drive equitable economic growth and address systemic racial and gender barriers to economic opportunity. Grantmakers can play a key role in these efforts by providing more flexible capital that enables CDFIs to scale their operations to reach more socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs—those whom the mainstream financial system has long failed. Most mainstream banks lend less today to small businesses than they did before the 2008 financial crisis.In fact, according to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, 8,000 loans are declined by banks on a daily basis. In addition, women, immigrants, and people of color face structural barriers that mean they face even higher hurdles to securing a loan. Adding to the problem are alternative lenders, including predatory lenders, who have stepped in to fill the gap with products that are expensive and damaging to the health of small businesses.

While the pandemic has intensified these trends, it also has shown how CDFIs can make a real difference. The problematic rollout of the early rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) demonstrated the limitations of big banks, which focused on their existing customers (including some large, profitable corporations) and overlooked borrowers in underserved communities. CDFIs, by contrast, deployed their PPP loans the way that Congress intended. The Small Business Administration reports that 78 percent of PPP loans made by CDFIs were under $150,000 and 40 percent were made to borrowers in low- and moderate-income areas, compared with overall program averages of 50 percent and 28 percent....

Read the full commentary by Carolina Martinez, CEO of CAMEO.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

A unique opportunity for governments and place-based funders: A commentary by Darius Graham

November 05, 2021

Headshot_Darius_Graham_weinberg_fdn_2021_croppedARPA's $350 billion opportunity and what philanthropy can do

In March 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which provides $1.9 trillion in funds across federal, state, and local governments. The funding streams are numerous and most funds flow through existing programs and agencies to bolster health and economic recovery — for example, $28.6 billion for the Small Business Administration's Restaurant Revitalization Fund and $21.6 billion to continue rent relief. While it would be impossible to identify any one source as more important than another, there is a portion of the funding that presents a unique opportunity for governments and place-based funders to ensure that local communities' urgent needs are prioritized — equitably and strategically — in both the immediate and long term.

Included within ARPA is $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) that will be allocated to state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments with no specific predetermined use.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the SLFRF's goals are to:

  • Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control
  • Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs
  • Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses
  • Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic

Notably, these funds offer substantial flexibility for governments to meet local needs and can be used to make investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. These flexible funds, which must be committed by the end of 2024, provide governments with the opportunity to fund immediate needs, fill gaps, and/or make strategic investments....

Read the full commentary by Darius Graham, program director for Baltimore at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Health justice and participatory democracy: An interview with Hanh Cao Yu, Chief Learning Officer, California Endowment

October 27, 2021

Headshot_Hanh_Cao_Yu_TCEEven before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the California Endowment (TCE) had been working to move from Building Healthy Communities, its place-based initiative, to an effort that provides more flexible funding to the organizations and communities it works with to build power across California. For example, TCE increased the share of grant dollars awarded in general operating support from 3 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2020.The foundation is on track to further increase flexible funding so that communities and grantees have more freedom to determine how best to use those funds.

Hanh Cao Yu is TCE's chief learning officer, in which role she is responsible for learning, evaluation, and impact activities and ensures that local communities, local and state grantees, board members, and staff understand the results and lessons of the foundation's investments.

PND's Matt Sinclair spoke with Yu about the foundation's effort to promote "People Power" and how the pandemic has affected its relationships with grantees.

Philanthropy News Digest: What does "health equity" mean? How is it different from "health justice," and to what extent has the foundation's idea of "health justice" changed in the wake of the pandemic and its impact, especially on communities of color?

Hanh Cao Yu: For us at the California Endowment, health equity has three parts: We want to achieve the highest level of health for all Californians, improve the systems and conditions of health for all groups, and make sure that those who've experienced racism and socioeconomic and historic injustices are helped and supported — because health equity helps advance social justice.

In terms of health justice, which is also a North Star of ours, the focus is on outcomes, whereas health equity is focused on the process of how we got to where we are today. At the heart of equity is the ability to meaningfully participate, to have a voice, to be heard, and to help set the agenda of the priorities for your community.

Even before the pandemic, TCE was working to achieve health equity in a major initiative called Building Healthy Communities, which is about investing in groups that are serving and led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color fighting for health systems reforms and the transformation of our justice system, as well as equitable public education and more inclusive community economic development.

Health justice is also about robust, participatory democracy, and it's good for equitable community health.

Read the full interview with Hanh Cao Yu.

Impact investing in the 'creative economy' to strengthen local economies: A commentary by Deb Parsons

August 10, 2021

Fabric_bolts_arts_creative_GettyImages_oksixImpacting the creative economy with philanthropic funds

What do film and fashion have to do with philanthropy?

For a growing number of impact investors, these industries and others that make up the "creative economy" are a powerful lever to strengthen local economies, build resilient communities, and support an equitable COVID-19 recovery. Increasingly, impact investors are using foundations and donor-advised funds to make investments in a variety of local, national, and even international creative economy enterprises that are driving positive social and environmental change. With its focus on solutions that prioritize people and the planet, impact investing complements traditional grantmaking by leveraging the power of markets to create positive change....

Read the full commentary by Deb Parsons, managing director at ImpactAssets.

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

A moment for arts and social change

July 06, 2021

Museum_of_Chinese_in_AmericaMacKenzie Scott's latest $2.74 billion round of grants made big news for the outsized impact one donor can have on the nonprofit sector and for its focus on tackling inequities. Also notable was the number of arts and cultural groups among the grantees — more specifically, organizations created by and for people of color who work every day to put arts and culture at the forefront of social transformation. 

This support indicates a sophisticated understanding of the primacy of cultural expression as a place of engagement with one another and society at large — essential to transformation for the common good.

Scott said the grants to organizations "from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook" were aimed at "empowering voices the world needs to hear." As co-chairs of the Mosaic Network & Fund — which funds and promotes arts and cultural groups of color in New York City and is one of the beneficiaries on the list — we couldn't agree more.

These groups have been tireless in their efforts to showcase aesthetic excellence, preserve diverse cultural traditions, and advance social change, despite being resourced at a level vastly incommensurate with their importance. For example, Ballet Hispánico, a fifty-year-old contemporary dance company that performs classical and contemporary works, trains young dancers, and functions as a source of pride and identity for the community from which it arises. The smaller Mama Foundation for the Arts provides a vital training ground for youth gospel singers. Institutions like these are cultural markers that lift up the voices, stories, and experiences of Americans whose contributions are minimized in or excluded altogether from artistic canons.

Then there are groups such as the First People's Fund, which is investing in Native American artists and culture bearers to preserve handed-down traditions while acting as economic anchors for their communities, and the Museum of Chinese in America, which challenges false, harmful stereotypes to more fully tell the stories of Americans of Chinese descent. These groups bring to light overlooked or misunderstood facets of American history and culture. 

Still others have missions that intentionally fuse art and activism and incubate artists within the heart and soul of their communities. The Laundromat Project — whose early art projects were set in neighborhood laundromats — intertwines art making and community building, supporting creative leaders who rally neighbors around common causes such as housing and health and wellness. And Harlem-based Firelight Media develops documentary filmmakers of color and produces films about communities of color, often reaching national audiences.

These groups are ideal conduits for gathering and broadcasting the thoughts and ideas of people whose voices are scarcely heard. Art and culture tell us who we are and help us organize to tackle the urgent issues of our times, such as mass incarceration, immigration, and climate change.

Creating and presenting art is always a labor of love, but Scott's gifts remind us that artists and the groups that nurture them are an important investment. If we are to tell the American story fully and in all its richly textured splendor, their work is vital.

Equally important, it's time for all of us to join Scott in giving long overdue, meaningful recognition and support to African-American, Latinx, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Arab-American, and Native American arts organizations that are essential to the vibrancy of our society. While we cannot all make gifts as large as Scott's, we must recognize the transformational role each of us can and must play to ensure that the arts embody the voices of all communities.

(Photo credit: Museum of Chinese in America)

Maruine_Knighton_Kerry_McCarthy_Mosaic_NYCT_PhilanTopicMaurine Knighton and Kerry McCarthy are co-chairs of the Mosaic Network & Fund in the New York Community Trust.

 

More Americans may be going back to work, but their jobs are getting worse

April 16, 2021

Essential_worker_Christine_McCann_sffLast April, the coronavirus pandemic brought the longest economic expansion in American history to an abrupt and shocking halt. In just a few short months, the unemployment rate shot up from a fifty-year low of 3.5 percent to nearly 14.7 percent. A year later, many people are breathing a sigh of relief as the rate has ticked back down to 6 percent, with some taking it as a sign that America is on track to full economic recovery.

But while recent headlines may be cause for optimism, they don't tell the whole story. Using the unemployment rate to gauge the health of an economy is like putting your hand on someone's forehead to check whether they have COVID-19. It can tell you whether they're running a fever,  but it doesn't provide enough data to make an accurate diagnosis.

The truth is, the unemployment rate tells us nothing about the quality of jobs, making it an inadequate metric to understand the true health of the labor market. Gallup's 2020 Great Jobs Report, which Omidyar Network supported in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and  Lumina Foundation, found that more than half (52 percent) of those who were laid off during the pandemic — even if they were subsequently re-hired — reported a decline in their overall job quality as measured across eleven dimensions, including pay, benefits, stability, and safety.

First commissioned in 2019, the Great Jobs survey was groundbreaking: unlike simple "job satisfaction" metrics aimed at providing an overall sense of job satisfaction, the intent of the survey was to look under the hood of the labor market and identify trouble spots. A diverse group of more than sixty-six hundred working people were asked to define what a "good" job looks like and then assess how their own jobs stacked up against that standard. The original survey showed that less than half (40 percent) of working people in the United States believed they were employed in a good job, while one in six (16 percent) believed they were stuck in a bad job, with significant disparities by race.

The latest survey gives us a window into how the pandemic has impacted job quality. Those who started 2020 in a low-quality or "bad" job — based on their own assessment — were far more likely to have been laid off (36 percent) than those working a high-quality or "good" job pre-pandemic (23 percent). And low-wage workers with high-quality jobs in 2019 reported experiencing much lower COVID-19  risk and better employer-provided protective measures during the pandemic. The fact is, job quality matters, especially when a crisis hits.

Even before COVID struck, the topline numbers masked how unhealthy the U.S. economy really is. The richest 10 percent of Americans control 77 percent of the country's wealth, while for millions of Americans the rising cost of living has skyrocketed, wages have stagnated, and the wealth inequality gap continues to widen. These are not the hallmarks of a healthy economy.

The findings from The Great Jobs Report underscore the mounting evidence that the pandemic exacerbated structural inequities within the U.S. economy. Indeed, job quality in 2020 actually improved for people who avoided being laid off, with many reporting improvements in their compensation, flexibility with respect to where and when they worked, workplace safety, and  a sense of purpose in their work. By contrast, those who experienced being laid off reported lower scores on every dimension of job quality except safety.

But COVID-19 is just the latest driver of worsening job quality in the U.S., with technological disruption leading the list of other threats. While automation may not lead to the mass destruction of jobs — as feared by some — it could lead to deterioration in job quality in many industries and sectors. Meanwhile, the gig economy has made underemployment an acceptable alternative to unemployment. If someone who is laid off starts driving for Uber, they count as employed  — even though it is a more precarious, unstable, and lower-paid kind of work. This also has the effect of skewing the monthly unemployment numbers lower than they otherwise would be. An upskilling and job-matching program won't address these trends; the problem is with the jobs themselves, not the skills of the people in these jobs.

The alarming state of job quality in America reinforces how critical it is to empower working men and women to bargain for a fairer deal and better quality jobs across the dimensions that matter most.

We can create an economy where everyone has a good job. But if we don't start to pay attention to the quality, and not just the quantity, of jobs, we risk creating an economy where major disruptions driven by pandemics or natural disasters, automation, and climate change could lead to continued deterioration in quality of jobs for those who already find themselves in a precarious position. And if we continue to rely on the unemployment rate to tell us what's going on, we risk becoming dangerously out of touch with what's really happening.

We are heartened by the Biden administration's American Jobs Plan and the emphasis it puts on high-quality jobs. But it's going to take a concerted effort across society to detangle the perception that the unemployment rate is the final word on the health of our economy and working Americans. We urge other philanthropists and foundations, experts and economists, advocates, and activists to join the movement to put quality at the center of how we think about jobs and help us find better ways to measure, understand, and fight for quality jobs.

(Photo credit: Christine McCann, San Francisco Foundation)

Tracy_Williams_Omidyar_philantopicTracy Williams is a director at Omidyar Network, where she leads the social change venture's work to reimagine capitalism, build the power of working people, and shape a new economic paradigm.

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