358 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, the SDGs Are More Relevant Than Ever

May 10, 2020

SdgThe world is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods. The primary cost of the pandemic as calculated in the loss of human life is distressing, but the knock-on effects in terms of the global economy, people's livelihoods, and sustainable development prospects are even more alarming. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the global economy has already fallen into recession, and while the full economic impact of the crisis is difficult to predict, the ultimate cost is likely to be extraordinary and unprecedented.

That is why we must all support the United Nations' call to scale up the immediate health response to the virus, with a particular focus on women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector, and vulnerable groups who were already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihoods, and get the global economy back on track.

At the same time, the pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system of governance and demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt how poverty, inadequate health systems, underresourced educational systems, and sub-optimal global cooperation can exacerbate a crisis like COVID-19. These are exactly the kinds of challenges the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to address.

The rapid spread of the virus has come at a time when the SDGs were beginning to get traction and a significant number of countries were making progress in implementing them. But with the world today consumed by the need to contain the virus and mitigate its many adverse and debilitating impacts, countries are resetting their priorities and reallocating resources to deal with the challenge.

Emerging evidence of the broader impact of the coronavirus crisis on efforts to achieve the SDGs should be troubling for all. UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students globally have been affected by the pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4, while the International Labour Organization (ILO) projects that some 25 million people could lose their jobs over the coming months, dealing a serious blow to progress on Sustainable Development Goal 8 — and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Crucially, in many parts of the world, the pandemic also is creating roadblocks to progress on clean water and sanitation targets (Goal 6), addressing pervasive inequality (Goal 10), and, perhaps most importantly, addressing the twin crises of global poverty (Goal 1) and hunger/food insecurity (Goal 2). Indeed, the World Bank estimates that pandemic will push an additional 11 million people into poverty.

In other words, what we cannot afford to do in this critical moment is to de-link the global response to the pandemic from action on the SDGs. Indeed, by continuing to make progress on the SDGs, we will be putting ourselves on a firmer path to dealing with global health risks and the emergence of new infectious diseases in the future. Achieving SDGs Goal 3, for instance, will mean that we succeeded in strengthening the capacity of countries to conduct early warning surveillance, reduce the risk of contagious pathogens from spreading, and manage the situation promptly and effectively should they be faced with such a situation.

As the global community strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up our actions to support and ultimately achieve the goals by 2030. The world has the knowledge and expertise to muster the full complement of resources needed to to do that. Buoyed by a spirit of solidarity, governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, and civil society have been able to raise and direct trillions of dollars to defeat the virus. We can do the same to defeat global poverty, reduce inequality, provide a quality education to all, protect the climate, and build a more just and sustainable global economy. All that is missing is the political will.

As governments, business, and civil society around the world respond to the impacts of the pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us to stay focused on the underlying factors that have exacerbated those impacts. We cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic, to address people's basic needs, protect the beauty and diversity of our planet, and build a fairer and more just world. COVID-19 reminds us that we face common, global challenges that can only be solved through united, global action. In a crisis like this, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Erna Solberg are, respectively, president of the Republic of Ghana and prime minister of Norway and co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General's Eminent Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Corporations Ramp Up Support for COVID-19 Response Efforts (April 16-30, 2020)

May 03, 2020

COVID-19As COVID-19 spreads globally and in the United States, corporations and their foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. The "quick-hit" roundup below captures some of the corporate activity in response to COVID-19 over the last two weeks. (In many cases, larger gifts have been covered separately as part of PND's daily news feed.) Items are sorted in alpha order by company name.

For more coverage, check out PND's COVID-19 page and Candid's COVID-19 popup page.

Activision Blizzard, Kingston Technology, and donors including Richard Scudamore and Julia and George Argyros have donated more than $5 million to the Hoag Hospital Foundation in Newport Beach, California, in support of COVID-related clinical trials, additional protective equipment, and emerging areas of need.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has announced an initial donation of high-performance computing (HPC) systems valued at $15 million to research institutions working to accelerate medical research on COVID-19 and other diseases. The company also announced donations totaling more than $1 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Austin Community Foundation, and local organizations in Canada, India, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Aflac has announced donations totaling $5 million to organizations assisting healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Contributions include $2 million to the Global Center for Medical Innovation, which is using 3D printing to help address shortages of medical equipment such as ventilators and protective masks, and $3 million to Direct Relief, which is providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential medical supplies to health workers in all fifty states.

Albertsons in Boise, Idaho, has announced a $50 million commitment in support of hunger relief efforts in the District of Columbia and thirty-four states where it operates supermarkets. Through its Nourishing Neighbors Community Relief campaign, the company will work with local nonprofits to help keep food banks stocked and able to respond to increased demand, support school-based emergency meal distribution programs, and bolster meal and food distribution programs for seniors.

As part of its $4 million commitment in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in California, Anthem Blue Cross has announced grants totaling $200,000 to United Way and Feeding America. The funds will support food banks, shelters, and other resource centers that are helping individuals and families with basic needs

Direct Relief has announced a donation of three million surgical masks from AstraZeneca to U.S. health workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Direct Relief will distribute most of the level 1 surgical masks to health facilities in areas with the most pressing need, with a portion to be directed to emergency management agencies in states where AstraZeneca has a significant presence.

The Blue Shield of California Foundation has announced grants totaling $6.8 million in support of efforts to address economic hardships caused by the spread of the virus, a spike in domestic violence, and the need for accurate, accessible virus-related information in multiple languages. Recipients include the Asian Pacific Fund ($100,000), the California Community Foundation ($500,000), Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees ($1 million), and the Women's Foundation of California ($1.45 million).

Cargill is offering its headquarters' cafeteria so that Minnesota Central Kitchen can expand its operations. The additional kitchen space will allow the nonprofit to provide employment to laid-off workers and four thousand meals a week to Minnesotans in need. The Cargill Foundation also has donated $1 million to add a distribution site in North Minneapolis with Appetite for Change and support the production of a hundred and twenty thousand meals across MCK sites.

Cisco is supporting #FirstRespondersFirst, an initiative of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global, and the CAA Foundation aimed at providing essential protective equipment, accommodations, child care, food, mental health support, and other resources to frontline healthcare workers, Thrive Global reports. To that end, Cisco is opening a childcare center on its San Jose headquarters campus to the children of first responders and is funding three additional centers in Cary, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; and Birmingham, Alabama.

To support underserved individuals impacted by the public health emergency in New York State, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has announced $2 million in unrestricted grants to community-based organizations providing healthcare services to persons of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay, as well as food banks and other nonprofits that provide critical services to home-bound seniors.

Dow has announced grants totaling $500,000 from the Dow Company Foundation in support of community foundations and economic development corporations in Midland, Bay, Isabella, and Saginaw counties in Michigan. The funds will support the rapid deployment of resources to address critical needs arising from the public health emergency, including support for frontline workers, small businesses, and nonprofits providing food and care for children.

The Duke Energy Foundation has announced grants totaling more than $340,000 to South Carolina K-12 education programs focused on summer reading loss, STEM instruction, and experiential learning programs that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Recipients include Children's Museum of the Upstate ($20,000), Girl Scouts of South Carolina ($20,000), South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics ($18,000), and United Way of Pickens County ($25,000). The foundation also awarded a total of $80,000 in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in the greater Cincinnati area — grants of $5,000 each to six hospitals and $25,000 each to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky.

St. Louis-based Edward Jones has announced commitments totaling $2.7 million in support of local, regional, and national efforts to address immediate needs in communities impacted by the coronavirus. Grant recipients include the American Red Cross, the St. Louis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, and five local hospital systems.

Madison County Schools in Huntsville, Alabama, has announced a donation of $939,000 from Facebook to help provide every student in the district with an Internet-enabled device and Internet connectivity. The gift includes funding to install mobile WiFi on school buses and extend the range of WiFi access points at schools so students can connect to remote learning tools from more locations. Facebook opened a data center in Huntsville in 2018.

The Figgers Foundation, the charitable arm of African American-owned telecommunications firm Figgers Communications, is donating approximately seven hundred thousand units of personal protection equipment (PPE) — surgical masks, N95 masks, face shields, and hazmat protective coveralls — to hospitals and healthcare workers in coronavirus hotspots, including California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.

Americares, with support from the GE Foundation, which helped source masks from its supplier in China, has announced it will be distributing more than 1.4 million protective masks to health workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response in eleven states and Puerto Rico. The Medtronic Foundation and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation also provided support for the purchase and distribution of the personal protective equipment.

Heinz has announced a $1 million commitment to help cover rent and operating costs for independently owned diners impacted by closures due to COVID-19. The company will award grants of $2,000 to five hundred eligible diners nominated by the public through May 31 at https://www.heinzfordiners.com.

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has announced pledges totaling $1 million to its Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund from the Kimberly-Clark Foundation and former Kimberly-Clark executive chair Tom Falk and his wife, Karen. The contributions of $500,000 each from the foundation and the Falks, co-chairs of the United Way's 2019-20 campaign, boosts to $6.3 million the total raised for the fund, which has awarded more than $2 million to date to nearly a hundred and fifty community-based organizations.

In partnership with Project N95, the KIND Foundation has announced a $1 million commitment to launch the Frontline Impact Project, a platform where healthcare organizations and other frontline responders can request help to meet their greatest needs. While Project N95 has focused on performing supply chain diligence and securing PPE for health workers, the new partnership will enable thousands of healthcare facilities in the Project N95 network to request donations in the areas of nourishment, lodging, and transportation.

The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation has announced the creation of a $10 million Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund to help families disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Since March, the foundation has pledged more than $6 million to Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, Meals on Wheels America, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation's COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, Sunshine Division's Emergency Food Box Program, Benefits Data Trust, and other nonprofits.

Liberty Mutual Insurance has announced an additional commitment of $10 million to frontline organizations in Boston treating COVID-19 patients and/or providing food and shelter to vulnerable individuals and populations, including low-income and homeless families. Initial grants of $1 million each were awarded to Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Boston Medical Center, and Pine Street Inn, while grants of $500,000 were awarded to Friends of Boston's Homeless, St. Francis House, and the Greater Boston Food Bank. In March, Liberty Mutual announced grants totaling $5 million in support of four hundred and fifty nonprofit partners and the Boston Resiliency Fund.

The MetLife Foundation has announced grants totaling $1 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in New York City as part of a $25 million commitment in support of global efforts in response to the pandemic. Grants in this round were awarded to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation ($200,000), the Children's Health Fund ($150,000), Hot Bread Kitchen ($150,000), and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation ($500,000).

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation has announced a $5 million grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation, and Competition in Healthcare to expand its efforts to drive awareness and adoption of patient safety processes during the public health emergency.

The PGA of America has announced the launch of a Golf Emergency Relief Fund to provide short-term financial assistance to workers in the golf industry who are facing significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The association has pledged $5 million and a matching fund for donations up to $2.5 million.

PPG and the PPG Foundation have announced grants totaling more than $1.5 million in support of community relief efforts and emerging recovery needs created by the public health crisis, in the Pittsburgh region and elsewhere. Grants include $520,000 in support of local organizations serving those most at risk in PPG communities across the globe; $375,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; $275,000 to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Emergency Action Fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation; and $150,000 to Feeding America.

The PSEG Foundation in Newark, New Jersey, has announced commitments totaling $2.5 million for COVID-19 relief efforts, including a $1 million donation to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. In coming months, the foundation will award grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 to regional nonprofits such as food banks and health and social services organizations working to support those impacted medically, socially, and/or economically by the coronavirus.

Publix has announced an initiative to purchase fresh produce and milk from Florida produce farmers and dairy farmers in the Southeast impacted by COVID-related closures and donate those products to Feeding America member food banks in communities where the company operates. Launched in response to numerous reports of farmers discarding produce and milk they can't sell — mostly as a result of school, restaurant, and hotel closures — the initiative is expected to run for several weeks.

Sam's Club has announced a $1 million donation to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in support of efforts to help small businesses impacted by the economic fallout from the spread of COVID-19. The donation will fund emergency grants of $10,000 awarded through the LISC Rapid Relief and Resiliency Fund, with priority given to small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, and other underserved populations.

The S&P Global Foundation has announced a second and final round of grants from its initial $2 million commitment in support of the global response to the pandemic, with a focus on addressing food security and healthcare needs in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Grants also were awarded to Project HOPE, the New York State COVID-19 First Responders Fund, the New York City Police Foundation, and the New York City Fire Department Foundation. In addition, the S&P Global Foundation announced a new commitment of $2 million in support of small businesses; grantees include Accion International, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Save Small Business Fund, and MicroMentor.

The Siemens Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.5 million to community health centers in twelve U.S. cities struggling to provide affordable health care to the uninsured and medically underserved. Grant recipients include Chase Brexton Health Services (Baltimore), Daughters of Charity Services/Marillac Community Health Center (New Orleans), International Community Health Services (Seattle), Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Health Care (Washington, D.C.), Newark Community Health Centers (Newark), STRIDE Community Health Center (Denver), Watts Healthcare Corporation (Los Angeles), and Western Wayne Family Health Centers (Detroit).

Stanley Black & Decker has announced a commitment of more than $10 million to address impacts of the coronavirus. Financial commitments include $4 million to NGOs working on the front lines of the pandemic globally, $5 million for a COVID-19 employee emergency relief fund, and a doubling of its match for employee donations to the relief fund or a charity of their choice. The company also will purchase three million face masks as well as other PPE for healthcare workers and first responders in the communities where it operates.

The State Employee Credit Union and the SECU Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, have announced a $10 million commitment in support of COVID-19 relief efforts across the state. Contributions of $5 million each from SECU and its foundation will support nonprofits working to meet food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance needs, as well as frontline medical providers working to help the most vulnerable North Carolinians during the public health emergency.

The United Health Foundation has announced a $5 million partnership with the AARP Foundation aimed at supporting low-income older Americans during the public health emergency. Part of UnitedHealth Group's $70 million commitment in support of COVID-19 relief and response efforts, the collaboration will address social isolation and food insecurity among seniors by connecting them with emergency food services and expanding AARP Foundation's Connect2Affect platform, which is designed to reduce social isolation and promote greater connection among seniors.

The UnitedHealth Group has announced commitments totaling $10 million in support of frontline healthcare workers and efforts to develop convalescent plasma treatments for COVID-19. Commitments of $2 million each from the United Health Foundation to the CDC Foundation and Direct Relief and $1 million to the American Nurses Foundation will fund the purchase of PPE for community health centers and free and mobile clinics across the United States, as well as the creation of a virtual system designed to promote nurses' mental well-being and resilience and recognize their contributions to the fight against the virus. The foundation also pledged $5 million for a federally sponsored program led by the Mayo Clinic aimed at coordinating efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and distribute it to hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening infections.

The United States Tennis Association has announced commitments totaling $50 million to support the U.S. tennis industry as it struggles with the economic fallout from the coronavirus. Assistance programs include the continuation of "grow the game" funding commitments of $35 million to community tennis programming in 2020 and 2021; more than $5 million to help facilities in need of financial support reopen; $2.5 million in membership grants; more than $5 million in grants and scholarships to grassroots tennis and education organizations supporting underserved communities through the National Junior Tennis and Learning network; and free online continuing professional development for facility owners and managers and tennis professionals.

The UPS Foundation has announced a commitment of $15 million in support of global COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts in the areas of health care, education, financial sustainability, and food security. An initial $1 million in funding will help provide immediate relief in the United States; grantees include Family Scholar House in Louisville, Kentucky; United Way of New York City; Ramsey Responds in Ramsey, New Jersey; and the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas.

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service — part of the WEC Energy Group — have announced commitments totaling $1 million in support of nonprofits working to address the spread of COVID-19 and its impacts. Grants will be awarded through the We Energies Foundation and WPS Foundation to hospitals, first responders, and food pantries.

And the National Institutes of Health and Foundation for the NIH have announced the launch of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership. With input from both public and private stakeholders, the partnership will work to develop a framework for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine and drug candidates, streamline clinical trials, coordinate regulatory processes, and leverage assets to accelerate the scientific response to the coronavirus. Government agency partners in the effort include the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the European Medicines Agency, while participating industry partners include AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, Evotec, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, KSQ Therapeutics, Eli Lilly and Company, Merck & Co., Novartis, Pfizer, Roche,Sanofi, Takeda, and Vir Biotechnology.

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"Hoag Donors Contribute More Than $5 Million to Date to Support Hoag’s COVID-19 Response and Research." Hoag Hospital Foundation 04/20/2020.

"Shared Resilience: Update to AMD COVID-19 Response." AMD Press Release 04/15/2020.

"Aflac Incorporated Donates $5 Million as Part of Company's Overall COVID-19 Pandemic Response." Aflac Press Release 04/14/2020.

"Albertsons Companies Commits Additional $50 Million to Community Hunger Relief in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic." Albertsons Companies Press Release 04/22/2020.

"Anthem Blue Cross Donations to Feeding America and United Way Continue Supporting COVID-19 Relief in California." Anthem Blue Cross Press Release 04/21/2020.

"AstraZeneca Donates 3 Million Surgical Masks to Direct Relief for Covid-19 Supply Needs in the US." Direct Relief Press Release.

"Blue Shield of California Foundation Commits $6.8 Million to Support Californians Hit Hardest by the COVID-19 Pandemic." Blue Shield of California Foundation Press Release 04/15/2020.

"Cargill Foundation Supports MN Central Kitchen, Minnesota Nonprofit and Restaurant Community Tackles Hunger." Cargill Foundation Press Release 04/13/2020.

"Cisco Supports #FirstRespondersFirst to Open Four Bright Horizons Centers to Provide Free Child Care for Frontline Healthcare Workers." Thrive Global Press Release 04/21/2020.

Delta Dental Community Care Foundation Pledges $2 Million in Funding to Support New York State Organizations Responding to COVID-19." Delta Dental Community Care Foundation 04/21/2020.

"Dow Commits $500,000 to Aid Great Lakes Bay Region COVID-19 Relief Efforts." Dow Press Release 04/09/2020.

"Duke Energy Foundation Awards Additional $80,000 to Greater Cincinnati Area Hospitals, Nonprofit Organizations to Respond to Pandemic." Duke Energy Press Release 04/23/2020.

"Duke Energy Foundation Provides More Than $340,000 to South Carolina K-12 Education Organizations During COVID-19 Crisis." Duke Energy Press Release 04/21/2020.

"Edward Jones Commits Support for Communities in Response to COVID-19." Edward Jones Press Release 04/23/2020.

"Thank You For Your Support, Facebook!!!." Madison County Schools Facebook Post 04/23/2020.

:The Figgers Foundation Donates Over 700,000 Units of Personal Protection Equipment to Healthcare Workers in Hotspot Regions on Front Lines of Coronavirus Crisis." Figgers Foundation Press Release 04/22/2020.

"Americares Delivers 1.4 Million Masks to Protect Against COVID-19." Americares Press Release 04/17/2020.

"HEINZ Announces Initiative to Support America's Diners." Heinz Press Release 04/23/2020.

"Gift to Address Long-Term Challenges Affecting Education, Income and Health in North Texas." United Way of Dallas Press Release 04/16/2020.

"The KIND Foundation and Project N95 Launch the 'Frontline Impact Project', a Platform to Support the People Risking Their Lives to Keep Us Safe." KIND Foundation Press Release 04/14/2020.

"The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation Launches Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund." Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation Press Release 04/20/2020.

"Liberty Mutual Insurance Commits $15 Million in Crisis Grants to Community Partners." Liberty Mutual Insurance Press Release 04/15/2020.

"MetLife Foundation Supports COVID-19 Response In NYC." MetLife Foundation Press Release 04/16/2020.

"Publix Launches Initiative to Help Farmers, Feed Those in Need During Pandemic." Publix Press Release 04/22/2020.

"Coming Together: Support for Small Businesses Impacted by the Pandemic." Sam's Club Press Release 04/22/2020.

"Stanley Black & Decker Commits Financial Support and Expertise During COVID-19 Pandemic." Stanley Black & Decker Press Release 04/14/2020.

"SECU and SECU Foundation Join Efforts to Provide $10 Million for COVID-19 Disaster Relief!" State Employee Credit Union and SECU Foundation Press Release 04/09/2020.

"Patient Safety Movement Foundation Awarded $5 Million to Help Advance Its Mission to Improve Patient Safety and Reduce Preventable Hospital Deaths." Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation, and Competition in Healthcare Press Release 04/14/2020.

"PGA of America Announces Golf Emergency Relief Fund." PGA of America Press Release 04/13/2020.

"PPG Commits More Than $1.5 Million to Support Global COVID-19 Relief Efforts." PPG Press Release 04/14/2020.

"PSEG Foundation Commits $2.5 Million to Support Medical, Social and Economic Needs of New Jersey Communities Amid Devastating COVID-19 Pandemic." PSEG Foundation Press Release 04/14/2020.

"S&P Global Foundation Commits Additional USD $2M to COVID-19 Relief Efforts." S&P Global Foundation Press Release 04/14/2020.

"Siemens Foundation Provides $1.5M Across 12 Community Health Centers to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts." Siemens Foundation Press Release 04/16/2020.

"United Health Foundation Joins Forces with AARP Foundation in $5 Million Initiative to Support Seniors Experiencing Isolation, Food Insecurity, During COVID-19 Crisis." United Health Group Press Release 04/22/2020.

"UnitedHealth Group Donates $5 Million to Support National Program to Develop Convalescent Plasma Treatments for COVID-19." UnitedHealth Group Press Release 04/21/2020.

"Next Phase of Support for Tennis Industry Announced." United States Tennis Association Press Release 04/21/2020.

"The UPS Foundation Allocates $15M to U.S. Community Organizations and Worldwide Non-Profits in Fight Against Coronavirus and to Support the Road to Recovery." UPS Press Release 04/20/2020.

"The Foundations of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service Commit $1 Million to COVID-19 Relief Effort." We Energies Press Release 04/14/2020.

"NIH to Launch Public-Private Partnership to Speed COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Options." National Institutes of Health Press Release 04/17/2020.

Earth Day 2020 Is an Opportunity for a New Philanthropy

April 23, 2020

Water flowing in my cornfield, like a hundred miniature rivers all at once,
carrying a simple message for a complex world.

Earth-Day-blue-2499-sq-1I clearly remember the first time I heard about Earth Day and someone mention the word ecology. Back then, in 1970, ecology was connected to a hip idea that I understood as "don't litter." The movement to clean up the environment was emerging, and many were moved by the Keep America Beautiful (Crying Indian) PSA — the one in which a noble-looking Indian paddles through an industrial wasteland and ends up shedding a single tear on a litter-strewn beach. (One thing we didn’t know, back then, was that "Iron Eyes" Cody, the "Indian" in the ad, was an Italian-American actor who had made a career out of portraying Native Americans in films.)

When I was about ten years old, my grandfather taught me how to whistle like a meadowlark so I could have conversations with them. By varying the pitch, rhythm, and tone of my whistle, meadowlarks would respond to me, and we would toss our calls back and forth until my mouth became too tired or dry to whistle any longer. The language of the meadowlark is theirs alone, but I knew they were trying to communicate with me. Later, in college, I learned that our planet and the universe are incredibly complex, yet in that field with the meadowlarks, the world was a simple and beautiful place. It was Albert Einstein, I think, who said: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." I couldn't agree more.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing even the biggest players in philanthropy to rethink and readjust their strategies and forcing them to come to grips with unexpected forces that could threaten the stability of our society and the planet. It's enough to make one cry, but if we think of Earth Day 2020 as a new starting line, there are several things we can do to get us moving forward with renewed vigor.

Reject a return to normal. A large part of the globe is trying to look past the pandemic and is hoping for a return to normal. But most of us know "normal" has not been satisfactory or adequate, especially for marginalized peoples. As a result of deliberate policies, millions of people around the globe are subject to living conditions that unfairly aggravate their efforts to obtain nutritious food and clean water, particularly in times of crisis. Truth be told, too much of the global population is not resilient, and far too many of us exist on the edge of a precipice. If nothing, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that the global economy is dangerously fragile, and when it is disrupted, panic, anxiety, and anger ensue. When systems fall out of balance, as they have over the last three or four decades, significant human and financial resources must be deployed to restore the balance.

Communicate a message of compassion and reciprocity. We live in a world filled with damaged people and people who have been left behind. We also live in a world of environmental limits. We cannot continue to take from the planet without giving back, and we must not continue to neglect vulnerable people. You and I know this to be the case; now is the time to share the message widely and from a place of compassion.

Take justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in your grantmaking seriously. If your board and staff and those of your grantees are not ready for change, you need to let them know that the time for change is now. It is up to you to use your grantmaking to confront asymmetries of power. And it makes sense this should be so. We need the broadest spectrum of skills and talents if we are to develop solutions to the complex problems we face.

Direct your support to local and regional philanthropic channels. Let's be frank: community foundations and other local organizations know their social, cultural, economic, and political contexts better than you do. It's up to you, therefore, to build their capacity to do more of what they're doing. It’s an efficient and effective strategy that you need to invest in, if you aren’t already.

Native peoples have long known that land and water conservation is inseparable from food security and is the responsibility of each of us. I am also firm in my belief that preserving Native languages as vessels of traditional knowledge is a critical component of social and environmental resilience, not only in reaction to a crisis but as a human right. What has been happening in Native communities around the world for many years now is just one more example of the "canary in a coal mine." It's time to pay attention.

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, Earth Day 2020 is our chance to start anew. It's an honor for me personally to be a part of the environmental community during this challenging time. We are principled and moral people. We sometimes make mistakes, but we learn from those mistakes and move forward. We walk toward challenges, not away from them. We commit to do better because we want to make the world a more beautiful place.

Recently, standing beside the spring that waters my property, I understood that the water was speaking in a language I had known all along. Not a language of words, but of sound, a simple abstraction of the glory of the natural world, a world we must love and protect for generations to come.

Headshot_Jim EnoteJim Enote is a Zuni tribal member and CEO of the Colorado Plateau Foundation. For over forty years, he has tackled land and water conservation issues around the world and is committed to conserving and protecting his own and other Native cultures.  

Philanthropy's Moment: Advocating for and Funding What's Essential

April 14, 2020

5710857_origAs history has shown, crises can present moments of opportunity for bold action while also creating new perspectives and priorities. This is one of those moments for philanthropy.

Right now, what matters most is to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are not disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. If we fail to do that, we run the risk of overwhelming our health systems and putting additional pressure on frontline responders, direct service providers, and other critical organizations and systems.

That is why we, as a nation, need to expand the definition of who is "essential" to include nonprofit service providers — and why philanthropy needs to step up and take action, with both its dollars and influence, immediately. Countless lives, and our future, are at stake.

What is essential?

The answer to that question is food, shelter, and staying safe — basic needs most of us take for granted. These are now the first line of defense against the virus. And while that's true for everyone, it's especially true for the most vulnerable in society, who were already facing daily challenges before the emergence of COVID-19. With current shelter-in-place policies, these challenges could quickly become devastating outcomes.

Right now in Massachusetts, where I am sheltering in place, nonprofit service providers large and small are scrambling to figure out how they can protect our state's most vulnerable people and populations. Many of them — such as food banks and homeless shelters — are trying to address supply chain and distribution challenges. Others are working to solve access problems.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

For years, Boston Cares — the largest volunteer agency in New England — has been filling more than twenty-five thousand volunteer spots annually in support of nonprofit agencies in the greater Boston area. As the coronavirus crisis began to unfold, the organization changed its programming to create new opportunities for volunteering and to train volunteers virtually.

Next, the organization partnered with Boston Public Schools — a district in which 78 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches — to implement a citywide distribution of free breakfast and lunch for fifty-four thousand students at risk of going hungry while schools in the district are closed. It's essential that this partnership continue for as long as it takes for the crisis to play out.

The work of the Justice Resource Institute also is essential. JRI provides foster care to about five hundred kids on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. But it also serves another twenty thousand families by keeping the kids in those homes safe. These days, COVID-19 has forced the suspension of home visits, and so the organization has had to shift to telephone appointments, which makes it much more difficult to assess the risks kids might face in a home.

Many of these kids suffer from mental health problems and are living in potentially risky environments. Without JRI's continued support, things might happen to these kids that normally would have been prevented. What if one of these kids gets hurt or is subjected to violence? If that child makes it to a hospital, what will caregivers there do? What are they able to do? Hospitals are already functioning at near capacity, and emergency rooms are finding it necessary to implement triage protocols that end up with some people being turned away. The last thing our hospitals need is an influx of kids who aren't suffering from COVID-19 but instead are the collateral damage of a broken social services system.

The solutions to these and countless other COVID-related impacts require money — and this is not a time for essential  nonprofit service providers to be worrying about money. That's where philanthropy comes in. I urge all foundations to communicate to their grantees that you are committed to maintaining your funding for an extended period of time and will even tap your endowments to provide support for frontline responders and direct service providers.

Philanthropy also should use whatever influence it has with state and municipal governments to ensure that contract funding continues to flow.

In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker issued an executive order on March 30 urging the state's Department of Health and Human Services to "extend financial relief," including "supplemental payments," to all nonprofit health and human service providers in the state and to pay out state monies to these organizations "that reflect the modified ways services are being delivered." Sure, it's a lot of legalese, but the bottom line could not be clearer: in this time of "extraordinary demand" and reduced revenues, "providers that are necessary to keep vulnerable individuals safe in their homes or residences and out of more acute settings like hospitals" deserve our support.

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed in stark ways what is truly essential. As we go through this crisis together, ideas about need and what is important are sure to change. Undoubtedly, we'll also begin to realize that the most vulnerable in society have needs beyond food and shelter — that go beyond ensuring mere survival and, instead, speak to what people who are desperate to build lives of security and fulfillment require.

In this anxious and uncertain time, we have an opportunity, as a society, to establish some new priorities. Although it might not always be obvious, we have the collective imagination and wherewithal to create genuine progress for people across the United States. A newly committed and energized philanthropy is crucial to that future.

Headshot_Andrew WolkAndrew Wolk is the CEO of Root Cause, a Boston-based nonprofit consulting firm, and produces the blog and podcast Finding Common Purpose.

Foundations Step Up Funding for COVID-19 Response Efforts (April 1-11, 2020)

April 11, 2020

COVID19As COVID-19 spreads globally and in the United States, private foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the immediate needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. The "quick-hit" roundup below captures some of the foundation activity in response to COVID-19 over the last two weeks. Items are sorted in alpha order, by state and, within states, by foundation name.

For more coverage, check out PND's COVID-19 page and Candid's COVID-19 popup page.

CALIFORNIA

Akonadi Foundation, Oakland, CA | $1 Million

The Akonadi Foundation has announced it will allocate $1 million from its endowment to make grants to people-of-color-led organizations and initiatives in Oakland responding to communities impacted by COVID-19. With the public health crisis highlighting racialized inequities nationwide, the foundation has re-launched its So Love Can Win Fund — originally launched in 2016 with the aim of seeding a vision of a safe, healed, and racially just Oakland — to provide one-time rapid response grants of up to $10,000 to meet emerging community demands and/or help organizations cover their revenue losses.

Eisner Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $500,000

The Eisner Foundation has committed $500,000 to create a Rapid Response grant program that will award grants to nonprofits helping older adults combat social isolation in Los Angeles County. One-year grants ranging from $5,000 to 50,000 will support technological or logistical solutions that enable organizations to adapt quickly now and have better infrastructure in place for their long-term work. Priority will be given to intergenerational solutions as well as current or recent grantees.

Heising-Simons Foundation, Los Altos, CA | $2 Million

The University of California, San Francisco has announced a $2 million grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation to establish a COVID Response Initiative at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), a public hospital operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and a UCSF partner. The grant will enable physicians and trainees to better triage and treat COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization and create appropriate care plans for individuals who do not. The grant also will support COVID-19 screening and on-site testing at ZSFG and help provide personal protective equipment for nurses, respiratory technicians, and physicians.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Agoura Hills, CA | $10 Million

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has announced grants totaling $10 million in support of efforts to protect the homeless population in Los Angeles from COVID-19 and help African countries prepare for an outbreak. Grants include $2.25 million to Brilliant Corners in support of a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; $500,000 to the California Community Foundation; $2.25 million to United Way of Greater Los Angeles; $500,000 to Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO); $3 million to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa; and $1.5 million to UNICEF.

James Irvine Foundation, San Francisco, CA| $22 Million

The James Irvine Foundation has announced commitments totaling $22 million aimed at helping grantees weather the economic storm caused by mandatory lockdowns related to the spread of COVID-19. As part of its Recession Resilience Project, the foundation will provide $20 million in immediate emergency funding to grantees of the foundation's Better Careers, Fair Work, and Priority Regions initiatives working to protect and advance the prospects of low-wage workers, and approximately $2 million to help other grassroots organizations in California weather the public health emergency. The foundation also plans to relax and/or renegotiate restrictions on current grants; reduce restrictions on the use of new grants; postpone or eliminate other requests it makes of grantees, including site visits and progress reports; and continue its efforts to listen to and work with its grantees and the communities they serve.

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Corporations Ramp Up Support for COVID-19 Response Efforts (March 16-31, 2020)

April 05, 2020

COVID-19As COVID-19 spreads globally and in the United States, corporations and their foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. The "quick-hit" roundup below captures some of the corporate activity in response to COVID-19 over the last two weeks. (In many cases, larger gifts have been covered separately as part of PND's daily news feed.) Items are sorted in alpha order by company name. 

For more coverage, check out PND's COVID-19 page and Candid's COVID-19 popup page.

The AmerisourceBergen Foundation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, has announced a $1 million commitment in support of communities, individuals, and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. Grant recipients include Direct Relief ($250,000), AmeriCares ($250,000), and Healthcare Ready ($150,000). The foundation also announced that it will provide a 2:1 match for employee donations to those organizations as well as the AmerisourceBergen Associate Assistance Fund.

Amgen and the Amgen Foundation have announced an initial commitment of up to $12.5 million in support of U.S. and global relief efforts to address critical needs in communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds will be used to support emergency response efforts in communities where Amgen operates, patient-focused organizations that are mounting their own response efforts, and international relief efforts led by Direct Relief and International Medical Corps; in addition, the Amgen Foundation will match donations by Amgen employees for relief efforts.

AT&T has launched a $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund with a $1 million grant to Khan Academy in support of the organization's efforts to expand existing online learning resources and develop new resources specifically designed to address school closures. The fund also will provide resources in support of efforts to maintain meaningful connections for those isolated from family and friends.

Sustainable energy company AVANGRID and the Avangrid Foundation in Orange, Connecticut, have announced commitments totaling $2 million in support of nonprofits working to address the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities in the company's service area. To that end, the company will provide $1 million for emergency needs, while the foundation will award $1 million in emergency response funding to its partners nationwide.

Bacardi Limited — in collaboration with Another Round, Another Rally, the James Beard Foundation, and the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation — has launched a $3 million initiative to provide bars and bartenders impacted by COVID-19-related shutdowns.

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5 Questions for...Naveen Rao, Senior Vice President, Health Initiative, Rockefeller Foundation

April 03, 2020

After leading Merck for Mothers, a ten-year, $500 million effort launched by pharmaceutical giant Merck aimed at reducing maternal mortality rates around the world, Dr. Naveen Rao joined the Rockefeller Foundation in 2018 as senior vice president of the Health initiative. Today, he leads a team working to advance the foundation's Precision Public Health initiative, which is focused on empowering community health workers with actionable data-driven insights they can use to improve health outcomes in their communities. Launched in September 2019, the initiative builds on the foundation's past efforts to ensure that communities everywhere receive the right care at the right time.

Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Rao about how the novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide in the public health sphere and how philanthropy can help address the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and build a healthier global community going forward.

Heasdhot_Naveen RaoPhilanthropy News Digest: Should we have seen this pandemic coming? Why weren’t we better prepared?

Naveen Rao: Absolutely, yes. Given increasing urbanization around the world, the way we all travel so much more, how much closer we're living to nature — yes, we absolutely should have seen this pandemic coming.

Why weren't we better prepared? I believe it's related to the trend toward nationalization and siloed thinking. When it comes to public health, we tend to vacillate between neglect and panic. In peace time, when things are quiet, our public health systems are mostly neglected. Funding is withdrawn. We tend to underplay their importance. And then when a threat emerges, we hit the panic button, like we're doing now, and wring our hands and say, "Why weren't we better prepared?"

The fact that we're not better prepared speaks to that kind of siloed thinking and the degree to which we've been supporting, or not supporting, our public health systems, especially in terms of data and data science, which have empowered so many industries around us and changed life as we know it in profound ways. But when it comes to public health and our public health system, we still have the system we had a hundred years ago.

PND: Have we learned any lessons from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-20? And what lessons from that pandemic did we forget?

NR: Whether it's the Spanish flu or COVID-19, viruses do what they are meant to do, which is try to replicate themselves. That hasn't changed, and the lessons we've learned haven't changed, either. A hundred years on, we're still dealing with COVID-19 the same way we dealt with the Spanish flu. We're dealing with a twenty-first century problem with a twentieth-century mindset.

The Spanish flu took a while to really kick in because the world wasn't as interconnected in 1918 as it is today. But if COVID has been exacerbated by our connectedness and general population density and international travel, we still have limited data on who has been infected.

Large-scale testing would enable us to determine who is infected but not yet showing symptoms, isolate and monitor them over time so they could be treated if they started getting worse, rather than waiting for people to feel sick before they get tested. Without this data we don't really know who to isolate or quarantine and therefore can't control COVID's spread.

For the moment, we're using a very blunt instrument called "social distancing." It's effective and we should continue this, but we need more than that. As I said, we were not prepared, we forgot some of the lessons of the past, and now we're wondering how that happened. But the path forward is pretty clear: all of us need to pay attention, a lot more attention, to public health.

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Funders Respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 06, 2020

On the last day of 2019, China advised the World Health Organization that some people in the city of Wuhan (Hubei province) were infected with an unknown strain of viral pneumonia.  Those infected were traced back to the city's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On January 7, Chinese officials announced that they had identified a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family, which was dubbed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Since then, the renamed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has killed more than 3,000 people, infected over 100,000 in at least 60 countries, and is present on every continent except Antarctica.

Candid has been closely tracking the global private philanthropic response to COVID-19 through news stories and other publicly available resources. Although the response to the virus has followed a familiar pattern, both in terms of funders and recipients, its scope has dwarfed funding for recent natural disasters in the United States and elsewhere. Since September 2017, Candid has identified pledges and donations for eight major hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires totaling more than $898 million; philanthropic funding announced in the last five weeks for COVID-19 alone has reached $980 million. [Ed. note: as of March 4, the figure had exceeded $1 billion.]

Fig.1.1 funding-for-recent-disasters

Obviously, epidemics and pandemics are not natural disasters, so if we want to compare funding for the COVID-19 response to a similar event, we have to go back to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In that situation, Candid identified pledges and donations totaling more than $363 million over a period of six months, which is only a third of the COVID-19 response to date.

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5 Questions for...Bernie Michael, President and CEO, Center for Jewish History

February 05, 2020

"Never forget."

For Holocaust survivors who gathered on Monday in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Nazi concentration and death camp, the horrors of World War II will never be forgotten. But as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles — at Monday’s ceremony, there were two hundred survivors in attendance, compared to the fifteen hundred who attended ceremonies marking the sixtieth anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 1945 — and with anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews once again capturing headlines in Europe and the United States, the two-word admonition has assumed fresh meaning and significance.

At the Center for Jewish History in New York City, the past, five thousand years of the Jewish past, is very much alive. Established twenty years ago and celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2020, the center is a place where scholars, researchers, graduate fellows, high school students, and others gather to do research, attend seminars and symposia, and celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Jewish people.

PND recently spoke with Bernie Michael, the center’s president and CEO, about the organization’s mission and collections, history as story, and the reasons why he remains an optimist.

Headshot_bernie_michaelPhilanthropy News Digest: Tell us about the Center for Jewish History. When was it established, what is its mission, and what does it do to advance that mission?

Bernie Michael: The Center for Jewish History is located in Manhattan on 16th Street off of Fifth Avenue. We are home to five partner organizations — the American Jewish Historical Society, which was established in the 1890s to foster an appreciation of American Jewish heritage and which has a huge archive of materials relating to American Jewish history; the American Sephardi Federation, which preserves and promotes the history, traditions, and culture of Jews from Sephardic lands; the Leo Baeck Institute, a research library and archive focused on the history of German-speaking Jews; the Yeshiva University Museum, which, unlike our other partners, is more of a traditional museum in the sense that it has artworks and three-dimensional objects; and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which was established in the 1920s and focuses on the history and culture of Eastern European Jews and Yiddish-speaking people.

The center brings all these organizations together under one roof, and we also have our own archives and mount our own exhibitions and offer our own programming. It's a place, really, for people to learn about the history of the Jewish people and all of its many different aspects.

PND: For a lot of Americans, history is little more than a dry recitation of dates, names, and long-forgotten events. What are they missing?

BM: History starts with dates and names and facts, and making sure all that is verified and correct is important. But what's really important about history is that it tells a story, and it's the job of historians to bring those stories to life. The ideas that make history important are almost always animated by individuals, and the individuals that history remembers usually are embedded in a fascinating story. Historians take those stories and connect them to the present. That's what we do here at the center. How do all those stories in our archives reflect who we are today, and what can they tell us about where we might be headed?

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Few Large U.S. Foundations Changed Giving Priorities After 2016 Presidential Election

January 07, 2020

White_HouseIn early 2019, Candid asked 645 of the largest U.S. foundations whether they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. The vast majority (88 percent) of the respondents said their organizations made "few or no changes" to their giving priorities during the two years following the election. About one in eight (12 percent) reported making "some notable changes."

These results differ slightly from a similar survey conducted by Exponent Philanthropy in early 2017. Nearly one-quarter of the participants in that survey — foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors — said they expected to make some changes to their philanthropic giving as a direct result of Donald Trump's election.

Not surprisingly, foundations reporting "few or no changes to their giving priorities" in Candid’s 2019 survey felt little need to further explain why this was the case.  "Staying the course" was a common refrain.

Foundations that reported making "some notable changes" identified five causes in particular for which they felt additional support was needed, given shifts in the political environment: 1) immigration, 2) civic engagement/democracy, 3) equity/social justice/intolerance, 4) the environment, and 5) health care. In some cases, foundations also established "rapid response" funds to help grantees that might be facing new or urgent challenges in carrying out their work.

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Garifuna and the 2020 Census

December 02, 2019

Garifuna300Gilberto Amaya's career in international development has taken him to more than thirty countries, where he has implemented renewable energy systems, agribusiness projects, and poverty alleviation initiatives. Along the way, he witnessed the post-independence struggles of sovereign states whose names are rarely heard on nightly newscasts in the U.S. — Burkina Faso, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe. A native of Honduras, he has memories of blending into and being welcomed by communities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America.

Yet, near his home in Fairfax, Virginia, a bureaucracy momentarily stripped him of his identity — and incident that sparked Amaya's quest to have "Garifuna" fully recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"After conducting some public business at a government agency in Virginia," Amaya recalled, "I was leaving the counter, and the Latina clerk heard me speaking Spanish to my wife and called me back."

For ethnicity, Amaya had checked the box next to "black."

"You checked the wrong box," the clerk said. "You can't check black. You speak Spanish. You have to check Hispanic.' "

Today, Amaya is a member of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC), which solicits recommendations on ways to improve the accuracy of the decennial count in determining ethnic minorities, and is allied with other Garifuna organizations, scholars, and Afro-Latino advocates working to document the heritage and raise the visibility of the Garifuna people.

The Garifuna are descendants of Africans of mixed tribal ancestry who were captured and shipped from Africa to the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Garifuna historians recount on-board insurrections that ran ships aground. The captives escaped inland and intermarried with indigenous Carib and Arawak Indians, who were also subject to forced-labor bondage. Sometimes referred to as the Black Caribs, the Garifuna led and participated in the unsuccessful Carib Wars aimed at overthrowing British dominion, sometimes with assistance of France, England's imperial rival.
 
 

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Texas Border Families Fuel a Network to Build Power and Equity

October 11, 2019

Rio-grande-valleyIf you're familiar with the Rio Grande Valley and listen to the rhetoric out of Washington, D.C., you know it has nothing to do with the reality lived by most families in the region.

Even as the national spotlight continues to cast its glare on the border, a collective yearning for human dignity, civil rights, and community progress is building in the valley, which is home to more than 1.3 million people. Sadly, the aspirations of the people who live there — and the region's vibrancy — are easy to overlook.

What you won't learn from listening to the president and his supporters is that the region is home to a grassroots movement driven largely by Latinx families comprised of both U.S. citizens and immigrants that for years has been advocating for solutions to problems created by decades of structural poverty and a lack of equitable access to financial resources.

Families in the region know better than anyone how public policies create progress and economic opportunity — or fail to. Poverty and intolerance, they will tell you, are blocking human potential — and creating costs for all of us. At the same time, dignity and compassion continue to be core values of the region's residents as they organize for social change and better lives.

"This is a moment where people can see beyond themselves," says Martha Sanchez, organizing coordinator for farmworker and civil rights organization La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE). "Hate is not healthy for anybody. We need to look more deeply."

A Philanthropic Network Amplifies the Voices of Families

Central to this movement-building work, community and family leaders say, is the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a multi-issue coalition of Marguerite Casey Foundation grantees and allies. It is among fifteen regional networks the foundation and its grantees started. (The foundation, which has invested more than $7 million in the Equal Voice Network model, also supports the Native Voice Network and a youth-led network).

 

The network is an incubator of sorts where low-income families can meet, voice ideas, and focus collectively on bottom-up, community-led policy solutions.

Grassroots leaders in the region will also tell you that the Marguerite Casey Foundation, which has been investing in community organizations in the Rio Grande Valley since 2003, is one of the few philanthropic funders to issue sizable, multiyear general support grants to nonprofits in support of family-led movement building. Those dollars are used by grantees as they see fit in their efforts to alleviate poverty and promote equity in the valley. As we like to think, that support represents both philanthropic trust and movement building in action.

"We try to be a regular presence, to see how we can connect organizations with other ones. It's about being a bridge," says Christina Patiño Houle, the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network weaver, a role akin to a coordinator or facilitator. "What we provide is convening space. The network provides the focus of pulling people in so they're in conversation."

The network is comprised of eight foundation grantees in the valley and approximately twenty allied nonprofit organizations, many of them also based in the region.

Because network members are in regular contact with Rio Grande Valley residents and the focus is on grassroots movement building, local, state and U.S. government officials — including elected ones — make it a point to stay in frequent communication with the organizations and their leaders.

"It's a testament to the network's ability to mobilize people," says Patiño Houle.

Network members meet regularly to discuss the well-being of families in the region, which boasts more than forty-five cities and hundreds of unincorporated neighborhoods known as colonias.

While the issue of immigration touches all network members in some way, families say there is more to life in Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr counties than what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border: families are fighting to secure healthy, stable, and safe communities, quality education for their children, and peace and prosperity. So when network members meet in working groups, they also focus on jobs, housing, civic engagement, education, and health.

Out of that collective focus comes passion-inspired efforts aimed at creating positive social change. Families are at the vanguard of these efforts.

The work often starts at one nonprofit organization, which then spreads the word to other network members. Or it can emanate from weeks or months of brainstorming after a group of network members have heard from families about the steps needed to go forward. The network also amplifies the work of its partner organizations.

Families Honor Asylum Seekers — by Dancing

The morning before Mother's Day is muggy and overcast near Edinburg, a Rio Grande Valley city about twenty-five miles from the border. At Sunflower Memorial Park, in the flatlands off state Route 107, the inviting rhythm of Mexican-Caribbean music blares from loudspeakers.

Under a metal shelter, about ninety people — nearly all women — are wearing workout clothing, shuffling left then right, hips twisting freely and arms waving to the beat of cumbia and reggaeton. It looks like a normal exercise class at a local gym, but nearby are Maria Campos, her daughters, and about fifteen cardboard boxes full of goods.

Before participants start dancing, they hand Campos and her children toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, pasta, canned food, blankets and clothing.

The donated items will go to asylum seekers and others who were recently released from federal immigration facilities and are now waiting at shelters to be united with relatives or sponsors. The event is organized by LUPE, the grassroots nonprofit started by activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in 1989. Campos and her daughters are LUPE members. They and the participants at the park are continuing the work of serving humanity.

"This is the closest that many community members will get to what's happening at the border," says John-Michael Torres, LUPE's communications coordinator, as the music continues in the background. "We want to lift up treating people the way we want to be treated."

Campos, who lives in a colonia near Edinburg, has visited shelters with other LUPE members — some of whom have read books to migrant children there — to offer support to asylum seekers released from U.S. detention facilities.

"I put my hand on their shoulder," she says in Spanish. "I tell them, 'You are not alone.'"

Families Lend a Hand to Asylum Seekers

Mother's Day, and the air is still thick and humid in Brownsville, which sits about sixty miles southeast of Edinburg. At the city's bus station — minutes from a U.S. Mexico-border crossing — Sergio Cordova has arrived with food and supplies for immigrants and asylum seekers following their release from U.S. detention.

He is a volunteer with Team Brownsville, a humanitarian organization that provides food and emergency supplies to asylum seekers and migrants on both sides of the border. The network supports Team Brownsville by amplifying its needs and supporting its communication efforts.

As asylum seekers have arrived at the border in recent months, nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU of Texas, have dispatched staff members to talk with them about the conditions there and their treatment by U.S. authorities. U.S. border guards are stationed at the midpoint of the bridge that crosses the river to Brownsville, and these days they turn away asylum seekers looking to be processed at the border and instruct them to wait in Mexico. Advocates say the old protocol of allowing asylum seekers to start the process after they had crossed onto U.S. soil was safer and more compassionate for families fleeing strife, turmoil, and violence.

Inside the Brownsville bus station, passengers are waiting to board buses to distant points. At first, it's hard to determine who might have been released from federal immigration detention or how long a person or family might have been at the bus station. Some newly-released migrants spend days there, patiently waiting to be reunited with relatives or sponsors in the U.S.

Cordova, a local school district employee who grew up in an immigrant family, scans the room looking for people without shoelaces and belts. Immigrants and asylum seekers who were just released from federal detention aren't likely to have either, as U.S. authorities, citing safety reasons, require that they be turned over.

Cordova gives food to an immigrant family who hasn't eaten in days, and then an older woman approaches, saying in Spanish that people nearby need help. A younger woman quickly follows, keeping an eye on Cordova.

The younger woman, who appears to be in her twenties, looks distraught. Her brown hair is frazzled, and a small towel is draped over her shoulder. When she moves again, it's clear she's not alone. An infant, a girl, is sleeping on a metal bench in the waiting area. Cordova rips open a pack of diapers and hands the mother a stack along with a toothbrush. Soon, a bowl of cereal is placed next to the girl, who is covered by a blanket.

The mother pauses and smiles slightly. She tells Cordova she is from Honduras and that it's taken a month for her and her daughter to make their way to the border. Asylum seekers often make the journey by walking. It is Mother's Day.

"Any baby who comes through, we make sure they have formula," Cordova says. "All we give them is all that they'll have."

The stories that Team Brownsville volunteers and city staff hear at the bus station are harrowing and almost always involve tales of the instability, turmoil, and violence that people are fleeing, especially if they are from a Central American country. But people arrive from other countries, too, including Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Cameroon, and Cuba.

Later in the day, Cordova and Team Brownsville volunteers walk across the U.S.-Mexico border with food and supplies for families and individuals waiting to apply for asylum. On the Mexican side of the border, as people eat the donated food, one man talks about the persecution he faced in Cuba because he is gay. He says he is looking forward to living in the United States.

Families Meet to Boost Education

Each week, members of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network gather at a different community-based organization to chart a path to progress in other areas, including housing, jobs, and health.

The day after Mother's Day, the network's education working group is meeting at ARISE Support Center, located in a yellow two-story house in the city of Alamo. The house, which serves as the nonprofit's headquarters, is now a place for community organizing. Rooms are filled with chatter in English and Spanish.

It's fitting the meeting is at ARISE. The organization works with many nearby colonia residents, especially mothers. After getting tired of the conditions in their colonias — bumpy, potholed roads, a lack of streetlights — they became grassroots community leaders with the goal of creating positive change for their families and neighbors.

In minutes, the seats around the table in ARISE's lime green meeting room have been filled. Parents and community leaders are there to discuss ways to improve communication between families and school district officials.

School district board meetings, network members say, are held only in English — but parents in this heavily Latinx region mostly speak Spanish. Many say an English-to-Spanish translation policy at school board meetings would help support all families in their pursuit of a quality education for their children.

Also on the working group's agenda for the day: a discussion of how Mexican-American studies can be introduced into the school curriculum. Butcher paper goes up on the walls. Participants write down and discuss ideas.

"It's democracy because we are not working only for the best of one person," says Ramona Casas, a community organizer who helped start ARISE in 1987. "We're looking out for the best of community members."

A $190 Million Policy Win to Address Flooding in Colonias

Rain has just swept through the Indian Hills colonia, near the city of Mercedes, leaving the unincorporated area moist and muggy.

Near the intersection of Apache Drive and Campacuas Drive stands a sprawling tree. When neighborhood families need to discuss community issues and concerns — say, better roads or water drainage or their kids' safety — this is where they gather.

Lourdes Salinas, a community organizer with Proyecto Azteca, which works on affordable housing in the region's colonias, is standing under the tree with a few mothers. She lives in this colonia.

The women are talking about a major victory scored by the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network in November 2018: a $190 million bond measure to fund nearly forty drainage projects in Hidalgo County colonias.

The county has hundreds of colonias — some community leaders put the number at between eight hundred and a thousand. Tens of thousands of families live in those colonias because they're affordable. But colonias are located on former agricultural land that was developed with an eye to retaining water for crops, says Ann Williams Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca.

When it rains here, homes and streets flood. Families talk of water rising as high as their waists. The water not only damages houses, including bedrooms and appliances such as washing machines, but can block streets leading into and out of colonias. Families are unable to leave their homes to buy groceries. Mothers talk of holding young children in their arms to keep them out of the water. Sometimes they slip and fall. Kids tell their parents that even the sound of rain frightens them. Sanitation systems fail during the flooding, contaminating neighborhoods.

In June 2018, the flooding reached worse-than-normal levels. Some have dubbed the event the "Great June Flood."

After that, families affiliated with the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network pressed their calls for better drainage. They went door-to-door and talked with neighbors, documented cases of flooding, attended government meetings, and studied flood maps and data. They then succeeded in putting a November 2018 bond measure on the ballot and spoke with Rio Grande Valley residents, explaining that the slightly higher taxes would benefit everyone.

Responsibility for the bond measure passing is shared by many families and community organizations, including ARISE, LUPE, and Proyecto Azteca, which all work in various colonias — places where their own families members live.

Sarai Montelongo, a mother in the Indian Hills colonia who started an influential Facebook page, used her platform to call attention to bumpy roads and the safety of neighborhood children and raise awareness about the drainage bond.

"We used to be a colonia that people forgot," she says in Spanish, standing under the large sprawling tree and near streets that have been the site of community meetings with elected officials.

While $190 million will not solve all the drainage issues in Hidalgo County, community leaders say it is a policy step in the right direction and that they will continue to work for more improvements.

"It will be a big change," says Salinas.

Rio Grande Valley, USA

Motorists looking to head north from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio take State Route 281. The drive takes about four hours and can be monotonous, save for the scrubby flatland greenery and what looks like a large gas station in the middle of the highway.

It's actually a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. Many people have questioned the need for these checkpoints so far from the border. According to the ACLU, however, the federal government can operate the checkpoints if they're within a hundred miles of the United States' "external boundary."

The ACLU also notes that U.S. border authorities are only permitted "a brief and limited inquiry into [the] residency status" of people who travel through the checkpoints. Cass of Proyecto Azteca says the federal checkpoints exist in every direction heading out of the Rio Grande Valley and are also found at airports.

A few days after Mother's Day, two U.S. Border Patrol agents dressed in olive green uniforms stand at a checkpoint lane and wait for motorists. One holds the leash of a K-9 dog.

As two visitors — a white American male and an Asian American male — pull up in an automobile, an agent wearing reflective sunglasses waves the vehicle through. No need to stop and answer a few questions; no need to show identification.

Beyond the checkpoint, however, a man with dark hair is standing in the grass just off the highway. In a matter of minutes, a U.S. Border Patrol van with flashing emergency lights arrives. Soon, two more government vans show up.

Weeks later, news breaks of crowded, unsanitary conditions at federal detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border, of asylum seekers and migrants confined behind chain-link fencing, of migrant children remaining separated from their parents.

Sanchez, the LUPE organizing coordinator, says these types of stories and experiences underscore how important it is for communities to work together for human rights, equity, justice, and the alleviation of poverty.

"All of this reminds us of our humanity," she says. "We bring things in our heart to keep us human. For people here, it's not an option to give up."

Brad Wong is communications manager for the Marguerite Casey Foundation. This post was originally published on the Casey Foundation website.

A Conversation With Mark Zuckerman, President, The Century Foundation

May 29, 2019

For Massachusetts folks of a certain age, the name Filene's Basement evokes memories of a crowded emporium where the hunt for bargains, especially on weekends, often resembled competitive sport. The basement was the brainchild of Edward A. Filene, whose father, William, founded Filene's in 1908. It was Edward, however, who recognized that growing numbers of American factory workers represented a new market and persuaded his father to start selling surplus, overstock, and closeout merchandise in the basement of his flagship Downtown Crossing store.

The experiment was a huge success, and the Filenes soon joined the ranks of America’s wealthiest families. In 1919, Ed Filene, already recognized as a progressive business leader, founded the Co-operative League — later renamed the Twentieth Century Fund — one of the first public policy research institutes in the country.

Mark Zuckerman joined TCF — which changed its name to the Century Foundation in the early 2000s — as president in 2015. A veteran of the Obama administration, where he served as Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, leading teams on initiatives to reduce student debt, increase accountability at for-profit educational institutions, reduce workplace discrimination, and expand access to job training, and Capitol Hill, where he served as staff director for the House Education and Labor Committee, Zuckerman has worked over the last four years to bring the organization’s research efforts and policy work into the twenty-first century.

PND spoke with Zuckerman recently about some of those changes, the meaning of the 2018 midterm elections, and TCF’s efforts to advance a progressive policy agenda.

Headshot_mark_zuckermanPhilanthropy News Digest: The Century Foundation is marking its hundredth anniversary in 2019. Tell us a bit about Edward Filene, the man who created it back in 1919.

Mark Zuckerman: Ed Filene was a prominent businessman but also somebody who was deeply engaged in public policy, a rare combination in those days. The era in which he was working was a time when there wasn't strong governmental involvement in the economy, and where it was involved, it was too weak to effectively address the economic chal­lenges of the day. Things like workers' wages and benefits, anti-trust enforcement, and a lack of transparency with respect to Wall Street, something that eventually led to passage of the Securities and Exchange Act.

Ed Filene very much believed in more robust engagement by local, state, and the federal government in people's lives. And he felt that research was a linchpin of good public policy. At the time, there were very few think tanks — the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had been started a year earlier and Brookings had been started two years before that. 

So, the idea of a private entity taking on challenges that, in the past, only government had had sufficient resources to address was something new. Today, of course, there are think tanks all over the world focused on many different subjects, but Ed Filene really was in on the beginning of the think tank movement and on think tanks as places where social policy, progressive social policy in Mr. Filene's case, would be discussed and developed.

Like Henry Ford, he believed that paying a decent wage to your employees was good for the overall economy, and in his writings he expressed support for a mandatory minimum wage. He also gave speeches about the importance of supporting the Roosevelt admin­istration in its attempt to get Congress to pass something that looked a lot like Medicare and urged people to call in their support for initiatives Roosevelt and his brain trust were proposing.

One of the public policy innovations he was most interested in was the credit union movement, and for a specific reason. At the time, the nineteen-thirties, financial institutions mostly were there to lend and cater to businesses and wealthy individuals. There simply was no infra­structure in the United States to provide the middle class — never mind lower-income folks — with capital to buy their first home or even to invest in a small business. Ed Filene viewed credit unions as a critical tool for providing Americans with capital that could help them thrive and grow the middle class. And so he embarked on a major effort, not only at the national level but at the state level, including his own state, Massachusetts, to authorize the creation of credit unions, which sort of makes him the father of the credit union movement.

PND: Let's jump ahead a bit. How does the Century Foundation's work support a progressive policy agenda in 2019? And how has the organization's model evolved over the last hundred years to support that work?

MZ: Well, one of the big changes the Century Foundation went through — and I would say it was in keeping with changes in the way policy was made over the decades — is that it evolved over the years from being essentially a book publisher, which was what it was for decades. Back then, it would engage influential thinkers about specific social policy ideas they wanted to promote in book form. Many of those titles were, of course, written for policy elites, with the idea that these ideas would be circulated and eventually find their way into the halls of Con­gress or onto the floor of state legislatures. It was a common sort of model for academic institutions and emerging think tanks during the mid-twentieth century. But over time, and especially as the Internet became more widely used, the model changed. Today, having influence in or impact on public policy requires a lot more than just having a good idea, and too many of these books end up sitting on shelves, unread. Maybe they're filled with great ideas, but there are fewer and fewer people willing to pull those ideas out of those volumes and turn them into policy.

So, the Century Foundation today is very differ­ent than it was seventy or fifty or even twenty years ago, in that we are taking more responsibility — not only for coming up with creative solutions to today's challenges, but for figuring out how to use the resources we have beyond research and the development of policy ideas to create impact.

That's the big shift — the leveraging of intellectual and advocacy resources and institutional relationships to drive policy change. When I joined TCF as president four years ago, I hired a number of people who had recent experience in the White House or in federal agencies or on Capitol Hill, because I wanted people who understood how best to approach those institutions, and how they could have an impact on those institutions. They were also people with a high level of expertise in their particular subject matter. That's been my focus as president — finding people who know who the policy players in Washington are, who have deep expertise in their subject matter and the ability to do good research, and who have wide, influential networks in the advocacy, policy, and academic communities.

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Taxes, Inequality, and the Public Good

April 26, 2019

Taxes_flickrCan wealthy Americans use philanthropy to fend off Democratic proposals for progressive, much-needed tax reform? That certainly seems to be what tech billionaire Michael Dell had in mind on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos a few months ago. Confronted with the idea that the United States should adopt a 70 percent marginal tax rate on annual incomes of over $10 million — something it last saw in the 1960s under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations — Dell said he would be "much more comfortable" giving back to society through his private foundation "than giving…to the government." Other superrich donors have expressed similar feelings, with some actually having the chutzpah to equate the civic obligation of paying taxes with charity.

It's evident to anyone paying attention that private philanthropy can never replace the almost three trillion in budget cuts included in the Trump administration's 2020 budget or the trillions in deficits that the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act is likely to create over the next decade.

Trump, Michael Dell, and other members of the 1 percent club — who now control as much wealth as the bottom 95 percent of Americans — are going to need a better argument if they hope to convince the large majority (70 percent) of registered voters who believe that the superrich should be paying higher marginal rates.

And the very rich will need more than a preference for philanthropy over taxes to convince the 61 percent of Americans who favor a "wealth tax" of 2 percent on those with more than $50 million in assets and 1 percent on top of that for those with more than $1 billion. To the consternation of Dell, the 25th richest man in the world, an even larger percentage of Americans believe that government should pursue policies designed to reduce the huge and growing wealth gap in America — policies that go beyond just raising tax revenue.

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5 Questions for...Jane Wales, Co-Founder/CEO, Global Philanthropy Forum

April 25, 2019

As she was nearing the end of her fourth five-year term heading up the World Affairs Councils, Jane Wales decided it was time to let someone else run the show — an effort that includes organizing the annual Global Philanthropy Forum, which she co-founded in 2001 and which has evolved into a platform where philanthropic practitioners can share their knowledge and learnings with social investors, donors, and funders in other sectors.

PND caught up with Wales, who continues to serve as vice president and executive director of the Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation at the Aspen Institute, during the recently concluded eighteenth annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference and spoke with her about the challenges confronting liberal democracy in an era of rising populism, the alarming decline in the public's trust of institutions, and her hopes for the philanthropic sector going forward.

Headshot_jane_walesPhilanthropy News Digest: You and your colleagues chose to organize this year's Global Philanthropy Forum conference around the theme "Reclaiming Democracy." Why?

Jane Wales: We're seeing a concerning trend of liberal democracies around the world shifting to illiberalism. These are places in which the vote remains sacrosanct — where citizens have the right to vote — but the protection of individual civil liberties is not. We see this is happening in the Philippines, in Turkey, in Poland and Hungary, South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, and the United States. And you can't say it's all due to a cultural shift or particular event. Clearly, there are underlying trends affecting us all. The question then becomes: How do you push back on those trends? What is the role of philanthropy in building social capital and citizen agency? And what are the most important ingredients of a successful democracy? The theme of the conference is about identifying a big problem, but it’s a problem for which civil society has solutions.

PND: What are those solutions?

JW: The underlying trends being discussed here have to do with the confluence of the information revolution and globalization, as well as the major demographic changes we're seeing in many countries. Conference attendees are looking at each of these powerful trends and trying to figure out what are the upsides, what are the downsides, and how can we mitigate the danger they pose?

When it comes to the information revolution, we're looking at the role of digital media and social media in sowing division. When it comes to globalization, the upside is that it has lifted millions of people out of poverty and created great wealth — and a considerable amount of that wealth has been directed to the public good. But globalization has also created a situation in which the standard of living for the middle class in many countries is declining, and that has contributed to divisions — not just along political and economic lines, but also along educational lines, because the opportunities and outcomes for college graduates and high school graduates are significantly different. Inequity results.

In terms of demographic change, the most powerful concerns are mass migration in the face of deadly conflict or natural disasters on the one hand and normal immigration flows on the other. That begs the question not only of what needs to be done to prevent crises but also what is needed to forge a comprehensive immigration policy that the majority of Americans and other publics will support. We also need to think through what can and should be done to help newly arrived people integrate into the society that will be their new home. Nonprofits are already doing exceptional work in this area.

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Quote of the Week

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


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

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