271 posts categorized "Poverty Alleviation"

A 'Just and Resilient Recovery' framework for international donors and financial institutions

July 09, 2020

HR&A_just_resilient_recovery_shutterstockEven as some of the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks subside, the pandemic continues to spread around the world, with 11.5 million cases confirmed and more than five hundred thousand deaths as we write. Roughly two-thirds of all new confirmed cases are in developing countries, with Latin America alone accounting for over a third of new confirmed cases.

The economic disruption that the virus and measures to contain it have brought to developed economies will be dwarfed by the consequences of similar efforts in the developing world. According to forecasts from the World Bank, COVID-19 will, by the end of 2020, push an additional forty-nine million people into extreme poverty. That represents an increase of 8 percent and would be the first increase in extreme poverty globally since the Asian financial crisis in 1998. The projections suggest that sub-Saharan Africa, where an additional twenty-three million people could fall into extreme poverty, will be hardest hit, with Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia splitting the balance.

Designing emergency response programs, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and long-term economic recovery plans to address the effects of the pandemic will be more challenging in places where the economic damage is deepest and existing inequality the most acute. Indeed, a combination of already-stagnant economies, tight fiscal conditions, and weak institutional capacity has created a perfect storm in many developing countries.

A Framework for International Donors and Financial Institutions

Against this backdrop, the mitigation of economic and social damage in many countries has been left to global philanthropies and international financial institutions. The G20 countries have agreed to a useful, if limited, suspension of debt service for the poorest countries, and the World Bank moved quickly to mobilize $160 billion in new and repurposed capital, which was followed by other multilateral development groups. We believe, however, that these efforts will be insufficient if these and other institutions do not take a structured approach to understanding needs on the ground and the prioritization of the implementation of their actions.

While most actors have rightfully focused their immediate attention on public health measures and efforts to strengthen the safety net, as cities and regions start emerging from quarantine and effective therapies and vaccines are developed they will need to collectively address the underlying economic and social challenges that have made COVID-19 so devastating and destabilizing for the most vulnerable groups in society.

Based on our experience with previous natural, economic, and humanitarian crises, we have developed a framework to help guide cities and communities on the path to a more "Just and Resilient Recovery." The framework calls for public and private institutions to organize and coordinate their COVID-19 recovery efforts around the four sequential phases illustrated below.

Global Philantropy Commentary Graphic

The time for planning and coordinating fiscal policy efforts is now. Global donors and financial development institutions should start planning and prioritizing how and where their assistance will be directed to ensure that countries and cities that receive that assistance can use it to create a more just and resilient "next" normal that addresses some of the structural inequities of the old normal, including poverty, informality, and discrimination.

Over the coming weeks and months, as institutions continue to organize their internal resources and begin to develop road maps for the next phase of the recovery, they should consider the following:

Assess the economic disruption: As lockdowns ease and more evidence and data becomes available, institutions should develop a more granular understanding of the economic and fiscal impact of the virus in the countries and jurisdictions they serve. This can be done at scale with a dynamic model that takes into consideration baseline economic conditions pre-crisis, the scope of containment measures taken and the degree to which they have been enforced, the level of unemployment (formal and informal), and, where appropriate, the fiscal measures already taken by governments to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus. The model should also take into account the compounding effects of future natural disasters and the percentage of the population lacking access to clean water and waste treatment infrastructure. This more granular understanding of the economic damage resulting from the virus will enable institutions to better calibrate the magnitude and speed of the response required in different countries, regions, and communities.

Understand needs and opportunities: Supported by such an assessment, institutions need to understand which economic sectors and segments of the population have been most impacted and what the opportunities are to rethink how to rebuild and create employment opportunities in more productive industries. A focus on sectors with high economic multipliers such as technology, research, and advanced manufacturing should be seen as an opportunity to bring substantial numbers of workers into the formal economy and prepare large segments of the population for the future of work.

Map resources: Once the economic damage and the opportunities for a more just and resilient economic recovery have been identified, institutions need to think carefully about how to leverage resources from other countries, donors, and the private sector. The capital from donors and multilateral development banks should be seen as a "filler" that closes financial gaps and addresses market failures, catalyzing private investment and participation. Understanding the potential to effectively leverage private-sector participation under the current short-term capital commitments from development banks will be critical. That includes exploring more active participation in public-private concessions, providing availability payments, and making backstop guarantees to de-risk projects.

Prioritize areas of investment: With an understanding of the needs, opportunities, and resources available in the short- and mid-term, institutions should be able to prioritize the allocation of resources across countries and sectors in an efficient way and provide guidance and direction to specific country offices and divisions accordingly. Such a prioritization should consider which industries and clusters are best positioned to increase productivity and create jobs and how communities can benefit from such growth in an inclusive manner. This could include investments in digital infrastructure that pave the way for greater innovation and technology, public transportation to make job opportunities accessible to everyone and cities more sustainable, and resilient infrastructure designed to mitigate the shock and disruption of future climate-related disasters.

The global development community has a generational opportunity to substantially transform the economies of the poorest countries, leveraging resources from all sectors, with a focus on investments that boost productivity and eradicate secular inequities and establish a precedent for a Just and Resilient Economic Recovery. Let’s not let that opportunity go by the wayside.

Shuprotim_Bhaumik_Ignacio_MontojoShuprotim Bhaumik is a partner at HR&A Advisors, where he specializes in economic development and public policy consulting. Ignacio Montojo is a director at HR&A and specializes in the design and implementation of public-private partnerships and financing strategies for infrastructure and real estate development projects. Both have worked on behalf of several international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the International Finance Corporation in countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Panama, and South Africa.

Leading in solidarity to reshape the nonprofit ecosystem

July 01, 2020

SolidarityWe are five women of color leading five organizations deeply embedded in the nonprofit ecosystem of Detroit and southeast Michigan. We have five missions, five work styles, and five voices. With mutual intentions and hearts, we have decided to work as a collective that honors the history and resiliency of Black and Indigenous people and communities of color. Together, our work offers nonprofits the critical support needed to advance their missions. Today, we stand in recognition of the privilege and responsibility we have to speak as leaders of nonprofit support organizations.

We embrace the challenge and opportunity presented by this unique moment. Here in southeast Michigan, as elsewhere, the Black community has suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have borne witness to brutal injustices at the hands of police. It has been tough. Some have responded to the moment by issuing statements of solidarity with the Black people of America. Individuals and organizations across the nation are reckoning with their experience of racism and anti-Blackness. But what does solidarity mean, especially in a moment like this? Our humanity demands we recognize ourselves as part of a larger whole, and the nature of our work in the nonprofit sector demands we recognize solidarity as an ongoing practice and process.

As human beings, as organizational leaders, and as stakeholders in the nonprofit ecosystem, we are tired of the neverending effort needed to beat back the stereotype that nonprofits are not efficient or able to survive without constant handouts. Some of our community-based organizations have been serving residents of southeastern Michigan for more than seventy years! (We see you, Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association.) In this moment, we see an opportunity to rise up, to reimagine our work, and to cultivate a more just and beautiful world in transformative solidarity with others.

Our work together began with a look back at the history of and policies that have shaped the nonprofit sector. The nonprofit universe contains complexities with which all of us need to grapple. Events of the past few months did not create racial and gendered inequities in philanthropic funding. Nor did they shape the failed policies and misplaced public funding priorities that necessitated the creation of nonprofits in the first place. The pandemic and the brutal killings over the last few months of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and George Floyd have created a fierce urgency, within us and others, around the need to address the structural inequities that pervade so many of our systems.

Solutions to the challenges our communities face must come from those closest to the issues. And solidarity begins when we recognize that missions, needs, and fate of community-based nonprofits are interconnected. Such a recognition changes our work as nonprofit support providers. In the short term, we’re working together more than ever to address acute needs created by the pandemic; over the longer term we’re committed to addressing chronic needs at the systems level and leveraging our understanding of power dynamics in the sector to shape solutions that are inclusive, sustainable, and grounded in community-based structures and knowledge that already exist.

The most challenging aspect of solidarity is the revolution that takes place in our thoughts and actions when it is embraced. Our leadership practice in this moment disabuses the notion that leadership is the responsibility of a single, heroic figure. The five of us have learned to share leadership, and our work together has challenged us to interrogate the conventional wisdom around capacity building, fund development, data analysis and evaluation, and other nonprofit practices. It also has led us to acknowledge that self-care and the overall well-being of our organizations and staff require tending and attention, even though the dominant structures and culture in which we operate often contest and frustrate that process.

Support is synonymous with "holding up" or "bearing." It's a word we use to describe our function as leaders and organizations in a nonprofit ecosystem. Solidarity has brought us together to make all our internal structures and processes stronger. That scaffolding includes a growing trust in each other and the journey we've embarked on to reimagine leadership. As we continue to push ourselves to grow, we do so with the recognition that our Black and Brown sisters and brothers in nonprofits need more voices like ours to stand up and join with like-minded others to achieve the glorious futures we imagine for our communities.

Allandra Bulger is executive director at Co.act Detroit. Madhavi Reddy is executive director at Community Development Advocates of Detroit. Shamyle Dobbs is CEO at Michigan Community Resources. Yodit Mesfin Johnson is CEO at Nonprofit Enterprise at Work. And Donna Murray-Brown is CEO at the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

"I Am Tired...The Pandemic of Racism Must End"

June 08, 2020

Black_Lives_Matter_protestOver the past week, civil unrest has gripped the nation. Much of it was sparked by the unwarranted and senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who held his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life and three other MPD officers stood by and did nothing. Tragically, it is only the latest example of an African-American citizen of this country being subjected to wanton police brutality and losing his life as a result. Enough is enough. I cannot, in all good conscience, remain silent while police violence against African Americans goes unchecked or unpunished.

I am a proud African-American man who loves this country. I have close friends and family of all races, and I pride myself on being measured and fair. I have always tried to view the "glass of life" as being "three-quarters full instead of a quarter empty," but my patience has run thin...and I am tired.

Tired of watching innocent black men being targeted with violence by police officers.

Tired of bigots taking the law into their own hands and feeling justified in confronting black citizens of this country.

Tired of negative, media-driven stereotypes that shape the dangerous narratives around young black men.

Tired of white people calling the police on black people, falling back on their feelings of entitlement and privilege to weaponize the police.

Tired of both the purposeful and passive suppression of talented black professionals by corporate America.

Tired of watching black-owned businesses struggle because they cannot access capital.

Tired of corporate America profiting from the fruit of black culture, but not nurturing the tree that bears it.

Tired of the word diversity, which is meant to deflect attention from the word black.

Tired of systemic and institutionalized corporate racism masked by flowery mission statements and codes of conduct that are rarely enforced.

Tired of the rise of the digital and social media economy without commensurate investment in populations that have driven much of its success.

Tired of being disrespected in restaurants as if I did not exist.

Tired of being followed in retail establishments as if I were about to commit a crime.

Tired of not being afforded the same assumption of competence and associated opportunities as my white high school, college, and business school classmates.

Tired of explaining why I like to spend time with black people, even as white people are never asked to explain why they like spending time with other white people.

Tired of the overall physical and psychological toll that being a black man takes on me every day.

As the father of two talented, charming, educated, young black men with unlimited potential, it pains me deeply that I needed to have "the conversation" with them when they were teenagers regarding their possible interaction with cops — the same conversation my dad had with me almost five decades earlier, and that no doubt his dad had with him. Every evening before I go to bed, I say a prayer that my boys will not be targeted and killed by law enforcement who see them as a threat — something none of my white friends or classmates have ever had to endure, much less think about.

Why are we having the same conversations about racism in America in 2020 that we've had for the past fifty, hundred, two hundred years? The reason is that we have never truly had a desire to actually address the "pandemic" of racism in this country. I guarantee you we will develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in short order, just like we've developed cures for other diseases that have plagued us over the centuries. We are a nation able to muster vast amounts of money and intelligence in service to a worthy cause, and the pandemic of racism should be no different. Racism can be cured, but black people alone cannot put an end to the disease. We need the commitment and engagement of consciously aware white people to do that.

Let me be clear: I do not condone violence and looting. But I fully understand the frustration and outrage sparked by yet another incident in which the life of a black person is considered to be worthless. The sight of so many young people — white, black, yellow, and brown — coming together across this country and around the world to protest the injustice of it gives me hope.

Corporate America is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this conversation and to drive the lasting change we so desperately need. As it has done throughout history, American business can offer viable solutions that address the disease of racism while setting an example for the country and the world. The initial response from dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders over the past week gives me cause to be optimistic. But I challenge all of corporate America to follow the lead of these men and women and develop a plan for their businesses informed by fairness, love, and compassion for everyone. Only then will we unlock the true greatness of America.

Headshots_earl_gravesEarl "Butch" Graves, Jr. is an American businessman and retired basketball player.

Foundations Step Up Funding for COVID-19 Response Efforts (May 1-15, 2020)

May 17, 2020

CoronavirusAs COVID-19 continues to disrupt life in the United States and around the globe, private foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the immediate needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. Here's a roundup of grants announced over the last two weeks:

ARIZONA

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Phoenix, AZ | $2.9 Million

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has announced emergency grants totaling $2.9 million in support of COVID-19 relief and response efforts in Maricopa County and across Arizona. The funding includes unrestricted grants totaling $2.51 million to six Maricopa County hospitals and hospital systems responding directly to the spread of the virus; $350,000 to the Arizona Community Foundation's Arizona COVID-19 Community Response Fund; and $50,000 to the Arizona Apparel Foundation in support of its Fashion and Business Resource Innovation Center (FABRIC), which is investing in an industrial-level computerized cutting machine and additional sewing machines to produce much-needed personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Since March 30, the trust has awarded COVID-related emergency grants totaling $9.2 million.

CALIFORNIA

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Redwood City, CA | $750,000

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced grants totaling $750,000 in support of five studies of COVID-19 disease progression at the level of the individual cell. To be conducted at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Ragon Institute, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Columbia University, VIB-UGent, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the Josep Carreras Research Institute, the studies are expected to generate the first single-cell biology datasets from infected donors and provide insights into how the virus infects humans, which cell types are involved, and how the disease progresses. The data from the projects will be made available to the scientific community via open access datasets and portals.

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Menlo Park, CA | $10 Million

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has announced a $10 million grant to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in the Bay Area. To be disbursed over the next twelve months, the funding will support SVCF's COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, which supports community-based organizations providing direct assistance to individuals and families impacted by COVID-19, and the Regional Nonprofit Emergency Fund, which provides flexible operating support grants to nonprofits working to provide residents of the region with food, shelter, health, and mental health services.

Imaginable Futures, Redwood City, CA | $3 Million

Imaginable Futures, an education venture spun off by Omidyar Network in January, has announced commitments totaling more than $3 million to provide immediate support for students, educators, and childcare providers in the United States, Latin America, and Africa impacted by COVID-19. Grants include $500,000 in support of Common Sense Media's Wide Open Schools, which aggregates high-quality educational content; $500,000 to Home Grown's Home-based Child Care Emergency Fund to help provide child care for essential workers and assistance to childcare providers; and, as part of a $1 million partnership with the Lemann Foundation, $500,000 to an emergency relief fund that will support access to high-quality curricula and technology for students in Brazil. The organization also is partnering with Shining Hope for Communities in Nairobi as well as Shujaaz, a network of social ventures based in Kenya and Tanzania.

W.M. Keck Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $2 Million

The University of California, Los Angeles has announced a $2 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to establish the UCLA W.M. Keck Foundation COVID-19 Research Fund. The fund will support basic science research aimed at advancing understanding of the SARS-CoV2 virus, the mechanisms by which it causes COVID-19, and why some people are more susceptible to the disease, as well as the development of new methods to detect COVID-19 infections and therapies to treat the disease.

Craig Newmark Philanthropies, San Francisco, CA | $1 Million

The Anti-Defamation League has announced a two-year, $1 million grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies in support of its Center on Technology and Society, which produces the Online Hate Index. "We know that the pandemic has had an outsized impact on vulnerable minority groups, including Asian Americans and Jewish Americans who are now being blamed and scapegoated online for creating and spreading the virus," said Newmark. "Now more than ever, it is vital to invest in innovative approaches to detect and stop hate speech from spreading online."

Roddenberry Foundation, North Hollywood, CA | $1 Million

The Gladstone Institutes have announced a $1 million commitment from the Roddenberry Foundation to its President's Coronavirus Research Fund in support of critical experiments by virologists working to understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Projects under way at Gladstone include the development of a diagnostic device using novel CRISPR technology, explorations of ways to block the entry of the virus into human cells, investigations of existing FDA-approved drugs as treatments, and the creation of a research hub to support the study of live virus.

Rosenberg Foundation, San Francisco, CA | $550,000

The Rosenberg Foundation has announced a first round of rapid response grants totaling more than $550,000 to organizations working to protect populations hardest hit by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Grants were awarded in the areas of mass incarceration ($260,000), farm worker rights ($150,000), and immigrant rights ($140,000). Grantees include Reform LA Jails, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and the California Immigrant Resilience Fund.

John and Mary Tu Foundation, Fountain Valley, CA | $2.5 Million

The University of California, Irvine has announced a $2.5 million gift from the John and Mary Tu Foundation in support of COVID-related patient care at UCI Health as well as clinical and translational research focused on new ways to test for and treat infections. Half the gift will support physicians, nurses, and other caregivers at UCI Medical Center working to provide cutting-edge care, while the remaining $1.25 million will support research on both COVID as well as longer-term solutions to pandemic diseases.

COLORADO

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Denver, CO | $1 Million

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and the Denver Foundation have launched a COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund with commitments of $1 million and $50,000, respectively. To be administered by the Denver Foundation, the fund is aimed at helping small and midsize arts and culture organizations in the Denver area survive the public health crisis. Other early contributors to the fund include Denver Arts & Venues ($205,000), the Gates Family Foundation ($100,000), and PNC ($10,000).

Morgridge Family Foundation, Denver, CO | $1 Million

The Morgridge Family Foundation has announced a second commitment of $1 million in emergency relief funding for nonprofits working to address the impacts of the coronavirus on vulnerable populations. A second round of grants will be awarded to fourteen community foundations and United Way partners, which will regrant the funds to a hundred and fifteen local nonprofits.

CONNECTICUT

Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation, Stamford, CT | $1 Million

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation has pledged to match donations up to $1 million in support of efforts at Norwalk Hospital to care for COVID-19 patients and to boost the hospital's emergency preparedness. Donations will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis through September.

FLORIDA

Bailey Family Foundation, Tampa, FL | $350,000

Tampa General Hospital has announced a $350,000 gift from the Bailey Family Foundation in support of its COVID-19 response. The funds will help pay for testing supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other virus-related equipment as the hospital prepares for long-term care needs related to COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Venice, FL; Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Sarasota, FL | $2.7 Million

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in partnership with the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, has announced grants totaling $2.7 million in support of COVID-19 relief and response efforts in the region. Grants totaling $1.1 million were awarded through the COVID-19 Response Initiative, a joint effort of the two foundations, to nonprofits providing virtual mental health counseling for children and veterans, child care for first responders, and emergency food and financial assistance for displaced hospitality workers, foster families, and others.

ILLINOIS

Multiple Foundations, Chicago, IL | $425,000

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in collaboration with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, Richard H. Driehaus, Polk Bros., and Field foundations and the Chicago Community Trust, has announced forty-eight grants totaling more than $425,000 to media organizations working to disseminate information about COVID-19. The collaborative Journalism Fund awarded grants of up to $10,000 to a number of local outlets, including TRiiBE, which engages African-American millennials online and via social media; Cicero Independiente, which is using Facebook to engage Spanish-speaking residents in Berwyn and Cicero; and South Side Drive magazine, which has been working to marshal and direct resources to the city's hard-hit South Shore community.

IOWA

Iowa West Foundation, Council Bluffs, IA | $500,000

The Iowa West Foundation has announced an additional commitment of $500,000 to the Southwest Iowa COVID-19 Response Fund, a partnership between IWF and the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation, boosting its total contribution to $1 million. Recent grant recipients include Boys and Girl Club of the Midlands ($25,000), the Council Bluffs Schools Foundation ($27,000), Lutheran Family Services ($25,000), and the Performing Arts & Education Association of Southwest Iowa ($5,430).

MARYLAND

Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Baltimore, MD | $7.5 Million

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation has announced commitments totaling $6.5 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in the United States and Israel. The funding includes $4.5 million set aside for anticipated COVID response grants in Chicago, Hawaii, New York City, northeastern Pennsylvania, and San Francisco; $1 million to the newly formed COVID-19 Response Funding Collaborative of Greater Baltimore; and $2 million to nonprofits in Israel through a partnership with the Foundations of Bituach Le'umi, Israel's National Insurance Institute. The latest commitments boost to more than $11.5 million the foundation's COVID-19 emergency support for people experiencing poverty.

MINNESOTA

McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis, MN | $190,000

The McKnight Foundation has announced grants totaling $190,000 in support of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Grants include $100,000 to the Headwaters Foundation for Justice for its Communities First Fund, which supports African Americans, Indigenous peoples, and other people of color impacted by growing social, political, and economic disparities, as well as organizations working to address increased xenophobia toward Asian Americans; $50,000 to the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation's Minnesota Homeless Fund, which supports efforts to increase shelter space and critical resources for people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity; and $40,000 to the Transforming Minnesota's Early Childhood Workforce, a statewide multi-sector coalition focused on increasing compensation, training, and resources for early childhood educators.

MISSISSIPPI

Women's Foundation of Mississippi, Jackson, MS | $55,000

The Women's Foundation of Mississippi has announced rapid response grants totaling $55,000 to nonprofits and programs focused on assisting vulnerable families and women, many of whom are essential workers, who were living at or below the poverty level before the public health emergency and have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. Eleven nonprofits received funding to provide PPE, mental health support, and wraparound services for students, including the Cary Christian Center, Hinds Community College, the Magnolia Medical Foundation, and the Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative.

NEW JERSEY

Princeton Area Community Foundation, Lawrenceville, NJ | $50,000

The Princeton Area Community Foundation has announced that the Fund for Women and Girls, a field-of-interest fund at the foundation, has donated $50,000 to PACF's COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund to address urgent needs in Mercer County. To date, a total of $2.1 million has been raised for the fund, which is focused on supporting low-income families, single mothers, and children struggling with food insecurity, uncertain health care, and lost income as a result of the public health crisis.

NEW YORK

Clara Lionel Foundation, Brooklyn, NY | $3.2 Million

A group of funders led by Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey's #startsmall has committed $3.2 million in support of COVID-19 response efforts in Detroit and Flint, Michigan. The grants — some of which were matched by the Stadler Family Foundation, the David Rockefeller Fund, and the Sean Anderson Foundation — will fund comprehensive solutions ranging from food distribution and foster care to bail relief, temporary shelter, and social support services.

Grantmakers for Girls of Color, New York, NY | $1 Million

Grantmakers for Girls of Color has announced a $1 million commitment in support of efforts to address the impacts of the coronavirus on girls and gender-expansive youth of color. The Love Is Healing COVID-19 Response Fund will award grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofits and coalitions led by womxn or girls of color, with a focus on COVID-19-related advocacy and immediate mapping needs; economic and educational response strategies; interventions in support of systems impacting youth or survivors of gender-based violence; and preventive or responsive mental, physical, and emotional health strategies.

Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Brooklyn, NY | $2.8 Million

The Edward W. Hazen Foundation has announced that it is fast-tracking $2.8 million in grants to twenty-four nonprofits responding to the COVID-19 crisis in communities of color. Originally scheduled to be awarded this summer, the grants will support parent- and youth-led organizing efforts around issues such as equity in public school funding, ending the police presence and punitive discipline policies in schools, and securing affordable housing for low-income families. The grants are part of a nearly five-fold increase in funding compared with the foundation's spring 2019 docket.

Willem de Kooning Foundation, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Cy Twombly Foundation, New York, NY; Teiger Foundation, Livingston, NJ | $1.25 Million

The Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Teiger, and Cy Twombly foundations have partnered to establish an emergency relief grant program to provide $1.25 million in cash assistance to workers in the visual arts in the tri-state area experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. To be administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the fund will award one-time unrestricted grants of $2,000 to freelance, contract, or non-salaried archivists, art handlers, artist/photographer's assistants, catalogers, database specialists, digital assets specialists, image scanners/digitizers, and registrars.

Henry Luce Foundation, New York, NY | $3.1 Million

At its April meeting, the board of the Henry Luce Foundation awarded $3.1 million in emergency grants in support of fields and communities the foundation has long supported and approved requests to reallocate more than $1.75 million from existing project budgets for salary or general operating support at its grantee institutions. The twenty-three emergency grants include awards ranging between $60,000 and $250,000 to support staff salaries at small and midsize museums in Santa Fe, Tulsa, Portland (OR), Asheville, and Phoenix; a grant of $250,000 to the American Indian College Fund to enable instruction at tribal colleges to continue remotely during the pandemic; and grants of various sizes to emergency funds established by the Modern Language Association, the American Academy of Religion, and Xavier University in Louisiana. The foundation expects to award more emergency grants in May.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York, NY | $1.76 Million

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.76 million to sixteen historically black colleges and universities to help stabilize enrollments for the upcoming academic year. The grants of $110,000 per institution will be used to help students pay for their technology needs, ease financial strain due to tuition and housing costs, and pay for essential travel.

NORTH CAROLINA

Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, Greensboro, NC | $200,000

The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation has awarded $200,000 to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina in support of its COVID-19 relief efforts. The funds will be used to purchase six truckloads of food boxes for families and seniors in the greater Greensboro area. According to Second Harvest, local organizations that work with the food bank across eighteen counties are seeing increases of between 40 percent and 60 percent in the demand for food assistance.

Duke Endowment, Charlotte, North Carolina | $3.5 Million

The Duke Endowment has announced a $3.5 million grant to Feeding the Carolinas, a network of ten food banks serving more than thirty-seven hundred charities in North and South Carolina, in support of efforts to meet increased demand due to COVID-19. Due to declines in volunteers and retail donations as a result of the public health emergency, Feeding the Carolinas expects to spend between $1 million to $2 million a week on food purchases for the next six to eight weeks.

PENNSYLVANIA

Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh, PA | $2.3 Million

The Heinz Endowments has announced a second round of emergency grants totaling more than $2.3 million to Pittsburgh-area nonprofits working to protect the health of frontline workers and address the basic needs of vulnerable families and individuals. Part of a special $5 million emergency fund approved by the endowments' board in response to urgent community needs resulting from the pandemic, the awards include three grants totaling $610,000 for the purchase of laptops for students who do not have access to computer technology; $250,000 to Allegheny Health Network in support of mobile COVID-19 testing units in underserved communities; and $250,000 to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, PA | $6.8 Million

The Pew Charitable Trusts has announced grants totaling $6.8 million over three years in support of thirty-eight nonprofits serving vulnerable adults in the region whose needs have been exacerbated by the public health emergency. Grants were focused in three areas: helping adults who are experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and those with significant behavioral health or substance use issues achieve independence and stability in their lives; helping those with limited work skills obtain employment; and using evidence-informed approaches to improve behavioral health outcomes.

Presser Foundation, Philadelphia, PA | $1.3 Million

The Presser Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.3 million to eighty-five music organizations in the greater Philadelphia area, including $521,250 in general operating support grants aimed at helping the organizations weather the COVID-19 emergency. Recipients include the Academy of Vocal Arts, the Chester Children's Chorus, Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts, and Trenton Music Makers. The remaining $795,000 will support capital projects at music-presenting, -performing, and -education organizations.

TEXAS

Episcopal Health Foundation, Houston, TX | $11.6 Million

The Episcopal Health Foundation has announced a $10 million plan to help address the long-term impact of COVID-19, including a grant program, an emergency loan fund, and a research project. The grant program will help current grantees and partners continue their operations during the public health emergency, with a focus on those directly involved in COVID-19 response and serving disproportionately affected populations, while the loan fund will offer two-year zero-interest loans of up to $1 million. The foundation also announced a first round of grants totaling $1.6 million from a previously announced $10 million commitment to address the long-term impacts of the coronavirus. Grants were awarded to twenty-three current grantees, including nonprofit clinics and organizations serving low-income Texans, behavioral and mental health organizations, rural health centers, nonprofits assisting with enrollment in health and other benefit programs, and groups working in the area of early-childhood brain development.

George Foundation, Richmond, TX | $1.3 Million

The George Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.3 million in support of nonprofits serving Fort Bend County residents impacted by COVID-19. The total includes $195,500 to help fifty organizations continue serving their communities while observing social distancing guidelines and more than $1.1 million to twenty nonprofits providing critical services, with a focus on meeting the increase in basic needs, including food assistance and rent and utilities assistance.

Kinder Foundation, Dallas, TX | $1 Million

The Houston Food Bank has announced a $1 million grant from the Kinder Foundation to help feed families impacted by the coronavirus. As a result of job and income losses caused by the virus, the food bank has had to ramp up distribution to between 150 percent and 200 percent of pre-pandemic levels, or between seven hundred and fifty thousand and a million pounds of food a day.

Moody Foundation, Dallas, TX | $1.475 Million

The Moody Foundation has announced a second round of grants totaling $1.475 million in support of nonprofits providing food, shelter, PPE, computers, rent assistance, employment, education, and physical and mental health services across Texas. Grants include $675,000 in support of nine Dallas-area organizations; $500,000 to eighteen nonprofits in Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, Fredericksburg, San Marcos, and Marfa; and $300,000 in support of the City of Galveston and four Galveston County organizations. In March, the foundation awarded a first round of COVID-related grants totaling $1 million in support of Austin-area nonprofits.

WISCONSIN

Bader Philanthropies, Milwaukee, WI | $1.4 Million

And Bader Philanthropies has awarded grants totaling $1.4 million to nonprofits in southeastern Wisconsin providing on-the-ground services in response to COVID-19, the BizTimes reports. Recipients include crisis resource center IMPACT, which is using its $100,000 to add three employees; 4th Dimension Sobriety; Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin; Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers; and the Parenting Network.

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"Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Continues Rapid Response to COVID-19 Crisis With Additional $2.9 Million in Emergency Grants." Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Press Release 04/29/2020.

"New Single-Cell Technologies Help Scientists Understand COVID-19 Disease Progression." Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Press Release 05/08/2020.

"Hewlett Foundation Awards $10 Million to Silicon Valley Community Foundation for Bay Area COVID-19 Relief." William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Press Release 05/07/2020.

"Our First Steps to Deploy More Than $3 Million in Immediate Response." Imaginable Futures Blog Post 05/05/2020.

"ADL Receives $1 Million Grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to Detect and Measure Online Hate Speech." Anti-Defamation League Press Release 04/29/2020.

"Roddenberry Foundation Donates $1 Million to Support Gladstone COVID-19 Research." Gladstone Institutes Press Release 05/08/2020.

"Rosenberg Foundation Announces COVID Related Rapid Response Grants to Fight Mass Incarceration and Protect Immigrant and Farmworker Rights." Rosenberg Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"Tu Foundation Gives $2.5 Million to UCI to Support COVID-19 Patient Care, Research." University of California, Irvine Press Release 05/11/2020.

"The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation Pledges $1 Million to Match Community Donations for Emergency Needs at Norwalk Hospital." Norwalk Hospital Press Release 05/07/2020.

"Emergency Fund for Denver Arts & Culture Organizations Established; Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Donates $1 Million to Cause." Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Press Release 05/04/2020.

"The Morgridge Family Foundation Provides an Additional $1 Million in Emergency Relief Funding." Morgridge Family Foundation Press Release 05/05/2020.

"The Bailey Family Foundation Donates to Tampa General Hospital Amid COVID-19." Tampa General Hospital Press Release 05/06/2020.

"$2.7 Million in Direct Grants to Nonprofits for COVID-19 Relief." Gulf Coast Community Foundation Press Release 05/06/2020.

"New Journalism Fund Supporting Nearly 50 Local Media Organizations Providing Information About Covid-19 To Chicagoland Communities." Robert R. McCormick Foundation Press Release 05/07/2020.

"IWF Commits Another $500,000 to SWI COVID-19 Fund." Iowa West Foundation Press Release 04/03/2020.

"Total Foundation Emergency Support for Nonprofit Partners Now Exceeds $10.5 Million." Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation 04/30/2020.

"Weinberg Foundation Commits Additional $1 Million to Israeli Nonprofits as Part of COVID-19 Response." Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Press Release 05/05/2020.

"More Covid-19 Response Grants and a New Video Highlighting Bright Spots." McKnight Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"WFM Awards $55k in Rapid Response Grants." Women's Foundation of Mississippi 04/30/2020.

"Fund for Women and Girls Donates $50,000 to Princeton Area Community Foundation Relief & Recovery Fund." Princeton Area Community Foundation 04/30/2020.

"CLF Leads Additional COVID-19 Response Efforts in Michigan." Clara Lionel Foundation Press Release 05/07/2020.

"Grantmakers for Girls of Color Announces $1 Million to Address Immediate Impacts of COVID-19 on Girls and Gender Expansive Youth of Color." Grantmakers for Girls of Color Press Release 05/04/2020.

"Edward W. Hazen Foundation Fast Tracks $2.8 Million in Grants to Support Grantees Responding to Covid-19 Pandemic in Communities of Color."

"Tri-State Relief Fund to Support Non-Salaried Workers in the Visual Arts." New York Foundation for the Arts Press Release 04/28/2020.

"Luce Foundation Makes $3M in Emergency Grants to Support Communities and Organizations Affected by COVID-19."Henry Luce Foundation Press Release 05/12/2020.

"$1.76 Million in Emergency Grants Distributed to 16 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic." Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"The Duke Endowment Awards $3.5 Million to Feeding the Carolinas." Duke Endowment Press Release 05/12/2020.

"Second Harvest Food Bank Receives $200,000 Donation From the Bryan Foundation." Winston-Salem Journal 04/30/2020.

"Heinz Endowments Announces Further $2.3 Million in Emergency Funding to Combat COVID-19 Crisis." Heinz Endowments Press Release 04/30/2020.

"Pew Announces $6.8M in Grants Supporting Philadelphia Region's Vulnerable Adults." Pew Charitable Trusts Press Release 05/04/2020.

"The Presser Foundation Announces Over $1.3 Million in a Special Round of General Operating and Capital Support Grants to Music Organizations." Presser Foundation Press Release 04/29/2020.

"Episcopal Health Foundation Targets Long-Term Focus in $10 Million COVID-19 Response Plan." Episcopal Health Foundation Press Release 04/28/2020.

"Episcopal Health Foundation Announces $1.6 Million in Grants During First Round of Funding for COVID-19 Response in Texas." Episcopal Health Foundation Press Release 05/13/2020.

"Messages on COVID-19." George Foundation Press Release 05/04/2020.

"Kinder Foundation Gifts $1 Million to Houston Food Bank to Feed Houstonians Impacted by COVID-19." Houston Food Bank Press Release 05/05/2020.

"Moody Foundation Commits Additional $300K to Galveston County COVID-19 Relief." Moody Foundation Press Release 05/05/2020.

"Moody Foundation Commits Additional $500K to Dallas-Area COVID-19 Relief." Moody Foundation Press Release 05/05/2020.

"Moody Foundation Commits Additional $675K to Dallas-Area COVID-19 Relief." Moody Foundation Press Release 05/05/2020.

"Bader Philanthropies Distributes $1.4 Million in Emergency Funding for Nonprofits." BizTimes 04/28/2020.

COVID-19 Is Prompting a Global Response From Impact Investors

May 13, 2020

Impact investing_610x308For most of us, the coronavirus pandemic is the first truly global crisis of our lifetimes. But while signs of progress against the virus have emerged from parts of Asia and Europe, infections and virus-related deaths continue to climb in the United States, and it seems as if large parts of the Global South are still in the early stages of their infection curves.

Our extensive webs of human connection are the proximate cause of the virus's rapid spread around the globe, highlighting, like nothing in recent memory, our global interconnectedness.

Ironically, those same links are also critical to the solution to the problem.

Across the impact investing community, COVID-19 is prompting a global response that those of us in the impact investing community have been proud to witness. Impact investors are doing what they do best: leveraging the power of finance to address the world's biggest challenges. It is already becoming clear that the ripple effects of the pandemic intersect with many of the goals impact investors have focused on for years: broadening access to affordable health care and housing, creating quality jobs, and building more sustainable agriculture and energy systems.

Among the hundreds of member organizations in the Global Impact Investing Network, tangible actions aimed at changing the course of the pandemic are unfolding. At the GIIN, we see those actions falling into three primary phases: a response phase, with a focus on immediate health and financial needs; a recovery phase, with a focus on rebuilding and tackling the social and economic impacts of the pandemic; and a resilience phase, with a focus on long-term systems change.

In many cases, impact investors are adjusting financing terms for existing investees as a first and immediate response. By making debt repayment terms more forgiving, impact investors are ensuring that social and environmental enterprises can continue to provide critical services — even as many struggle to overcome virus-related cash crunches.

Many impact investors also are offering bridge loans to their investees. Such loans are meant to help businesses cover expenses like payroll, rents, and other operational costs until emergency government aid arrives or consumer demand revives. Others in the GIIN network are expanding microfinance eligibility criteria and loan size, while still others are actively seeking out new investments that can help the world address the global public health emergency — proving, if nothing else, that not all liquidity has dried up.

Development banks across nearly all continents are issuing new bonds at a rapid clip. The proceeds will finance projects with broad COVID-related impacts. These projects are focused on things like improving the efficiency of healthcare systems, supporting the unemployed, and reducing friction in disrupted supply chains.

While we expect the near-term response by impact investors to the pandemic to grow in volume, actions by development finance institutions indicate that many in the impact investing community are thinking a step ahead to the medium-term investments needed to address a host of issues, including global under- and unemployment and inadequate health care, during the post-pandemic recovery phase.

As these efforts take shape, a central theme is becoming clear: in order to be truly effective, the global post-pandemic recovery will require the full spectrum of capital — from philanthropic to commercial. As things stand, we are seeing signs that blended-finance structures — long noted for their potential to bring different types of investors together to address urgent challenges — could rise to a new level of prominence. Such structures use philanthropic grants or concessionary capital to reduce investors' risk and catalyze the entry of larger pools of market-rate-seeking capital into investments with the potential to drive deep impact.

Just as we need to rely on one another more than ever during this crisis, we also need investors and grantmakers to work together as never before. But as we work together to respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus, we must not lose sight of our longer-term goals. The crisis is laying bare deep inequities in our healthcare and financial systems and causing the most harm to those who were already the most vulnerable: the poor, the ill and elderly, minority communities, women and girls. As we strive to become more resilient in the years after the crisis has passed, we must do everything in our power to prevent those inequities from taking hold again.

Our collective efforts over the coming months are likely to shape the way we approach the biggest global challenges we face for decades to come — challenges such as the climate emergency, which, like COVID-19, ignore international borders.

Headshot_giselle_leungAs you begin, in the coming months, to chart your "new normal," I urge you to remain mindful of that broader perspective and to hold tight to a shared vision of a more just, equitable, and resilient future — and to invest in it.

Giselle Leung is managing director of the Global Impact Investing Network.

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.

5 Questions for...Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund

April 29, 2020

Ellen Dorsey has served since 2008 as the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, where she helped launch Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of more than two hundred foundations that have pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel companies and deploy their investments to accelerate the clean energy transition. Dorsey and Divest-Invest Philanthropy signatories were awarded the 2016 inaugural Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Brave Philanthropy Award.

Earlier this month, the fund announced that it would pay out 20 percent of its endowment this year in support of COVID-19 relief and ongoing systemic change efforts and called on other funders to increase their grantmaking. 

PND spoke with Dorsey about the fund's decision-making process, the moral obligations of foundations in a time of crisis, and the longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey_EllenPhilanthropy News Digest: What was the impetus behind the fund's decision to commit 20 percent of the endowment to grantmaking in 2020, and how did you and the board arrive at that amount? 

Ellen Dorsey: We have said for a while now that philanthropy cannot engage in business as usual, either by failing to align our investments with our missions or not giving at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the many challenges we face. Before COVID-19, we were already calling for philanthropy to declare a climate emergency and increase giving levels over the next ten years. COVID-19 was yet another overlapping shockwave added to the list of threats that compounded our sense of urgency.  

For too long, philanthropy has been content to give the bare minimum — the 5 percent required by law — while growing its endowments. Even before COVID-19, the Wallace Global Fund felt it was unethical for any foundation to grow its endowment during a five-alarm fire, particularly given the many financial and logistical challenges faced by our grantees. 

As for the percentage decision, it happened organically. We were already planning to spend a significant percentage of our endowment this year on critical work being done within our core priority areas, and we invested 100 percent of our stock market gains — close to 22 percent — in 2018. Keeping our investments aligned with our mission is something that has long been a board priority. We see this as consistent with the legacy of our founding donor, former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and his warning that democracies must put people before profits if they plan to survive. 

PND: In a joint opinion piece with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Aaron Dorfman, you argued that "it is no time for philanthropy to think about cutting back...[instead, it should] give more to address the public-health crisis while continuing to fund existing social and systemic change efforts." You've said elsewhere that preserving foundation endowments instead of boosting granmaking was "both immoral and a failure to honor the mandate that foundations have to serve society." Have you received any pushback from CEOs at other foundations? And do you think philanthropy will take this "opportunity to fundamentally rethink past practices and upend the status quo," especially with respect to the mandatory 5 percent payout requirement?

ED: Ultimately, it's an empirical question. We will see. Right now, many foundations are stepping up and making significant pledges to address COVID-19 and the related economic crisis. Will enhanced giving continue as the reality of reduced endowments sinks in later this year and persists into 2021? The fallout of COVID-19, coupled with the spiraling climate catastrophe, requires dramatically more funding, not less. We have a decade to fundamentally reduce emissions and change the energy base of our global economy while creating more sustainable and equitable systems.

What we need from philanthropy goes beyond simply spending more. Frankly, if ever there was a time to fund system change work, it is now. We need to break the corporate capture of democracy, create new patterns of ownership, change the growth-only measures of economic and societal success, level patterns of inequality, and meet the basic human needs of billions, all while reversing the climate catastrophe barreling down on humanity. Philanthropy needs to support movements that are advancing new paradigms, support systemic theories of change that confront our unjust system, and invest its money in a way that is consistent with these values.

PND: As you've acknowledged, some foundations have taken steps to provide more — and more flexible — support for nonprofits, while more than seven hundred foundations have signed on to the Council on Foundationspledge to do so. Are we seeing a shift among foundations toward more grantee-centered practices? Or will things revert to the status quo after we get to the other side of this crisis?

ED: History shows that there is a tendency among philanthropy to scale back when times get tough. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, philanthropic grantmaking dropped by 15 percent. We've been really encouraged to see the groundswell of statements calling for philanthropy to use this moment to break that bad habit. It is particularly important given the unique vulnerabilities faced by nonprofits, movements, and the communities they serve. 

It is hard to say right now whether the status quo will fully return in any sector, but I will say that philanthropy has an obligation to resist it. Getting rid of COVID-19 will do nothing to stop the dire consequences we were already facing as the result of a number of threats, most notably climate change. In fact, if society returns to its established habits of emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, damaging or destroying ecological habitats, and giving corporations free rein to pursue the myth of limitless economic growth, the consequences of climate change will only continue to worsen.

The same could also be said for economic inequality, the rising privatization of public resources around the world, gender-based violence in the Global South, and the rise in misogyny faced by women around the world. There is no vaccine for social injustice. We cannot allow ourselves to be so relieved once the COVID-19 crisis has passed that we ignore the fissures in society it has exposed. Philanthropy has both an opportunity and a duty to partner with people-centered movements that are fighting for systems change and broad, structural reform today, and we must continue to support them in the aftermath of this pandemic. 

PND: This is not the first time the Wallace Global Fund has used its investment portfolio to boost the impact of its grantmaking; in 2018, the fund pledged to invest all its gains from the previous year into organizations working to advance social and environmental justice. Have you seen tangible returns on those investments?

ED: Yes, without a question. We have already seen positive impacts from our funding and there are results to come that we cannot yet see. We fund progressive social movements and systemic change work both globally and in the U.S. We believe building people power is the necessary ingredient to challenging entrenched economic and political interests. We have been funding the fossil fuel divestment movement for over a decade and, to date, there are more than a thousand institutions  around the globe that have divested — institutions with a combined $14 trillion under management. We have funded the youth climate movement, the so-called climate strikers, and those calling for a Green New Deal. They are changing the debate on climate in truly significant ways. We're also supporting groups around the world that are challenging authoritarian governments and defending basic human rights.  

Often those fights seem insurmountable, but defending the front lines is often the only antibody to the virus of authoritarianism and is essential if we are to preserve our democratic ideals and way of life. In the U.S., our grantees are working to transform conditions of inequality, defend democratic institutions, get toxic money out of our political system, and break up monopolies. These are big and audacious goals, not easy to measure in the near term, but they absolutely are critical in terms of the system change work we need. I think it's fair to say we would rather invest in deep change than obsess about lowest-common-denominator metrics. 

PND: What, if anything, do the systemic social change efforts you've urged your philanthropic peers to support — climate action, defending the rights of marginalized populations, strengthening civil society and democracy — have to do with the public health and economic emergencies caused by COVID-19?

ED: It's true that all those issues were issues before COVID-19. For example, we know that seven hundred people a day were dying from poverty in the U.S. before the virus ever reached our shores. But COVID-19 has laid bare the many ways in which it is not the great equalizer many claim it is.

Communities of color have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. Places with higher levels of carbon-based pollution are seeing corresponding spikes in death rates. Voting rights are under increasing threat from a lack of contingency planning and stalled efforts to expand vote-by-mail nationally. And as millions of small businesses were forced to close their doors — many for the last time — American billionaires made more than $300 billion.

These injustices are all interconnected. One of the movement leaders who inspires me most, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People's Campaign, has built a movement on the simple yet profound notion that the struggles against systemic racism, inadequate health care, poverty, voter suppression, ecological devastation, environmental injustice, and human rights abuses are not separate struggles at all. We are dependent on each other in our quest for liberation, and our narratives must be bound together if we hope to win.

— Kyoko Uchida

Economic Democracy: A Conversation With Funders

March 12, 2020

Diane_Ives_Scott_AbramsThe Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI), in partnership with the Kendeda Fund and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), recently hosted a funder briefing on economic democracy. In the lead-up to the briefing, Sandra Lobo, BCDI board vice president and executive director of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition — a founding member organization of the BCDI — sat down with Diane Ives from the Kendeda Fund and Scott Abrams from OSF to better understand how economic democracy became a priority for their foundations and the opportunities and challenges ahead. Ives has served since 2003 as fund advisor for the Kendeda Fund's People, Place, and Planet program, while Abrams is director of special initiatives for OSF's Economic Justice Program, where he focuses on early-stage high-risk bets aimed at advancing the concept of economic advancement globally. 

In a wide-ranging conversation, Lobo, Ives, and Abrams discussed their respective decisions to invest in BCDI, what funders need to do to support one another in this work, and why there is a need to create a collective consciousness around economic democracy. Economic democracy is a framework in which people share ownership over the assets and resources in their communities and govern and steward them democratically for a shared purpose. It's not just about more participation; it's about sharing power.

The transcript below, provided by BCDI, has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Sandra Lobo: You all have funded a number of different kinds of work in your tenure. How did economic democracy become a priority for you and your respective programs, and given what you've seen and learned, why do you think it's important?

Diane Ives: When I first started at Kendeda, we didn't even call it the People, Place, and Planet program. It was an environmental sustainability program. We were using the very familiar Venn diagram of sustainability, economics, and equity, and we realized that we were funding in all three of those areas but not where the overlap was, which is really what we were trying to get at. So we made a shift in 2012 toward a vision of "well-being for all within the means of the planet." Once we made that shift, it was easier for us to explore what we call "community wealth-building," which is this notion that communities should have agency around the decisions about their neighborhood and that they're able to retain and build the wealth they need to activate what they really want their neighborhoods and communities to be. So that was the shift we went through between 2012 and 2014.

Scott Abrams: A lot of what Diane just said in terms of community wealth-building resonates very strongly, but let me take a step back and explain how we came to this body of work. The first is widening inequality around the world — in terms of wealth and income — and a second is the way in which the structural deficiencies with the economy have been a driving force for populism and autocratic government we've seen all over the world. Part of our diagnosis is that so many people feel they've lost all control over the economy, and their role within it. This feeling of precariousness and vulnerability has fed a host of unsavory, radical, and regressive political outcomes.  

Questions of redistributive policy are difficult to grapple with in today's political climate. One of the ways in which we think about addressing these issues is to try to build models or spotlight examples of where democratic forms of economic activity are taking root. And a part of that for us is, of course, advancing shared ownership at the firm level and supporting ecosystems that enable more democratic forms of economic activity. Our larger, longer-term hypothesis is that some of those examples could help inspire replication, upscaling, et cetera, which would then impact the way people think about the economy more generally.

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Coronavirus Highlights the Gaping Holes in Our Healthcare and Labor System

March 05, 2020

FastFoodWorkersMaps and daily counts of the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world have become a staple of television, the Internet, and print media. Not unreasonably, Americans fearful of contracting the virus have emptied their local supermarkets and drugstores of masks, soap, and hand sanitizers in hopes that simple measures will protect them. Meanwhile, concerned officials are telling people they should speak to their employers about their work-from-home options and, if they begin to exhibit flu-like symptoms, to stay home.

Unfortunately, this latest global pandemic throws into stark relief the status of our broken healthcare and labor systems. Low-wage workers who care for our children, staff our hospitals, and work the kitchens and cash registers in our fast food restaurants cannot work at home. Nor, in the event they get sick without adequate insurance, can they afford to get tested for COVID-19 or obtain medical care. For them, and many others, missing a day's pay almost always results in dire financial consequences. Many have no paid sick days or family care days; they live in constant fear of losing their wages or, worse, their jobs. And if schools are closed, who will care for their own children when they report to work?

The all-but-inevitable spread of the virus in the United States is about to bring us face-to-face with a simple fact: masks (as the surgeon-general reminded us in a tweet!) and hand sanitizers will not make us safe; only fair wages, a strong social safety net, and universal paid family and medical leave will protect Americans from the worst consequences of the virus. In a quote that has circulated widely across social media, journalist and author Anand Giridharadas observed, "Coronavirus makes clear what has been true all along. Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling."

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 15-16, 2020)

February 16, 2020

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

Fundraising

Everything in the world of fundraising is based on relationships, or should be, right? Well, sort of, writes Vu Le on his Nonprofit AF blog. "[O]ur reliance on relationships is...problematic, as it often creates and enhances inequity and thus undermines many of the problems we as a sector are trying to address" — for example, by further marginalizing people and communities that don't have the same access to relationships as better-resourced communities and nonprofits, or by reinforcing our natural bias toward people who look, think, and act like us. 

Giving

On the Alliance magazine blog, Alisha Miranda, chief executive of I.G. advisors, considers the pros and cons of curated approaches to giving.

Grantmaking

PEAK Grantmaking has released a set of resources designed to help grantmakers operationalize the second of its five Principles for Peak Grantmaking: Narrow the Power Gap. Within that frame, the organization has three very specific recommendations: build strong and trusting relationships with your grantees; rightsize the grantmaking process and implement flexible practices that reduce the burden on your grantees; and structure grant awards to be more responsive to grantee needs. Elly Davis, a program manager at the organization, shares more here.

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Looking Back on the Quest to Eliminate Trachoma

January 30, 2020

Recovered_trachoma_patient_Martin_Kharumwa_orbis_internationalThere are some patients you never forget — not because they are famous, but because of the story they have to tell and the everlasting impression it makes on you. 

In 1997, I was traveling through Africa as a young medical student and volunteer, teaching eye care staff at local clinics how to maintain microsurgical instruments and make some standard medical supplies themselves. I ended up joining the outreach project of an eye clinic I was visiting in the Jimma Zone of Ethiopia. One day while I was at the clinic, an older woman walked in. She explained to us that she had been blind for several years, but now, every morning when she woke up, she had to put margarine under her eyelid because, otherwise, she experienced unbearable pain every time she blinked.

I recall my brain working overtime in that moment but drawing a complete blank. This wasn't a common complaint I had experienced in clinics or something I had learned from my professors — it was something else. We examined the woman's eye. Her eyelid had completely turned in on itself, and her eyelashes were scratching her eyeball. The resulting damage and infections of the cornea and eyeball had caused her to go completely blind, but the agonizing pain caused by the scratching eyelashes remained. 

At that point, as a medical student trained in Europe, I was still clueless about what could have caused an infection with damage so painful that the patient had to resort to margarine for relief. The ophthalmologist running the clinic said nonchalantly, "Trichiasis due to trachoma. This is the end stage — nothing we can do anymore."

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Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

Sykes_foundation_whole_familyIndividuals are whole people made up of a rich mix of physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual parts. Individuals exist within families, and families are the heart of our communities. In many ways, working families earning low wages are the backbone of our country, working the jobs that keep America running.

But many American families are struggling. Despite an uptick in the economy, more than 8.5 million children currently live in poverty, and they are often concentrated in neighborhoods where at least a third of all families live in poverty. Others are just a paycheck away from falling into poverty. For these families, a simple change in circumstance for a family member — a reduction in working hours, an illness, even the need for a car repair — affects the entire family's long-term well-being.

At Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we collaborate with families, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and others to advance family well-being through a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach. Such an approach addresses challenges through the lens of whole people living in intact families, equipping children and the adults in their lives with the tools to collectively set and achieve goals, strengthen relationships with each other, and establish the stability of the family unit so that every member is able to reach his or her full potential.

In our work every day, we see the many meaningful ways in which a whole family approach benefits families and creates opportunities for service organizations to reach vulnerable populations, scale their work, and fulfill their missions. Here are five things your agency can do to shape its work in ways that will benefit families and support family members as they define, create, and realize the futures of which they dream.

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We Must Act Now to End Students’ Basic Needs Insecurity — Together

December 03, 2019

Food insecurity on campusAs hundreds of thousands of students scramble to submit their college applications, many are thinking beyond the daunting cost of tuition and student fees to how they will pay for their everyday necessities once they've arrived on campus. With nearly half of college students at two- and four-year institutions experiencing food insecurity and more than half struggling with housing insecurity, it goes without saying that gaps in basic-needs provision are a major issue impacting today's college students — one that requires a systemic solution.

Examples of expenses that can derail a student's progression to a degree include emergency car repairs, rent increases, or a sudden illness. Such needs and emergencies often can be addressed, however, by immediate direct supports, including emergency-aid grants, food pantries, rapid rehousing services, and campus partnerships with community and government agencies aimed at ensuring students are supported throughout their academic journey.

Colleges are well positioned to be points of entry to a coordinated suite of social services for students. Working in tandem with community and government partners, colleges can use their own resources and design more student-centered services to cover students’ basic needs and keep them on track to their degrees.

For instance, in Washington state, the United Way of King County is working in partnership with local colleges to develop on-campus Benefits Hubs, which are designed to connect students to public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as community partners that can provide immediate resources and financial assistance for housing-related emergencies.

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This Is America

October 15, 2019

America and MomAmerica, my youngest cousin, started college in August. She is the daughter of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with hopes of building a new life, a life better than the one offered by their home country, Mexico. America was born in the U.S. and is a dedicated student. She has committed herself to studying hard because she wants to fulfill her dreams and her parents' dreams — dreams for which they have sacrificed much. By graduating from high school, America is one step closer to her dream. This is her story, but it's also the story of hundreds of thousands of low-income first-generation students of color who dream of success and fight against odds and unfamiliar systems to keep their dream (and their families' dreams) alive.

For many students like America, the path to a college degree is difficult. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, state funding for higher education has declined as a share of the budget over the past four decades while tuition has tripled at both the UC and CSU systems over the past twenty years. A 2018 study by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento found that a large majority of community college students fail to obtain a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. The same study found large disparities between minority and Caucasian students, with only 26 percent of African-American students and 22 percent of Latino students earning a degree or certification or successfully transferring to a four-year university within six years. That's compared to 37 percent of Caucasian students. In 2018, the CSU system reported that only 25 percent of first-time freshmen finished in four years, while only 38 percent of transfer students attained their degree in two years. Although California spends more on financial aid per Pell Grant recipient than any other state, it's clear that more needs to be done to assist the 48 percent of students who identify as students of color and the 41 percent who are first-generation college-goers. Simply put, they face more barriers to college completion than other students. Indeed, according to CSU's 2018 Basic Needs Study, students who identified as black/African-American and as the first in their families to attend college experienced the highest rates of food insecurity (65.9 percent) and homelessness (18 percent) of any group. All these students, like America, deserve a level playing field and a fair shot at success.

East Los Angeles

America is a hopeful teenager who aspires to become a lawyer. She graduated from my alma mater, James A Garfield High School in East L.A. Think El Mercadito, Oscar de la Hoya, Whittier Boulevard. Think Stand and Deliver, the story of Jaime Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos in the movie). Yeah, that East L.A. and that Garfield High School. That's the environment in which America grew up.

East L.A. is an amazing community, but it faces many challenges, including a more than 22 percent poverty rate, nearly double the national average. It also struggles with low educational attainment, with only 8.3 percent of the population holding a bachelor's degree or higher. Forty-three percent of the population possess no degree at all. The neighborhood is also plagued by gangs and gang-related violence. My niece is living proof, however, that East L.A. is still a place where resilience and persistence can lead to success and the American dream.

America's Family and the Challenges of Financial Aid

After spending her childhood and teen years in East L.A., America was accepted at UC Merced. While not her first choice, the school offered the best financial aid package. Neither her mom nor dad received high school diplomas, and when America was applying to colleges they struggled to navigate a system they were not familiar with. Despite the challenges, all the necessary financial aid documents were completed and submitted.

America's financial aid package included $5,500 in loans. Of that, America and her parents decided to accept only $1,000, opting to figure out how to source the remaining $4,500 on their own. Although $5,500 might seem affordable, it's only a best-guess as to what is needed for the first year, and no one knows whether the amount will change in year two, three, or four. In addition, $5,000 of America's financial aid package was tied to work study. If she chose not to work, then the $4,500 already picked up by her family would balloon to $9,500. America's family's annual income is $30,000. And it gets more complicated when you consider that America's parents also pay $2,000 a year for her older sister to attend East Los Angeles College.

In her book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and The Betrayal of the American Dream, Sara Goldrick-Rab examines the conundrum faced by first-generation college students who apply for financial aid. In the book, Goldrick-Rab details a study conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab that asked 1,110 students how long it took them to complete financial aid paperwork. Almost a third (29 percent) said it took them one to two hours to complete, while 20 percent said it required more than two hours, with one in three of those students saying the person who helped them complete the paperwork had not attended college. Such was the case for America. "Si, un monton de papeleo, nunca en mi vida me habian pedido tanto papeleo," America's mom told me. ("Never in my life have I been asked for so many documents.")

Fulfillment of a Dream

In July, America excitedly told her parents that UC Merced had invited her to a new student orientation. Her parents were quick to ask why it cost $100 per person to attend. They asked me, her cousin, to go with them because, as America's dad said, "Pues es que no conocemos por alla," ("We're unfamiliar with stuff over there.") I gladly accepted and headed out with them on a Friday afternoon for the Saturday session. The trip came at an opportune time. As a program officer at the Michelson 20MM Foundation, I work on issues of access, success, and affordability for underrepresented college students, with a focus on students struggling with basic needs

When we finally got to Merced, America and her parents were bright eyed, taking in a new landscape and imagining how America soon would be making it her home. They were excited for her and glad for the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the drive, knowing they would be coming up to bring their daughter home for the holidays and other occasions. America gently reminded them she only planned to come home twice a year. I didn't attend the orientation, as I figured it would be good for America and her parents to experience the day on their own.

When I picked them up, they were beaming with optimism and ready to share everything they had learned. Like any good recap at a gathering of Mexicans, they started by describing the food. But the question they were most interested in hearing an answer to was whether UC Merced took attendance and whether the school would notify parents if their daughter stopped attending classes. They knew America was bound to grow increasingly independent, but they also felt it would be good policy for UC Merced to communicate with parents in such situations. America laughed — not out of frustration but in appreciation of her parent's "old schoolness" and the love they were demonstrating by readily accepting things they didn't fully understand but knew would be good for her.

America started UC Merced last month and is beyond excited. She embraces her status as an underdog and relishes the challenge. More than anything, she does so because she's seen her parents beat the odds to give her the opportunity. If you drive through East L.A. today, you'll see eight-foot-high banners on lampposts lining major thoroughfares like Atlantic Boulevard. In 2016, Garfield H.S., in partnership with local businesses, educational organizations, and elected officials, obtained permits to display pictures of Garfield graduates holding the pennants and wearing the sweaters of the colleges they were leaving home to attend. At the top of each banner it reads "Garfield is college bound," while across the bottom it says "The pride of East L.A." America is on one of those banners, and her parents could not be prouder.

In the months and years to come, America and her family, like many other first-generation low-income students of color and their families, will navigate unfamiliar new systems together, tread new paths together, laugh at what they don't understand together, and most likely cry whenever they are not together. For now, they happily cling to their recent victory, America's high school graduation and the memory of their embrace after America walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

What's in a hug for America's parents at graduation? Sighs of relief after years of sacrifice. Memories of a border crossing filled with fear that led to an indescribable moment of joy. The fulfillment of a dream that first took shape in a small town in Mexico, thousands of miles away, and seemingly thousands of years ago. The satisfaction of knowing that waking up at 4:00 a.m. every day, day after day, to work a low-paying job was worth it. The satisfaction of knowing that in four years, despite the challenges, "primeramente Dios," ("God willing"), they'll be waking up at 4:00 a.m. to drive up the 99 freeway to see their daughter walk across another stage.

Miguel_leon_for_PhilanTopicMiguel León is a program officer at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

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.

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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