285 posts categorized "Poverty Alleviation"

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

August 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

(Photo credit: Getty Images/kuarmungadd)

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

August 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27, 2022

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

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

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

Improving higher education outcomes for single mothers: A commentary by Jennifer Zeisler

December 22, 2021

Mother_college_grad_son_GettyImages_SDI ProductionsInvesting in higher education for single mothers to transform the U.S. economy

Before it’s too late, we must address a critical gap in this country’s economic recovery strategy: help for single mothers in college. These determined mothers understand the connection between their education and their families’ long-term financial security, and they have proven that they are ready and willing to take on the work that will fuel our future. It’s time for the philanthropic sector to follow their lead.

Over the last five years, ECMC Foundation has funded efforts to improve educational outcomes for single mothers, who represent more than one in ten undergraduates in the United States. We have learned that with a bit of additional support, single mothers can help drive equitable economic growth. As the only national foundation focused on the college success of single mothers, we have also learned that too few funders are making this type of sound investment. Women of color, who disproportionately pursue degrees while parenting, bear the brunt of this lack of investment. To achieve gender and racial equity in the years to come, more funders must commit to ensuring that single mothers have access to the education they want and need.

As we know from the economic recovery from the Great Recession, many jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage require educational attainment beyond high school. Single mothers are distinctly aware of the economic calculus of enrolling in college: Nearly half attend community colleges, where they pursue degrees in health care, information technology, and other middle-skill sectors that have the potential to fuel the country’s economic engine. They know that earning a college degree pays off, and they are right: Single mothers with an associate’s degree are nearly half as likely to live in poverty as those with a high school diploma.

But as the pandemic has made painfully obvious, it is difficult for parents, especially mothers, to work without access to child care. This is especially true for single-mother students, who must balance care, work, and school — and was true long before the pandemic. Facing high poverty rates and having limited time to devote to their studies due to work and family demands, fewer than 10 percent of single-mother students graduate on time....

Read the full commentary by Jennifer Zeisler, senior program director for career readiness at ECMC Foundation.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/SDI Productions)

Addressing global hunger — the equity challenge of our lifetime: A commentary by Barron Segar

November 11, 2021

Woman in traditional african clothes holding black beans_GettyImages_beingbonnyWhy global food security is the equity challenge of our lifetime

For more than half a century, the global food system operated with a singular mantra: Produce more food.  At the time of the Green Revolution in the 1950s, much of the world was in the throes of hunger as a result of the Second World War. The industrial agriculture model pioneered in places like the United States — monocultures of improved crop varietals fueled in their growth by chemical fertilizers — was unleashed on the world.

That system did its intended job well, driving global hunger numbers down. But today, its legacy has created new challenges of its own, including land degradation and an explosion of noncommunicable diseases resulting from diets rich in carbohydrates but low in important micronutrients. 

Today, too many people are at the mercy of, not willing participants in, the global food system. In a world that produces almost $90 trillion in wealth each year, some forty-two million people in dozens of countries face the looming prospect of famine. As many as eight hundred and eleven million people go to bed hungry each night, and a third of humanity does not have access to adequate food....

Read the full commentary by Barron Segar, president and CEO of World Food Program USA.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/beingbonny)

'Grounded in anger and in love': A Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO, Robin Hood

November 09, 2021

Headshot_Richard Buery Jr.Richard R. Buery, Jr. succeeded Wes Moore as CEO of New York City-based Robin Hood in September, after serving as CEO of Robin Hood's community partner Achievement First, a network of thirty-seven charter schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He previously served as New York City's deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, in which he led Pre-K for All, which for first time offers free, full-day, high-quality PreK to every four-year-old in New York City; created School's Out NYC to offer free afterschool programs to every middle school student; launched two hundred community school partnerships; managed the city's mental health reform initiative; and founded the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises. His experience in civil and nonprofit leadership also included stints as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, and CEO of Children's Aid. He also co-founded Groundwork to support the educational aspirations of public housing residents in Brooklyn, as well as iMentor, which pairs high school students with mentors to help them navigate to and through college.

A first-generation Panamanian American born and raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Buery is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, and Yale Law School and clerked on the Federal Court of Appeals in New York.

PND spoke with Buery about worsening income inequality and the racial wealth gap, the impact of COVID-19 on the fight against poverty, the importance of equitable access to early childhood education and mental health services, and diversity among foundation and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropy News Digest: You've held leadership positions with and/or founded numerous organizations focused on children and education — from the KIPP Foundation, Children's Aid, Groundwork, iMentor, and Achievement First to spearheading Pre-K for All and community-school partnerships. How did you come to devote your career to improving educational outcomes for underserved children?

Richard R. Buery, Jr: I think it stems from love and anger. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn but was able to attend a high-performing specialized high school, Stuyvesant, in Lower Manhattan. Riding the subway for an hour each way between East New York and Stuyvesant, I realized there were two New York Cities — one where children have all the resources they need to succeed, and one where they don't. Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to attend a great public school, when so many other kids in my neighborhood who were just as talented and driven were sentenced to a second-tier education?

Experiencing those two New Yorks every day did something to me. It made me angry. But I got lucky. In college, I began volunteering at an afterschool program in the Mission Hill housing development in Roxbury, Boston. I fell in love with the children, the families, and the community. It reminded me of home. I wound up starting a summer program to support those children when school was out.

So, I think my career is grounded in anger and in love. My experience in Mission Hill taught me that when injustice makes you angry, you can do something about it. You can organize people, organize resources, and you can work with communities you love to help solve problems.

Read the full Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr.

 

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

August 10, 2021

Fabric_bolts_arts_creative_GettyImages_oksixImpacting the creative economy with philanthropic funds

What do film and fashion have to do with philanthropy?

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

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

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

5 Questions for...Frances Sykes, President and CEO, Pascale Sykes Foundation

April 27, 2021

For much of its existence, the New Jersey-based Pascale Sykes Foundation has worked to strengthen low-income working families in the New Jersey/New York region through what it calls the Whole Family Approach, a preventive (as opposed to crisis-driven) strategy that helps family members, both adults and children, support one another in achieving their long-term goals. With the understanding that financial stability, healthy relationships, and physical well-being are linked, families are matched with a coach who works alongside family members to identify and set their goals; ensure they have the resources and tools needed to achieve those goals; and connect them to a network of agencies able to deliver holistic, coordinated support. The approach has been applied in various settings and with immigrant families, foster youth, and families dealing with members who are re-entering society from the criminal justice system.

The foundation's work extends into other areas as well. After rural families in southern New Jersey identified transportation as a major challenge, the foundation supported an initiative known as Transportation Plus, which provides residents of the region with connections to NJ Transit. And through its Economic Initiative, a partnership with a community development financial institution, the foundation invests in a series of low-interest loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits in the region.

Frances P. Sykes has led the foundation since its founding in 1992. In 1995, Pascale Sykes trustees voted to sunset the foundation by 2022. PND spoke with Sykes about the foundation's Whole Family Approach, where things stand with the spend-down process, and her hopes for the field.

Headshot_frances_sykesPhilanthropy News Digest: You've said you created the Pascale Sykes Foundation with two intentions: to serve working low-income families that aren't eligible for many safety-net services, and to help reshape the way social services in the United States are delivered. How did you come to settle on those two objectives?

Frances Sykes: When I was teaching, I witnessed a working family struggle to get help for their eleven-year-old, who was in danger of going down the wrong path. The family made too much to qualify for free supportive services, and under a sliding scale they would have been asked to pay more than they could afford. They were stuck, whereas a middle-class family in the same situation more than likely would've been able to afford to pay out of pocket for counseling and other services for their child. It wasn't fair that the issue the child was experiencing wasn't severe enough, or that the family wasn't poor enough, to allow them to access the resources they needed. Far too many families are in that same position — living one step above the poverty line and lacking access to the kinds of support they need. I wanted my work to be a part of the solution to that challenge — to help build a bridge between what families need and the agencies that have the resources to empower them.

The Whole Family Approach evolved over ten years. By working alongside grantees, Pascale Sykes trustees, staff, and grantees could see what made a lasting difference in families' long-term well-being. And we also came to realize that families know what they want and are capable of achieving it if they are taught how to navigate the system. It's not complicated. Adults in charge. Financial stability, relationships, and physical/social/emotional health reinforcing each other. What happens to one person affects the entire family, and what happens to the family affects each individual within it. Root causes must be addressed or problems recur.

The approach turns traditional social work on its head. In our approach, social workers are no longer expected to fix problems or work with individuals in isolation or address isolated issues. Instead, coaches work to build trust and walk alongside every member of the family as they work to achieve their self-defined goals.

PND: A critical component of the Whole Family Approach is the requirement that two "dependable adult caregivers are actively engaged with the children in the family." Why is it important that two adults be involved?

FS: All families look different. But every adult needs someone to call or turn to in an emergency, or just to share good news with. The second adult not only supports the primary caregiver but is an additional support system for children in the family as well. And that's a win-win for everyone. The stronger the support system, the healthier the family and the more likely its members will reach their shared goals.

PND: A July 2020 report that examined the results achieved by eight collaboratives using the Whole Family Approach found that participating families were in a better position to handle the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis because of the stronger familial ties they had forged and the access they had to support networks, even though they still experienced anxiety and mental health issues in addition to the stressors they were facing pre-pandemic. Are you seeing any evidence that the field in general is shifting toward this type of strategy? And looking down the road five to ten years, where do you see challenges to more widespread adoption of the approach?

FS: The field has been shifting for a few years. You see variations of the Whole Family Approach promoted by larger funders like Kellogg, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other high-profile organizations under names like "2Gen" or "Intergenerational Approach."

I really see no challenges to its adoption by others in the field — even if others give it another name and make it their own. It's a proven approach that we know works better for families. Our research has shown that adults have less financial stress, that ties between adults in a family are strengthened, that children's health and educational achievement improve, and that the academic aspirations of both adults and children are raised. In the time remaining before we officially sunset later this year, the foundation is on a mission to raise awareness of the approach and to get others to embrace it. We believe it can advance the field and put more of our working families on a path to stability.

PND: The foundation's approach emphasizes collaboration — among family members, nonprofits, and human services agencies, and between the foundation and its partners. In a 2019 post for our blog, you urged funders to shift their grantmaking so as to foster more collaboration and less competition among grantees. What are your thoughts about the state of collaboration in the social sector today?

FS: The competition for limited resources has resulted in a fragmented approach to service provision that undermines the value of those services for families in need. Too often, families are forced to start from scratch in their efforts to access services, filling out the same form multiple times for multiple agencies, then receiving a separate set of recommendations from each of those agencies. What's more, different agencies often will offer differing and/or conflicting advice. Families become overwhelmed. Parents become frustrated, unable to prioritize and plan their next steps. Children feel the lack of stability and bear the brunt of its effects. It's also difficult for busy family members to build solid, trusting relationships with representatives from multiple agencies.

We believe collaboration is key. That's what the Whole Family Approach is all about. To maximize their effectiveness, funders, nonprofits, and agencies that have bought into the approach capture and share information about their clients' goals, progress, and life changes in a centralized database, enabling partner agencies to see families as holistic entities with their own unique challenges, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Instead of operating individually, agencies begin to see other nonprofits in the collaboration not as competitors but as teammates they can lean on to organize priorities, share resources, and advance their mutual goals and objectives.

The more foundations see the benefits of the Whole Family Approach, the greater the chances we'll be able to change the system so that it is more efficient and effective in helping families thrive.

PND: In 1996, your board voted to sunset the foundation within thirty years, and in 2009 a non-trustee workgroup researched and set up plans for the spend-down process. How much of an impact has your status as a limited-life foundation had on your grantmaking strategies? And would you recommend the approach to others who may be thinking about establishing a private foundation?

FS: Being a limited-life foundation is necessary for any small foundation that wants to create real change. Change requires the flexibility to respond to unexpected situations. This can only happen if a funder is focused on making change, not preserving the corpus.

The decision to sunset was based on two key factors. First, the decision to make a large impact was critical, and distributing 5 percent to 6 percent of our investment income each year simply would not accomplish that goal. And second, when we started, the Whole Family Approach was not well known. Thirty years later, we're proud of the fact that more foundations and organizations are implementing a version of the approach, and that it is leading to greater impact. I have no doubt the approach will be accepted more broadly. And when it is, instead of shifting into a new focus area or something less relevant to us, we'll be able to say we accomplished our mission.

We look forward to more funders picking up the mantle and moving this work forward in their own way. And I highly recommend our grantmaking strategy and the Whole Family Approach as a way forward for others who want to make a big impact in a particular way.

Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Pete Gurt, president, Milton Hershey School and Catherine Hershey Schools

April 19, 2021

Unable to have children, chocolate magnate Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, established the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 1909 as a boarding school for orphaned boys. A decade later, Hershey created a $60 million endowment for the school – an endowment which today has grown to more than $17 billion.

In the more than hundred years since it was established, the Hershey School has changed its admission policies to allow girls, students of color, and children whose parents are still living. This past fall, the school committed $350 million over six years to establish six learning centers in Pennsylvania that will serve disadvantaged and at-risk youth from birth to age five.

In March, MHS announced plans to open its first Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS) in 2023 and a second by 2024. Philanthropy News Digest spoke with MHS president Pete Gurt about the initiative and the organization’s goals in the area of early childhood education.

Headshot_Pete_Gurt_MHS_CHSPhilanthropy News Digest: You're investing a lot of money, $350 million, to create six Catherine Hershey centers in Pennsylvania over the next decade or so. How did you and the board arrive at the amount? And how will the centers build on and advance the mission of MHS?

Pete Gurt: The mission of MHS is to educate low-income children so they can lead fulfilling and productive lives and escape the cycle of poverty. MHS currently serves two thousand children in pre-K through twelfth grade. Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning represent a tremendous opportunity for us to further our mission and help disadvantaged and at-risk children who are younger — from birth to age five. We believe the program at CHS will give low-income children the foundation they need to become kindergarten-ready and ultimately reach their full potential. And just like at MHS, there will be no cost for children to attend.

PND: What exactly will that investment support and how many students will the centers serve?

PG: Over approximately six years, the $350 million investment will go toward the construction and operations of up to six centers in Pennsylvania. CHS is a privately funded project that does not draw from tax dollars or other public sources of income. The first center, scheduled to open in 2023 on the MHS campus in Hershey, will serve a hundred and fifty local-area children from low-income backgrounds.

CHS plans to have up to eighty employees and volunteers at the first school. Once all six centers are open, about nine hundred children will be supported by the initiative.

PND: What inspired your decision to do this now?

PG: The boards and management of MHS and the Hershey Trust Company underwent a comprehensive, multiyear study of potential ways to serve more low-income children. After careful consideration, our leadership recognized the extraordinary opportunity that CHS represents.

The centers will provide a quality educational program to some of the youngest and most vulnerable kids in Pennsylvania. And while the COVID-19 pandemic didn't directly inspire our decision to move forward with CHS, it’s made the challenges that children living in poverty face clearer than ever. The child poverty rate in the U.S. rose to nearly 20 percent during the worst months of the pandemic, underscoring just how many kids are in need. We believe CHS is the right initiative at the right time and are confident it will have a positive impact on children, their families, and our communities at a moment when that is what we need.

PND: The kids at MHS come from low-income backgrounds. What do you hope the new Catherine Hershey schools will be able to do to build stability for the kids they enroll?

PG: For more than a hundred and ten years, MHS has been serving children from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds by providing a quality education and home life experience. Those lessons will be applied to CHS, while also being age-appropriate for the children who attend them.

The CHS curriculum will focus on the child’s educational, social, emotional, and cognitive development — supporting the "whole child." Children also will be provided nutritious meals, transportation, and the supplies they need to succeed. Each center will have a dedicated staff member to connect parents to resources that will assist families in building and maintaining stability. Those resources will include parenting and educational information, housing services, healthcare referrals, and job training.

In developing the CHS program, we were guided by research from leading early childhood education experts. We hope the result will help more children escape the cycle of poverty. We encourage readers to visit www.chslearn.org to learn more.

PND: Do you think the model you've developed for CHS is replicable nationally?

PG: We certainly hope our whole-child education program will be replicated around the country. Part of our goal in creating the CHS initiative is to develop best practices that can be shared with other educators. Research shows participation in quality early childhood education programs can directly improve kids’ learning and development. Much of the school readiness gap between low- and high-income students is created — and can be prevented — before formal schooling begins through early childhood education.

We believe CHS is an important starting point for changing the trajectory of children from low-income families. This is critical work, and we want to set an example that would make our founders, Milton and Catherine Hershey, proud.

Matt Sinclair

Getting rid of standardized testing will penalize kids from underserved schools 

April 09, 2021

SatFor the first time in half a century, the University of California will admit thousands of high school seniors who did not take the SAT or ACT. With the coronavirus pandemic impeding students' ability to safely sit for the exams, many colleges — including the California system's public universities as well as elite private schools such as Yale, Cornell, and the University of Chicago — announced they'd forgo the testing requirement.

This came as welcome news to critics of standardized testing, who have long denounced the SAT and ACT as being racist, irredeemably biased, and poor at predicting collegiate success. Add to that the surge in the number of college applications this past fall once the tests were abandoned — Harvard alone received 42 percent more applicants than in a normal year — and the future of the tests doesn’t look bright.

My organization has been preparing low-income students to take the SAT since 2013.  I take the tests myself on the three occasions a year that adults are allowed to do so. Those experiences — and eight years' worth of data we've gathered on test-takers — have convinced me that, despite their flaws, standardized tests are a vital tool for low-income students and students of color seeking to earn admission to elite colleges and universities. What's more, the tests can be mastered, and that process can help students from underresourced schools strengthen their critical thinking skills as well as their content-related educational chops.

Initially, many students from disadvantaged backgrounds find standardized tests to be mysterious and impenetrable. But as they practice taking the test, they improve — and not just their overall scores. As they master more of the SAT math questions, they learn  math basics they may have missed in the classroom; as they improve their scores on the reading comprehension part, they become better readers. Test prep helps them hone their critical thinking skills, fill knowledge gaps, and manage test anxiety, while eliminating many of the imperceptible barriers that keep low-income students from educational success. By the end of three weeks, my students typically improve their SAT scores by 130-180 points (the single highest score improvement was 710 points!) and have built a solid foundation for future educational success. 

That's not reason enough, perhaps, to keep standardized testing. But there's another factor: selective colleges often use the tests as a gauge of a student's ability to complete a four-year degree. Just months before the University of California system made the tests optional, a UC task force found that the elimination of the test requirement would deny automatic entry to 40 percent of African-American students and more than 25 percent of low-income and first-generation students admitted to UC. Standardized tests, in other words, are their ticket to a four-year degree and a brighter future.

The same test score-based sorting takes place at private colleges and universities. "If the student can't break a combined 1000 on the SAT," an elite college admissions officer once told me, "no matter how much support we give, that student is unlikely to graduate." The inverse of her statement is also true: A student who can match or surpass that score is much more likely to complete their degree. In its concreteness, the test can signal to an admissions officer that a student has the raw material she/they/he needs to thrive in a four-year college setting. 

Indeed, the less we rely on standardized testing, the more unequal higher education is likely to become. And the most worrisome aspect of that reality is that the change will largely escape the notice of those who don't work with underserved populations. Here's why: Elite institutions like the Ivies have admission quotas for members of historically underrepresented, socioeconomically marginalized groups (primarily Black and Latinx). By scoring above 1000 on the SAT, low-SES students show that they are "college-ready" and can succeed at a highly selective institution. If we take away one of the few avenues these students have to demonstrate their mettle and readiness to undertake a rigorous academic program, my students' odds of attending an Ivy or other elite institution are going to go down, not up. If test scores are eliminated from the equation, those schools will simply take kids who tick off a particular race or ethnic box — and many will be international students who can afford full tuition. Very few people look at the number of Pell-eligible students a college accepts/graduates, but that's where you’ll see the change.

Elite institutions are not wrong to think that students from underserved schools struggle more than students from well-resourced schools. They know — and our partner organizations know — that students from underserved schools often are four to six grade levels behind their better-resourced peers and can struggle with significant content gaps. It can be particularly hard for underserved students to hit the ground running in freshman year (something all would-be STEM majors must do). Many need some remediation or time to adjust to an unstructured academic workload that's far more demanding than what they experienced in high school. An SAT score of 1000 is enough for Harvard to take a chance on such a student. Without that score, and given the grade inflation that prevails at many underserved high schools, Harvard has no reliable way of knowing which students are (and are not) likely to persist.  

Standardized testing's many outspoken critics point to the tests as a symptom of a racially biased system, which they are:  underresourced schools do a poor job prepping primarily Black and Latinx students for college. Standardized tests correctly diagnose that failure, but that doesn't mean we should throw away the tests; instead, we should focus on fixing the unequal educational system. 

In making the test the enemy rather than focusing on fixing the problem, critics also overlook the ways in which standardized tests can help reduce systemic inequities as a key to privilege: higher college graduation rates are correlated with greater college selectivity, which is correlated with higher SAT scores, which means that raising Black and Latinx kids' SAT scores (those most affected by undermatching) and getting them into an Ivy or other elite institution is both a path to graduation and — through lower student debt, higher post-graduation salaries, and the power of college networks/name recognition — a more economically secure future. 

Despite their many failings, standardized tests are among the most powerful levelers in society and, if approached with a clear understanding of their benefits as well as shortcomings, can help us close the all-too-persistent opportunity gap in higher education. The answer is not to throw them away, but to keep them and invest more in preparing students —all students — to excel in the skills they measure.

Headshot_alyssa_bowlbyAlyssa Bowlby is  co-founder and executive director of the Yleana Leadership Foundation.

5 Questions for...Helene Gayle, President and CEO, Chicago Community Trust

February 26, 2021

In Chicago, recovery from the Great Recession was uneven, the lingering economic impacts of the downturn most keenly felt by low-income individuals and Black and Latinx communities. A dozen years on, the COVID-19 pandemic has been equally as devastating for many of those communities, exacerbating disparate economic and health outcomes that all too often are the legacy of structural racism and decades of disinvestment.

To ensure that a post-pandemic recovery does not leave low-income and Black and Latinx communities even further behind, the Chicago Community Trust recently launched Together We Rise: For an Equitable and Just Recovery. Having received more than $37 million in commitments to date, the initiative is working to bring partners from philanthropy, business, government, the nonprofit sector, and local communities together to ensure that those hardest hit by the pandemic are able to build back better and stronger.

PND spoke with Chicago Community Trust president and CEO Helene Gayle about the initiative, some of the lessons we've learned from the pandemic, and what the trust is doing to ensure a more equitable post-pandemic recovery in Chicago and beyond.

Headshot_Helene Gayle Portrait-5QsPhilanthropy News Digest: Tell us about Together We Rise? What is your vision of what success looks like?

Helene Gayle: If you look at the recession of 2007-08, communities of color and communities that were financially fragile and insecure never fully recovered; indeed, they were left further behind. With Together We Rise, we want to make sure those communities don't get left behind this time and that we have a more equitable approach to recovery post-pandemic. We also hope it will be a model for other cities.

Looking at the issue of unemployment, for instance, we are looking at how recovery dollars get distributed to Black and Latinx households and communities, which have been especially hard hit, and at things like small businesses, which, as is painfully clear from the number of business closures in the city, have been disproportionately impacted. Making an impact in these areas means working with communities to build back better than before and helping them develop resilience so that they're better able to weather the next crisis, whatever it might be.

Our vision is to facilitate change that will be noticeable across the community. We want people to see businesses coming back, we want families to be more financially secure and Chicagoans to be able to get jobs that pay well and help them support their families, and we want to stimulate investment in neighborhoods where disinvestment has been the rule. And we hope that we achieve those things in a way that shows members of the community and public officials and other stakeholders that, as a result of the initiative, communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic were able to bounce back in a way that they would not have without our focus on these issues.

PND: What kind of role did the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd play in the decision to develop and launch the initiative?

HG: Although tragic, COVID and George Floyd's death have been pivotal in raising people's awareness of the legacy of racism in this country. The pandemic clearly highlighted race-based inequities in access to jobs that pay a living wage, in access to affordable, quality health care, in the many structural factors underlying poor health outcomes in this country. And the killing of George Floyd and the sense of racial reckoning it catalyzed have amplified people's commitment to doing something tangible about racial inequity, particularly the economic consequences of the pandemic and issues like the racial wealth gap.

Clearly, one of the things to come out of this whole situation is a much greater awareness of systemic racism in the United States, how it's embedded in institutions and policies, and why it's so hard for individuals of color to get beyond all that. I mean, so many of our systems were set up to keep some populations of color back while giving a leg up to others. With Together We Rise, we're trying to tackle some of these issues, recognizing that while individuals are part of the equation, the real problem is at the institutional and systemic level.

PND: In a recent op-ed, you outlined some of the ways we could begin to address historical race-based inequities — for example, by enforcing and strengthening the Community Reinvestment Act, investing more in public transportation, investing in job creation in low-income communities, and expanding eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit. What can CCT and other philanthropic organizations do to make sure the Biden administration is listening and acts on your recommendations?

HG: We've been working on these issues for a long time, but they are also issues that are important to the new administration. President Biden and his team have put economic recovery post-pandemic at the top of their list of priorities, and we're going to continue to push them to move on things that we think will make a difference in closing the racial wealth gap, help close the gap in household wealth, increase investment in communities that have been ignored, and give communities a greater voice in deciding how federal dollars are allocated. All of these are things we'll continue to focus on, and we know they are priorities for the new administration as well.

PND: With coronavirus vaccines being rolled out in communities around the country, what do you think we might be overlooking in our fight against the virus, and what do you think needs to be done over the coming months to address the continuing damage caused by the pandemic?

HG: What was most lacking in the country's response to the virus in 2020 was a clear, consistent national strategy that gave people the information they needed to protect themselves. That would have gone a long way to getting us all rowing in the same direction and saving an untold number of lives. It's one of the things I expect to see under the new administration, and we're starting to see it with vaccine distribution, that kind of all-hands-on-deck effort coordinated at the national level, in partnership with state and local public health officials. That kind of coordinated effort is critical in rolling out vaccines effectively, and it will also help us in our overall COVID prevention efforts.

PND: What are the lessons we should take away from the pandemic? What have we learned that we shouldn't forget?

HG: We've learned a lot about how to engage communities that are hard to reach. We've learned a lot about how to work with community organizations to build trust and get the support of communities that are used to being ignored or neglected. Building trust is incredibly important if the vaccine rollout is to be effective. We know that 58 percent of African Americans nationally say they won't take the vaccine, even though African Americans have been among the hardest hit by the virus. So we really have to focus on and lean into how we are working with those communities and make sure we're doing so in a way that builds trust, not only for the duration of this pandemic, but for the next crisis and the one after that.

Matt Sinclair

Why regulatory modernization is essential to a nimble human services system

October 30, 2020

Food_bank_central_eastern_north_carolina_philantopicOver the last eight months, we've all watched as existing health inequities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also learned that social determinants of health — conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, and play — put people of color and low-income Americans at greater risk of infection than others, and that those communities are more likely to be negatively impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic. The supports that normally help families meet such challenges are delivered through the collaborative efforts of America’s health and human services infrastructure, including public-sector agencies, philanthropic entities, and community-based organizations.

COVID-19 has turned everything we know about how to deliver these critical services on its head. The way people apply for help, the ways in which the human services workforce carries out essential duties, and even how clients engage in program activities are being redesigned and -imagined. As a result, public agencies and their community partners have had to accelerate the modernization of their business processes to preserve and expand access to the services that undergird an effective health and human services ecosystem.

Even as we carry out this work, however, organizations on the ground must operationalize these changes within a local, state, and federal regulatory framework that is in desperate need of remodeling. Congress and federal agencies have taken emergency actions since the pandemic hit to give more flexibility to service providers. One such agency, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, relaxed its payment rules so that medical practitioners can be reimbursed for the purchase of remote communications technology. While the change is temporary, it underscores the long-term need to simplify rules and regulations in ways that enable organizations to prioritize outcomes over process. There are similar opportunities across the health and human services sector.

In 2018, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association released the National Imperative Report: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, which identified overlapping, conflicting, and outdated regulations as one of the major barriers to successful service delivery. The report recommended that regulators at all levels of government commit to a fundamental review and reform of human services CBO regulation. The pandemic underscores that need.

One example of needed regulatory modernization is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Unlike block grant programs, SNAP, the largest nutrition program in the country, operates within a highly regulated framework, with detailed rules that dictate how various agencies can administer their respective programs. As the pandemic has revealed, such a framework is particularly challenging for service providers to adapt to during a crisis. From March through June, states submitted more than five hundred and sixty waiver requests across seventy-nine different waiver categories related to SNAP. Approval or denial of these waivers repeatedly came just days before, or even after, states were required to implement changes and often required further guidance, clarification, or re-issuance at a later date. The constant state of uncertainty created inefficiencies and sub-optimal outcomes in service delivery at a time when providers should have been empowered to take decisive action to maintain critical services.

The pandemic also reinforces the need to review and modernize regulations to better reflect what is currently working. Rapid scaling of remote benefit processing functions suggests that agencies can reduce their reliance on onerous interviews in the application process and still maintain the integrity of their programs. Similarly, policies that support expansion of online purchasing options can have a major impact in reducing barriers to food access for individuals and communities. There's also a need to evaluate current and proposed SNAP regulations that restrict the strategies states can use to support households facing barriers to employment and to better align the program with other systems to create pathways that lead to greater economic mobility.

The child welfare system, which often relies on in-person visits and interventions, is another system that has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic, it became apparent that the system could not continue to operate normally and that changes were needed to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children, staff, and families. The U.S. Children's Bureau was extremely responsive to these challenges, issuing modifications to allow monthly caseworker visits by video conference and later providing funding flexibility under existing federal law for the purchase of cell phones and equipment for birth parents and foster kids. This kind of flexibility with respect to technology has allowed those in the system to better meet the needs of the children and families they serve and to maximize the efficiency with which interventions are delivered. Given the ever-increasing role of technology in society, these changes should be made permanent.

The pandemic has underscored the need for a more flexible, nimble regulatory environment that enables state and local agencies and CBOs to creatively engage in experimentation and innovation, embrace technology, and improve outcomes for individuals and families in their communities.

The time is ripe for more permanent regulatory modernization in the health and human services space. We urge federal, state, and local policy makers to embrace such a paradigm shift, building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and providing the kind of regulatory flexibility that fosters innovation and, ultimately, leads to better outcomes for all.

Headshot_ilana_levinson_matt_lyons_philantopicIlana Levinson is a senior director for government relations for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. Matt Lyons is the director of Policy and Research with the American Public Human Services Association.

5 Questions for...Michael Nyenhuis, President and CEO, UNICEF USA

October 22, 2020

UNICEF — the United Nations Children's Fund — is probably best known to Americans of a certain age for the orange trick-or-treat boxes it has been distributing to young trick-or-treaters since the 1950s. The successor to the International Children's Emergency Fund, which was created in 1946 to address the needs of children and mothers affected by the far-reaching devastation of World War II, the social welfare organization today works to improve the lives and defend the rights of children in a hundred and ninety-two countries and territories. 

Recently, PND spoke with Michael Nyenhuis, president and CEO of UNICEF USA, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization established in 1947 to support UNICEF's work on behalf of the world's children, about the organization's historic decision to allocate funding and resources to help a handful of cities in the United States become more child-friendly, what it is doing to adapt its Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign to our new COVID reality, and his advice to nonprofits trying to make their message heard in a very noisy world.

Headshot_michael_nyenhuisPhilanthropy News Digest: You joined UNICEF USA as president in March, after the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Given your experience in the humanitarian aid and development field, what were your immediate concerns for the organization?

Michael Nyenhuis: There were two. One was our ability to respond to COVID effectively around the world. UNICEF has done a terrific job of delivering personal protective equipment to forty million healthcare workers in some of the neediest countries and providing critical wash and sanitation supplies for seven and a half million people in countries that don't have the infrastructure we have here in the United States. We've all seen how challenged our response in the U.S. was, so you can imagine how much more difficult it is in far less resourced places, but, as I say, UNICEF did a terrific job of responding to the crisis in the short term.

My other concern was the impact of the pandemic on the critical health and education and nutrition programs that UNICEF operates around the world. We provide basic vaccines for 45 percent of the world's children, and yet our ability to deliver those vaccines and get kids vaccinations when they need them was compromised by the shutdowns and disruptions to supply chains. We're still seeing the impacts. There are a billion and a half kids out of school around the globe, and most of them lack the technology to access a curriculum. It's those kinds of basic programs for children, which UNICEF, under normal circumstances, provides so effectively, that were interrupted by the virus. And the question was, and is, "How do you to take meaningful measures to stem the spread of COVID and at the same time keep those programs going?"

PND: Clearly, there are COVID-related needs everywhere. In August, your organization announced that, for the first time in its history, it would allocate funding and resources to help cities in the United States become more child-friendly. The initial cohort of cities includes Houston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. What was the reasoning behind the decision to devote resources to the U.S, and was the inclusion of Minneapolis in the initial cohort connected to the killing of George Floyd and the protests sparked by his killing?

MN: Actually, the idea of UNICEF USA working more directly on children's issues here in the United States has been simmering for some time, and the decision to go ahead wasn’t just a response to recent events. Our tagline at UNICEF is "for every child," and for some time now we've been thinking about the needs of vulnerable kids in some of the wealthier countries that typically provide a large portion of the resources for UNICEF programs globally.

UNICEF also has a framework called "Child-Friendly Cities" that it has used effectively in communities around the world, over three thousand of them to date, where we work with municipalities to help them develop child-friendly policies and programs and think about how they're using their budgets and resources to positively impact children. We started to see that as an opportunity here in the U.S. as well.

So, all that had been going on behind the scenes, and then more recent events, COVID in particular, really ended up shining a light on the needs of kids in underprivileged communities and communities of color here in the U.S. that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID. The racial justice issues that came to the fore after the killing of George Floyd simply accelerated our plan to move forward with the Child Friendly Cities Initiative, and that's what we've been doing.

We actually had a meeting last year with officials from cities that were interested in the initiative, and Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Houston were among those cities. They also happen to be cities we were already in conversation with, so the fact that Minneapolis is one of the first cities to work with us is more coincidental than anything, but I think the timing is fortuitous.

PND: With whom will you be working in those cities?

MN: Well, typically we work with the department in the mayor's office or city government that is responsible for child-focused programs in the community. Sometimes that's the health department, sometimes it's the education department, sometimes it’s a combination. And our work with them is based on looking at the policies they’ve developed that impact children and making sure they are child-friendly. If we feel they aren't, we have templates they can use and different ways for them to think about modifying, adding, or adopting those policies to more effectively promote healthy, productive, and safe environments for children in their communities.

Beyond that, our efforts to convene public-sector agencies and child-serving not-for-profits focused on improving conditions for kids — especially vulnerable kids — and get them talking about how they can work together to make sure kids have the things they need to thrive often serves as a catalyst for more effective programming. I'm talking about things like equitable access to health care and a more equitable distribution of parks and playgrounds where kids can play safely. We're in conversation with dozens of cities that have expressed interest in the initiative, and our aspirational goal is for every community across the country to develop child-friendly programs aligned with our framework, because, again, it's a tested and proven approach to making communities more safe, secure, and healthy for children.

PND: Most Americans know UNICEF from its orange Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes. Obviously, Halloween is going to look different this year. What percentage of your annual fundraising revenue is tied to Halloween, and what are you doing to adapt to our new COVID reality?

MN: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is an iconic part of the fall fundraising season here in the United States, and millions of kids have been involved in it over the seventy years we've run the program. Over that time, we've raised $180 million for programs that impact kids around the world. But beyond the money, it is a program that engages kids when they're young and helps them think about the globe in a different way and recognize that they are global citizens who can do something to make a difference for other children in other places who may not be as fortunate.

I Trick-or-Treated for UNICEF when I was a kid, and it really made me understand that the world was bigger than my neighborhood and that there were children in faraway places who didn't have the things I was lucky to have and had needs I could hardly imagine. No doubt, it’s one of the things that led me to humanitarian and development work. And, you know, I speak all the time to supporters of UNICEF who had their first exposure to the organization through our Trick-or-Treat boxes. So, the program is bigger than just what we're able to raise every year, although it is an important part of our budget. It's really about creating global citizens who are going to be interested in other people, other countries, and global causes the rest of their lives.

You won't be surprised to hear that this year we're pivoting because of the COVID crisis to a virtual trick-or-treat experience. And what we've cooked up is really pretty amazing and is going to be fun for kids to participate in. Kids who sign up will get to track how much they raise through their own virtual trick-or-treat box and decide where they want their money to go — we'll give them several options for how the money they raise can be invested to help other kids around the world. To learn more and register, just go to trickortreatforunicef.org.

PND: Excellent. As a former journalist, do you have any advice for nonprofit communications professionals who may be struggling to get their message heard at this very, very noisy time?

MN: I don't know that it's advice, but what I would tell people is that the challenges we are experiencing here in the U.S., whether it's COVID or racial injustice or a dysfunctional political system, are challenges that people in other countries are also experiencing. Take South Sudan, for instance. I was having a conversation with our team there a couple of weeks ago, and all the pre­cautions we are taking here to prevent and slow the spread of COVID — masking and social distancing and delaying the start of schools — all those things are happening in South Sudan, too. But even though there are similarities, the depth of the need and the capacity needed to recover from something like COVID in a place like South Sudan is very, very different. So, while it can be useful to draw parallels, let's not lose sight of the reality in really resource-poor countries, and let's not forget that people in those countries need our help as much as they ever did.

— Mitch Nauffts

[Review] Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City

September 23, 2020

Cover_five_daysFive years ago, antipoverty activist and nonprofit CEO Wes Moore found himself in Baltimore for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young man from the "wrong side" of the city who had made eye contact with a Baltimore police officer on a bicycle and decided to run. The officer gave chase and, with two other officers, eventually caught Gray, searched him, and found a pocketknife in one of his pockets. The officers arrested Gray and, as Moore writes in the Prologue to his new book, Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, "when he couldn't, or wouldn't walk, to their transport van, they dragged him along the sidewalk. What happened next was a matter of dispute, but when Freddie Gray died a week later, from a severed spine, much of Baltimore believed the police had killed him."

The day of Gray's funeral, thousands of people converged on New Shiloh Baptist Church, which Moore had attended while he was a student at Johns Hopkins University. Filing into pews in T-shirts and mourning black were men and women, rich and poor, young and old, and a who's who of Baltimore's political class. But the funeral of Freddie Gray was no celebratory homecoming for Moore, who couldn’t shake the feeling as he sat among the mourners that but for a few lucky breaks and a mother who wouldn’t take no for an answer, his road through life could’ve been much like the one traveled by Gray: born addicted to heroin, exposed to harmful concentrations of lead in public housing as a child, and, before his last encounter, involved in multiple altercations with the police. Reflecting on that day later, Moore was overwhelmed by frustration and a feeling of "intolerance for the system that had ended a young man's life."

Established in opposition to unaccountable authority, the United States is a country with protest and dissent embedded in its DNA. From the Boston Tea Party to the civil rights movement, Americans have been a people willing to fight for their rights — and to extend those rights beyond just white men of property. And yet progress toward a more perfect union often has been elusive and insufficient. There is no formula for how to create real social change, no model for how to mobilize the support needed to cause people to sit up and pay attention. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked protests and outrage around the globe — and caught many by surprise. There are many theories as to why Floyd's death was such a catalyst: the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession and the growing wealth inequality it spawned, the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on BIPOC individuals more likely to work in high-risk jobs deemed essential, and, thanks to COVID-related shelter-in-place orders, a global community on pause from the day-to-day noise of life and more willing to pay attention to suffering and injustice. Although not written in response to COVID-19 or the killing of Floyd, Moore’s timely account asks us to consider as well the burdens that systemic racism and income inequality place on people of color and goes a step further, asking the reader to think about how we are all connected to each other.

Written with New York Times journalist Erica L. Green, Five Days is structured as a series of vignettes based on the lived reality of eight Baltimoreans in April 2015. Three, of them — Tawanda, Anthony, and Greg — are African American and found themselves on the front lines of the civil unrest that followed Gray’s death. John Angelos, executive vice president of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles franchise, was pulled into Gray's story in a way that forced him to face his own white privilege and power. And the others — Nick, Jenny, Marc, and Billy — function as representatives of a system forced to answer for the death, under questionable circumstances, of another young Black man. Moore himself, a native of Baltimore who was raised by his mother and grandparents and later graduated from Yale, personifies the struggle to rise above the systemic racism that traps so many people in lives of desperation, even as he makes a point of not minimizing the experiences lived by his book's Black protagonists, writing that the "sound of a siren strikes a different pitch depending on which neighborhood hears it." To read Five Days is to begin to know their stories — and, without necessarily becoming familiar with the specifics, to understand how a collective tragedy can bring people together. And yet… In the weeks and months after Gray's death, all the people whose stories Moore recounts did what they could to prevent what happened to Freddie Gray from happening elsewhere — with decidedly mixed results.

Beyond the stories of the eight individuals Moore and Green recount, Five Days is a conversation about how American society treats its economically vulnerable. When poverty is treated as something that Americans raised on the myth of "equal opportunity for all" fall into because of their own missteps and/or not trying hard enough, the conversation becomes about who deserves, or doesn't, assistance, rather than what can be done to create mechanisms and opportunities that actually lift people out of poverty. But with the 2019 Poverty and Inequality Report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality suggesting that millennials could be the first American generation to experience as much downward as upward mobility, fully 49 percent of Americans born in the late 1980s ending up in a lower-paying job than those held by their parents, and poverty itself becoming all-too easy to correlate with ZIP code, race, and educational level, America has a problem; indeed, that is the core message of the book.

The kaleidoscopic structure of Five Days interlaces stories of loss and humanity with anecdotes from the social sector and a conversation about the limits of philanthropy. Moore, the CEO of Robin Hood, a New York City-based anti-poverty nonprofit that works with more than two hundred and fifty nonprofit partners to provide food, housing, education, legal, and workforce development programs and services to New Yorkers living in poverty, notes that nearly $700 billion is given to charitable and philanthropic causes every year. Take out endowment and capital gifts to private foundations, hospitals, and institutions of higher education, and about $175 billion is left to address every social (and environmental) issue under the sun. Philanthropy can be a powerful vehicle for driving change and doing good, and we should not underestimate its potential to do so. But if we fail to acknowledge the performative nature of much of the philanthropy one sees in the United States and the fact that philanthropy, both individual and institutional, all too often perpetuates negative power dynamics that impede rather than advance well-intentioned efforts, we will never see the kind of systemic change America needs.

In closing, Moore tries to give voice to a protagonist we never hear from in the book: Freddie Gray. "Loving your country means fighting for the institutionalization of its core goodness," he writes. "Loving your country does not mean lying about its past." For this reader, Moore's narrative demands we not lie about its present, either. Wealth inequality and lack of opportunity are not an abstractions; wealth inequality and lack of opportunity are five days in Baltimore where the frenetic actions of protestors, police, and politicians were galvanized by the death of a young man whose tragic end was inextricably linked to his ZIP code and our collective acquiescence in vilifying those deemed to be "undeserving" of help.

Headshot_Emilia CharnoEmilia Charno, a former intern with the Global Partnerships team at Candid, is studying for a BA in International Relations and Spanish at Tufts University.    

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.

(Photo credit: HR&A Advisors)

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.

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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