109 posts categorized "Public Affairs"

'College Means Hope': A Path Forward for the Justice-Involved

July 12, 2019

Michelson_20MM_smart_justice"Former gang members make incredible students. The same skills that made me a good drug-dealer — resiliency, hustle, determination — I now use on campus to succeed in school," Jesse Fernandez tells the audience attending our panel discussion at this year's Gang Prevention and Intervention Conference in Long Beach.

I was on stage with Jesse as co-moderator for the first education-focused panel in the conference's history. (The Michelson 20MM Foundation convened the panel, tapping Jesse, Taffany Lim of California State University, Los Angeles, and Brittany Morton of Homeboy Industries to share their experiences.) Only 25, he has come a long way from the gang life he once knew. Today, he interns for Homeboy Industries, helping other students on their path to college, has finished an associate's program in Los Angeles, and has studied abroad at Oxford University. He may not look like a typical college student, but he speaks with the certainty and eloquence of someone who has been in school for years.

"College means hope. It means understanding your identity. For me, it was learning about my indigenous heritage, what it means to be Chicano, and how my community has been affected by violence and loss."

I first met Jesse over a lunch of chilaquiles (with salsa verde) and agua fresca (Angela's Green Potion is a "do not miss") at Homegirl Café, an L.A. staple since the 1990s. The café is run by former gang members and offers a safe space for people coming out of prison, providing many of them with their first job, creating a pipeline to sustainable employment. It's so popular that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and other politicians on the national stage have stopped in for a bite while in town.

Jesse is one of thousands of justice-involved students attending college in California. The exact number is unknown, as public colleges in the state do not require the disclosure of a criminal history. Many students choose to self-identify in order to take advantage of resources specific to the justice-involved population. Others, says Morton, academic program coordinator for Homeboy, are still trying to overcome the perceived "stigma" of having been incarcerated.

"Imagine getting released from prison after twenty-plus years on the inside, and you've never used a computer before. Then you get to campus, and every form, assignment, and application is online. It's intimidating for people and there is a lot of shame connected to these experiences."

It's estimated that 53 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a high school diploma or GED, yet fewer than 5 percent have completed college (Vera Institute of Justice). Persistence in postsecondary education is fraught with challenges, especially for non-traditional students. The typical formerly incarcerated person has served more than two years in prison, has at least one minor child, and is over the age of 30. In the year after their release, they earn around $9,000 in wages. A year of community college in California costs around $10,000, putting postsecondary opportunities squarely out of reach for most people who have served time.

Making a Difference

That's where peer-led organizations like Homeboy Industries, Project Rebound, and Underground Scholars come into play. All three not only provide a physical space and financial resources to help justice-involved students graduate, they also cultivate a sense of belonging and deserving that stretches far beyond campus.

"The first thing people think when they hear about college opportunities for 'felons' is, why?" says Morton. "Why waste your resources on people who have messed up time and time again. Why focus on college when people with a criminal record can't even find jobs or stable housing. Why? My response is always, why not? Why not give people who have been let down by our education system a first chance at success? Why not help them become leaders, change-makers, peer mentors. Why not give them a sense of hope that they can strive higher and make an impact."

What's more, the programs have proven to be successful — for students, colleges, and even for taxpayers. Initial outcomes data demonstrates that programs for justice-involved students help keep students enrolled, out of incarceration, and on a path to economic stability. They also save money. For every $1 invested in correctional education, there is a resulting $4 to $5 return in avoided costs from reduced recidivism and increased employment.

While California has led the country in providing resources to justice-involved students, we still have a long way to go. Recent legislative efforts in Sacramento have helped catalyze a new push for expanded postsecondary opportunities. If enacted by the state legislature, the Smart Justice Student Fund would provide an additional $25 million to community colleges in support of justice-involved students both on campus and in prison.

This winter, Jesse Fernandez will be continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, where he hopes to major in Chicano Studies. He says he has already connected with other students on campus who were formerly incarcerated — and that has made it "easier to imagine the day-to-day of being a full-time college student at a place like Berkeley."

In a few years, Jesse will be part of a new generation of justice-impacted college students who strive to become leaders and visionaries in the fight for criminal justice reform in the United States. The first step is helping the public understand that people who are incarcerated deserve opportunities to better themselves above and beyond the limitations and barriers our systems have placed on them.

Allison_berger_PhilanTopicAllison Berger is program officer for the Michelson 20MM Foundation's Smart Justice program.

A Conversation With Mark Zuckerman, President, The Century Foundation

May 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PND: Can you give us an example of how that focus has played out with respect to a specific issue?

MZ: So, the day after Barack Obama's second term in office ended, I hired a woman named Jeanne Lambrew who had been President Obama's top healthcare expert. Jeanne came to the Century Foundation for two years to be a resource to us in our efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act, which was under attack by Republican members of Congress. We felt that healthcare advocates needed to have access to someone who knew the history of the legislation, someone who knew how it was being undermined administratively or could be repealed or compromised in a significant way. And for two years, thanks to our investment, Jeanne did just that, making herself available to people on Capitol Hill who had technical questions or questions about strategy, and laying the groundwork for an in-depth analysis of competing proposals that could serve as the basis of the next generation of healthcare reform. Besides Medicare for All, there are four or five other proposals out there that could serve as the basis for a new and improved version of the Affordable Care Act. And through convenings, conferences, commissions of work, and her own work, Jeanne brought attention to those proposals, which, in my opinion, are going to very much be front and center in the next presi­dential election cycle.

PND: In their book The Liberal Hour, MacKenzie and Weisbrot argue that while civil rights activists, New Left dissidents, and student protesters all played important roles in driving social change in the 1960s, it was "the institutions of national politics, and the politicians and bureaucrats who inhabited them, that produced the social and economic changes that became the deep and enduring legacy of that decade." Do you agree with that?

MZ: I think underlying your question is the question of how much government intervention there should be in the economy. Capitalism has great strengths, but as we know, it also tends to leave a lot of people behind. And I think the debates of the last several decades, to a significant degree, have been about what level of government intervention in the economy is appropriate in terms of making sure that the rich and powerful aren't the only ones with the power to make decisions, aren't the only ones who do well, and that everyone has adequate access to the kinds of resources, whether it's education or housing or healthcare or retirement security, they need to realize their full potential.

The Century Foundation and other progressive institutions will say, unabashedly, that in some cases there needs to be significant intervention by gov­ernment to ensure that all Americans have access to the resources they need to realize their full potential. And, of course, there are people on the right who subscribe to the idea that each of us is on our own, that capitalism creates winners and losers, and that if you're a loser in a capitalist system, well, then, you're a loser and that, moreover, government has no role to play in terms of ensuring that everyone has a shot, that everyone gets to participate in our democracy, and that everyone enjoys the full rights of citizenship.

PND: The freshman class elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms includes record numbers of women and people of color. What's your view of what happened in November?

MZ: I think 2018 was one of the most significant midterm elections since 1974, when the first post-Watergate class came in and passed a number of reforms to the way Con­gress does its business, not to mention broader reforms in the economy. In some ways, the 2018 midterms were even more consequential, because of the diversity and energy that the new representatives have brought to Washington. They look a lot more like America looks in 2019, and to my mind they represent what America in the future will look like.

Now, it may take two, four, even ten years to deliver on some of the most progressive ideas that many in this freshman class are pushing and fighting for, but I think they're trying, as a group, to shift where the center is, and that's very important to making progress in public policy — shifting the center of the debate. And I think they're succeeding. As a group, they're expanding the definition of what's possible in terms of government intervention, especially as it relates to the security of the middle class, as well as low-income populations that haven't been given access to the kind of tools and resources and opportunities they need to prosper.

PND: What is the Century Foundation doing in 2019 to advance a progressive agenda in the United States?

MZ: One of the things we're tackling is the college affordability issue. The single most important thing we can do as a country, in my opinion, is to make sure young people have the opportunity to prosper economic­ally, and that simply is not the case right now. There are too many young people who don't have access to a four-year education or even a two-year or vocational education. Or they get to college only to drop out because they don't have the kinds of support, beyond tuition assistance, they need to navigate the college landscape — things like basic living expenses and child care and money for food and transportation. None of that is properly figured into the actual cost of college, and that's a problem, because we have to make it possible for more young people to get the kind of education they're going to need to thrive in the twenty-first century.

So, one of the things we're looking at here at TCF is the idea of debt-free college, with a focus on the kinds of resources and training we can provide to the next generation who are going to college — and who, in many cases, may be the first in their family to go to college. We spend tens of billions of dollars on higher education in this country, and only $5 billion on college-prep training and vocational programs. That's just wrong. And it means we're shortchanging young people who are looking for something other than the traditional college path

None of that is acceptable, and so we're working hard to come up with proposals, especially in the context of federal-state partnerships, that would provide millions of more young people access to college and, when they get to college, make it possible for them not to have to take on backbreaking amounts of debt in order to graduate. I mean, that's just not what the American dream is about. Ultimately, the idea is to have federal-state partnerships that help make college accessible and affordable for every­one, and to invest in alternative tracks like vocational or certificate training for those who feel that that's a better path for them. We have to invest in those individuals as well, and not just people on the four-year college track.

PND: Obviously, there is a lot of anxiety in America about the way the economy has changed and how the nature of work is changing. What is the Century Foundation doing to address those challenges?

MZ: One focus is labor unions. A lot of your readers can recall a time, as recently as the 1970s, when organized labor represented as much as a third of all the people employed in the United States. The simple fact of the matter is that unionization had the effect of preserving good wages and benefits for American workers, and of giving workers bargaining power in their dealings with employers. But in the decades since, we've seen a dramatic decline in union membership in America, especially in private-sector unionization, where today it's only 6 percent of the private-sector workforce. Meanwhile, Congress, for the better part of three decades, has been absolutely stuck in terms of doing what one would like to see it do when it comes to important social legislation, and that is to update and modernize laws already on the books so that they continue to work for the benefit of American workers.

One of the things I wrote about earlier this year concerned the opportunity for the labor movement and its allies to do something that is done in political campaigns, and that, of course, is to promote themselves with modern tech­nology and digital marketing techniques to activists and people who are interested in creating new unions. Technology has been deployed in hundreds of ways and in every area of the economy — whether it's filing your taxes, or booking an airline reservation, or automatically paying a toll with an E-ZPass — to make life easier for the consumer and help individuals work more efficiently. And it's unfortunate that the same technologies have not been marshaled to help people understand their right to form and be part of a labor union.

So what I outlined in my paper is how digital marketing techniques can be used to present the benefits of labor unions to a new generation — a generation, I might add, that is very used to and receptive to these technologies. It gives labor and its allies specific suggestions with respect to how the labor movement could be revived and strengthened because, as I said, it's one of the keys to making the American economy work for all Americans again.

There are also policy changes we need to make, some of which are being discussed at TCF and elsewhere in think-tank land — things like a guaranteed basic income for every American, a higher minimum wage, better overtime protections, an updating of the National Labor Relations Act, putting some teeth into our anti-trust laws, and passing corporate respon­sibility legislation.

All those things — along with better trade policy — play a role in addressing what has become an historic level of inequal­ity in the United States. In the last thirty years, we've seen wages stagnate for the lower quintiles and explode for the very highest quintile. And it's going to take more than one strategy to fix the problem; it's going to take half a dozen strategies to change the trajectory of wage gains for most Americans. If we do nothing, the problem will only get worse, creating greater and greater economic inequality in the country, and posing a real threat to our democracy.

PND: Ed Filene's foundation was an early promoter of public-private partner­ships, and the foundation con­tinues to work very much in that spirit. Over the last forty years or so, however, Americans have been conditioned to believe that government is inefficient and expensive. What can progressives do to change their fellow citizens' view of government and the role it plays in promoting the common weal?

MZ: This is a big chal­lenge for the progressive movement, especially at a time when so many good things have hap­pened in the country with respect to the protection of individual rights. The phenomenon you describe was observed during the debates on the Affordable Care Act, when it wasn't unusual to hear people express the belief that Medicare was a private-sector program. They would slam the Affordable Care Act as a tyrannical federal program and in the next breath say, "And keep your hands off my Medicare," failing completely to make the connection between the two.

So, yes, we face a big challenge around educating people about all the ways in which our investments in the federal government improve their lives, and that those investments have involved decades and decades of hard work aimed at trying to perfect these programs so that they are reliable, efficient, and — no small matter — properly understood and appreciated. Look at Social Security. When it was first proposed, it was bitterly contested and argued about, and for a few years after it was passed into law there were attempts to undermine and repeal it. Eighty years later, it is woven into the fabric of the country — so much so that something like President Bush’s attempt to privatize it was met with massive resistance. By and large, Americans just expect that they're going to get a monthly Social Security check when they reach a certain age, and they don't make the connection between their own reliance on the program and it actually being a big, successful government program that is emblematic of the best of what government can do for them.

Long story short, I think progressives have to do a better job of pointing to the government programs that work and improve people's lives and then make the case that without more interventions in the economy to balance the depredations of global capitalism, they're going to be worse off than they would be with a little more government in their lives. That's what the debate over the last few decades has been about, and it will continue to be what the debate is about for the foreseeable future. Progressives need to fight hard against this philosophy that we're all on our own, and that government is just a big, wasteful bureaucracy with no redeeming value.

That said, I also think it’s important for government to make itself more efficient through the smart use of modern tech­nologies, and to work in a way that is more responsive to individuals who need help. In some cases, that means making more investments in things that it under-invests in, especially K-12 education. That's the challenge for the progressive movement.

PND: What is your take on the new generation of politicians and policy leaders that has emerged in Washington and in state capitals around the country?

MZ: I think it's a fantastic development and the Democratic Party should be very proud of the diversity it represents today, both in terms of people of color and the representation of women. In Congress and in state legislatures across the country, the power structure is more reflective of the citizens it is meant to serve than ever before, and that is essential if our democracy is to thrive.

Beyond that, I think this is a transformative moment in our democracy, and I think this new generation of leaders is already doing a good job of identifying the shortcomings of existing public policy and making it clear what kinds of public policy we need going forward, whether it's universal health care, or action on climate change, or tackling income and wealth inequality. They are successfully engaging the country in these hard-to-solve problems, and they are doing so with specific solutions, in some cases even going around elite power structures and appealing directly to the people. That's probably the only way they will succeed, given the state of our extremely inadequate and counter-productive campaign finance laws.

PND: So, I take it you do not think the United States is a country in decline. If that's not the case, what makes you optimistic about the future?

MZ: No, I don't think we’re in decline, but I do think people are frustrated, because they see we have a set of very big challenges that need to be addressed, and they don't see any evidence that government is willing or able to address them. What they see instead is partisanship and grid­lock, and that causes them to be frustrated.

But what is hopeful about this rising generation is that so many of them are courageous and outspoken and seem to be willing to put their shoulder to the wheel. They are also very clear-eyed about who is blocking progress and the changes that the country wants and needs. Whether it's the Parkland students, or the new generation of legislators in the House who want to open things up and create processes that work better for the American people, or those who think the judiciary needs to be more responsive to ordinary Americans. Whatever the forum, there is this sense, I think, of optimism that new blood can revive our democracy and deliver on its promise — not just for Americans but for the world.

But they need to be sup­ported. That's the reason that the Century Foundation, in honor of our hundredth anniversary this year, launched Next100, a new, independent, and first-of-its-kind pop-up think tank for the next generation of policy leaders. For the next two years, we'll select six emerging policy leaders and give them training, resources, and support to tackle a policy challenge of their choosing, all while providing them full-timed salaried positions and benefits. After we announced Next100 earlier this year, more than seven hundred people applied — from all walks of life and backgrounds, wanting to work on all sorts of challenges. It was an inspiring response to witness, and we just finished interviews and will be announcing the incoming class of leaders in July. Stay tuned.

So that's, in part, what makes me optimistic about the future of America — the next generation of leaders coming up.

Mitch Nauffts

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

April 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

PND: What are those solutions?

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

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

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

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5 Questions for...James Cadogan, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

March 27, 2019

Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) has been a leading supporter of criminal justice reform since 2011. Under the leadership of James Cadogan, vice president of criminal justice, the organization recently launched the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a community of practice involving more than two dozen Arnold Ventures grantees working to eliminate unnecessary and unjust detention practices, with new investments totaling $39 million.

Cadogan joined the organization after serving as the inaugural director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a counselor to the attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped design comprehensive federal reentry reforms; served as a lead staffer on an initiative to reduce the use of solitary confinement at the Federal Bureau of Prisons; developed national community policing initiatives; and supported access to justice programs.

PND asked Cadogan about the initiative's goals, the emerging field of pretrial justice reform, and the role of pretrial justice reform in advancing racial equity.

James Cadogan_PhilanTopic_squarePhilanthropy News Digest: Your organization is on record as saying "money bail obscures legally required risk analyses, traps people in jail, and contributes to unconscionable racial and economic disparities in our justice system." How does the cash bail system exacerbate the mass incarceration of people of color? And how central to the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is the goal of advancing racial and economic equity?

James Cadogan: A fundamental principle of our justice system is the presumption of innocence: the idea that, when accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But across the country — right now — there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in jail who haven't been convicted of any crime, nearly half a million at any given moment. They haven't even been tried. That's because of our current system of money bail.

Generally, after an individual is arrested they go before a judge who reads the charges and sets bail — an amount of money that the arrestee must pay in order to be set free. If you can pay that money, you go free; if you can't afford it, you go to jail. In other words, the size of your bank account determines your freedom. Simply put: that is unjust.

To avoid jail, those who can't afford to pay the bail amount directly might turn to a bail bondsman who can post the amount with the court while charging the individual a fee, often 10 percent of the bail amount. But if bail is set at $2,000, many people are equally unable to afford the $200 fee a bondsman would charge as the $2,000 bail imposed by the court. The money bail system discriminates against the poor — and people of color are disproportionately poor. Research has also shown that people of color are treated more harshly within the money bail system: for example, African-American men on average receive 35 percent higher bail amounts than white men who are arrested for the exact same crime.

PND: Arnold Ventures, formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, has supported pretrial justice reform since 2011 — support that has included efforts to increase transparency around and the use of validated, evidence-based risk assessments in judges' decisions to release or detain defendants. Beyond strengthening implementation of the Public Safety Assessment— which was created from a database of more than 1.5 million cases in over three hundred jurisdictions — what is the partnership planning to do to reduce "unnecessary and unjust detention"?

JC: Pretrial detention rates are driven by a number of decisions and processes under the control of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court administrators, and other system actors and stakeholders. The National Partnership intentionally connects and elevates partners with different types of expertise — for example, research, policy development, or litigation — and supports them in taking on projects that span a range of pretrial justice challenges such as evaluating the impact of bail practices, working to expand the use of prosecutorial diversion that moves people out of the criminal just system, or undertaking advocacy related to the impossible caseloads many public defenders face.

Pretrial justice practices and operations vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so the breadth of the work we support to reduce unjust pretrial detention is important: National Partnership initiatives span four hundred counties across thirty-five states. At this pivotal time in the pretrial justice reform movement, it's important to understand that even though experts nationwide may have different approaches and don't agree on everything, they're all committed to the same end goal: reducing our unconscionable rates of pretrial detention. By supporting a diversity of efforts, we can help harness that momentum in a variety of places and spaces across the country and give ourselves the best chance of bringing about lasting policy change in pretrial justice. That's where see the biggest value of the partnership.

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How Philanthropy Can Catalyze Private Investment in Opportunity Zones

March 13, 2019

Oppzones_792x800The U.S. Department of the Treasury expects Opportunity Zones to unlock well over $100 billion in private investment in low-wealth communities across the United States. The tax incentive, which became law as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, seeks to encourage patient capital investments in more than eighty-seven hundred designated census tracts across the country by permitting investors to reinvest capital gains in designated census tracts in exchange for tax benefits.

Opportunity Zones represent the first time federal tax policy has sought to tap unrealized capital gains to advance economic and community development. Proponents believe the incentive will help transform low-wealth communities, while skeptics have doubts that funds will flow to the people and places most in need — and, even if they do, that the ensuing transformation will have a positive impact on longtime residents and small businesses.

Against this backdrop, philanthropy should step up and help shape the Opportunity Zone landscape so that benefits of the legislation also accrue to longtime residents and businesses.

Here are six ways philanthropy can help:

1. Shape the rules of the game. Philanthropy can influence IRS guidelines for Opportunity Zones — and, if necessary, follow-on legislation — to ensure that the incentive is implemented in a manner that reflects the interests of communities and the intent of the program. For some foundations, this may include support for developing and tracking metrics, stakeholder interviews to uncover opportunities and issues, and/or deep-dive case studies of specific transactions. The data from these activities can then be used to generate valuable tweaks to the design of the program. As always, data-driven insights will be critical to making the case for modifying, fine-tuning, or extending the incentive.

2. Level the playing field. Foundations are well suited to ensure that communities are poised to attract investor interest and have a seat at the table as Opportunity Zone transactions are negotiated. Organizations such as Accelerator for America are already working with cities across the country to create investment prospectuses, while others such as the Governance Project are working with municipal leadership to develop business cases and strategies for priority projects in communities such as Louisville and San Jose. There is far more that can and should be done, however, and the unique features of rural Opportunity Zones must also be accounted for so that those communities are not left behind.

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Caring for the City’s Caregivers

January 08, 2019

Housing_affordabilityThat wise woman Rosalyn Carter once said, "There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver." We all have a stake, one way or another, in caregiving and in what happens to the individuals who provide that valuable service. And here in New York City, caregivers, quite simply, deserve better care from all of us.

A City in Need of Assistance

New York City turns to its not-for-profit human services sector for essential caregiving for people without homes, parents, or job prospects and, of course, for caregiving services that enable older New Yorkers to age in their communities, living independently with the assistance they need to stay connected to friends and meaningful activity. According to the city's Department for the Aging (DFTA), there are approximately 1.64 million older adults currently residing in the city's five boroughs. As these individuals age, their need for a range of services will grow, and the role that not-for-profits like JASA play in providing those services will become ever more critical.

The continued health of not-for-profit human service organizations relies heavily on employees who interact directly with their clients. Navigating the complexities of the legal, social services, and healthcare systems, not to mention simple life activities, can be challenging at times for any senior, but for those struggling with health, housing, and other issues, it can be overwhelming. There is a real need for the work my organization does, and that need continues to grow.

At the heart of our work are the relationships we build. The key to providing quality services hinges on being able to recruit and retain individuals who genuinely care and are able to establish a connection to the client that fosters trust. Finding skilled individuals is the first challenge. It is not uncommon in 2019 to hear not-for-profit employers say there are more jobs out there than qualified applicants to fill them.

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Building the Power of Immigrants and Youth of Color

January 02, 2019

BP+LCF+Siren+Rally059852Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN) - Bay Area has spent the last several years building the political power of immigrant and youth voters with the aim of shifting the political landscape in the region and across the state. In 2018, we doubled down on our commitment to building this political muscle by registering more than fifteen thousand new immigrant and youth voters, contacting a hundred and sixty thousand already-registered voters, and mobilizing more than two hundred volunteers. In the 2018 midterm elections, our efforts helped generate one of the highest turnouts in state history for a midterm and resulted in the passage of critical local and state ballot measures, as well as the defeat of House members opposed to immigrant rights. 

One of SIREN's youth leaders, Miguel, participated in phone banking and door-to-door canvassing of Spanish-speaking voters. Although Miguel and his family cannot vote because of their immigration status, the day after the election he told us: "The community was my voice at the polls yesterday. Immigrants and youth came out and demonstrated our power in Northern California and the Central Valley. Through our voting power, we are passing policies in our state and region that are impacting our families, and we will carry our momentum into 2019 to fight for immigrant rights and protections for immigrant youth."

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Don’t Wait Until 2020 to Invest in Youth Leaders

December 13, 2018

Youth_engagementFor anyone interested in increasing youth civic engagement, the midterm elections are a cause for celebration. In the election,
31 percent of youth (ages 18-29) voted — according to at least one source, the highest level of participation among youth in the past quarter-century.

Traditionally, support for youth civic engagement declines at the end of an election cycle and resumes as the next cycle starts to heat up — along with thought pieces about why young people don’t vote. To break this pattern, I offer a suggestion: increase investment in youth organizing groups now; don't wait until 2020.

The country is in the middle of a massive demographic shift, with young people of color the fastest-growing segment of the population. The key to developing a robust and inclusive democracy that reflects this shift is to support the active civic participation and leadership of this group. And the best way to do that is not to wait until the start of the next election cycle to pour millions of dollars into advertising to reach young voters.

Instead, we should support organizations led by young people of color that are engaged in year-round organizing around both voter engagement campaigns and efforts to address issues in their local communities. Issue campaigns focused on quality schools, immigrants' rights, ending mass incarceration, and preserving reproductive rights are what motivate young people to become engaged in the world around them and, by extension, the electoral process.

Take the Power U Center for Social Change and Dream Defenders, youth organizing groups in Florida that have been organizing to end mass incarceration and the school-to-prison-pipeline. In the lead up to the midterms, both groups worked tirelessly in support of a ballot measure to restore voting eligibility to formerly convicted persons, and as a result 1.4 million people in Florida have had their voting rights restored. If those ex-offenders are organized effectively, most of them will vote — and in ways, hopefully, that strengthen their communities.

From where I sit, there are three reasons to double down on investments in youth organizing groups:

Youth organizers are good at engaging voters of all ages. Some youth organizing groups have focused on engaging young voters; others are organizing whole communities. Power California, a statewide alliance of more than twenty-five organizations, works to harness the power of young voters of color and their families. Between September and November, the organization and its partners worked in forty counties to get young Californians to head to the polls and make their voices heard on issues that affect them. Through phone calls, texting, and targeted social media, the organization talked to more than a hundred and fifteen thousand young voters and registered and pre-registered more than twenty-five thousand young people of color. Other organizations such as Poder in Action in Phoenix, Arizona, engaged young people in their communities because these young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the issues in play and serve as highly effective messengers. Our takeaway: investing in youth leaders generates results, now and for decades to come.

Engaging the pre-electorate now increases civic participation in the future. Many of the young people organizing and canvassing with grantees of the Funders' Collaborative for Youth Organizing were ineligible to vote because they hadn't turned 18. But while they weren't old enough to cast a ballot, many of them were active in knocking on doors and making calls to encourage others to vote. Today's 16- and 17-year-olds will be voting in 2020, and we should be supporting organizations working to engage them. These organizations are a vital resource for developing the next generation of civic leaders.

Youth organizers play a vital role in connecting issues and voting. Over the last several years, we've seen the emergence of a number of organizations that are organizing young people of color around issues in their communities and helping them engage electorally as part of a broader goal of creating a just and equitable society. These groups are developing the next generation of young leaders, organizing campaigns aimed at improving quality of life in their communities, and encouraging people, young and old, to get out and vote. Recent research shows that this kind of organizing is one of the best ways to support the academic growth, social and emotional development, and civic engagement of young people, and these groups are our best hope for actively engaging young people today, as well as developing a pipeline of leaders equipped to solve future challenges.

Unfortunately, funding for this work has been sporadic, often showing up — in insufficient amounts — just before elections and then disappearing as soon as the last vote has been counted. To build a just and inclusive society, we must make a significant, long-term investment in the leadership of young people of color willing to organize around issues and engage voters, both young and old.

The 2018 election cycle has come to an end. Our investment in youth organizing shouldn't. It is time to get serious about supporting the next generation of leaders.

By 2020, it'll be too late.

Headshot_Eric BraxtonEric Braxton is executive director of the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, a collective of social justice funders and youth organizing practitioners that works to advance youth organizing as a strategy for youth development and social change.

Labor Trafficking — an Immigration Issue

December 12, 2018

Hotel_cleaningConversations about immigration typically center around undocumented immigration, family sponsorship, and refugees. Very little attention is paid to the link between immigration and human trafficking — and that's unfortunate, because it is an urgent problem across the United States. 

While sex trafficking is the most familiar form of human trafficking, labor trafficking is another form of exploitation enabled by glaring defects in our immigration system. A 2004 report from the U.S. State Department estimated that upwards of 17,500 people are trafficked into the country every year, while a more recent report from Polaris, an anti-human-trafficking organization, identified six temporary visas most commonly associated with labor trafficking. These visas tie individuals to their employers or agency sponsors, making it nearly impossible for workers to break free from employers, even when working in conditions that are exploitative or abusive. 

At Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), we work with survivors of labor trafficking who are brought to the U.S. and forced to become modern-day slaves by fraudulent employers. As a member of the California United Fund, a coalition of eight immigrants rights organizations dedicated to improving the lives of immigrants in the state and beyond, we are working to help victims of labor trafficking live dignified, independent lives in the U.S. 

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Philanthropy's Under-Investment in Holding High Finance Accountable: A Gamble We Can’t Afford

October 17, 2018

Monopoly_top_hatTen years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, authorizing $700 billion in federal funding to buy troubled assets from banks deemed to be in danger of failing as a result of the subprime foreclosure crisis.

A lot has changed since then, but one thing has remained the same: progressive philanthropy continues to under-prioritize efforts to hold the financial industry accountable.

It's a choice that risks undermining the headway progressive foundations are making on issues of inequality and wealth building. Placing big bets on policies designed to lift up low- and moderate-income communities while failing to address the accountability of financial institutions is a gamble we cannot afford to take — not least because it puts at risk the very people we are trying to serve.

American households lost $16 trillion in wealth in the years after the 2007-08 financial crisis. And while some experts estimate that Americans have regained $14.6 trillion, or 91 percent, of those losses in the decade since, the collapse affected different segments of society unequally, with the gains just as unequally distributed. In other words, both the crash and the recovery increased inequality in America.

The impact on African Americans was especially profound. Nearly 8 percent of African-American homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the years after the crisis, compared with only 4.5 percent of white homeowners, and between 2007 and 2010 African Americans saw their retirement accounts lose 35 percent of their value. Indeed, according to the National Association of Realtors, African Americans lost fully half their wealth as a result of the financial crisis.

It's not just the likelihood of future financial crises that should give philanthropic leaders pause; it's also the fact that an under-regulated and unaccountable financial industry will continue to target communities of color and low-income communities with sketchy products and put vulnerable households at risk.

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Philanthropy Delivers an Outcome — and Its Name Is Brett Kavanaugh

October 07, 2018

Kavanaugh_swearing_inWhen the U.S. Senate voted 50-48 on Saturday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it was a significant victory for the Federalist Society, and for the foundations that support the organization. It also represented something — an outcome and real impact — that philanthropists of all persuasions crave, and it was achieved through, that’s right, general support grants.

Widely credited for writing the playbook that has guided the Trump administration's judicial nominations strategy, the Federalist Society, by any measure, has been wildly successful. Since Donald Trump's inauguration in January 2017, the U.S. Senate has approved two of his picks for the Supreme Court and some fifty lower court judges. With an additional hundred and fifty appellate and district court seats to be filled, the administration, with the help of the Federalist Society, is on track to have put in place nearly a quarter of all active judges by the end of 2019.

The organization describes itself as a

group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. [The Society] is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be….This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law. In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community....

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the society receives tax-deductible donations from individuals, but foundations contribute roughly one-quarter of its annual funding. Since 2006, 127 foundations have made $39 million in grants to the organization, 53 percent of which has come from five foundations: the Lynde and Harry Bradley, Templeton, Mercer Family, and Sarah Scaife foundations, in addition to the Searle Freedom Trust. Nearly half of those grants have provided general operating support to the organization, giving it the freedom to use those resources to further its goals without donor-imposed restrictions.

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 22-23, 2018)

September 23, 2018

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

Communications/Marketing

"Anyone with a desire to manipulate opinions...knows that our digital dependencies make it easier than ever to do so through supposedly trustworthy institutions," writes Lucy Bernholz on her Philanthropy 2173 blog. What does that mean for nonprofits? "If your communications strategy still assumes that 'hey, they'll trust us — we're a nonprofit' or 'hey, this is what the data say,' " then it's time for your organization to "reconsider both what you say, how you say it, how you protect what you say, and your expectations and responses to how what you say gets heard and gets used."

Democracy/Public Affairs

In a new post on its website, the Community Foundation Boulder County looks at the work of Common Cause to ensure an accurate, representative census count in 2020.

On the Glasspockets blog, Janet Camarena, director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center, chats with Jennifer Humke, senior program officer for journalism and media at the John D. and Catherine T.  MacArthur Foundation, about how foundation support for participatory media can strengthen American democracy.

Disaster Relief

Roughly 70 percent of the money and resources donated after a disaster like Herricane Florence goes to immediate response efforts, but recovery from such a disaster requires long-term investment. (Just as the folks in Puerto Rico.) Is there a better way to do disaster relief? asks Eillie Anzilotti in Fast Company. And while you're at it, check out our Hurricane Florence dashboard, which is tracking the private institutional response to the storm.

International Affairs/Development

The latest edition of the Commitment to Development Index, which ranks twenty-seven of the world's richest countries by how well their policies help improve lives in the developing world, has Sweden edging out Denmark (which led the index last year) as the top performer. The Center for Global Development has the details

In his latest, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther piggybacks on ongoing assessments of a Catholic Relief Services direct-cash-transfer program in Rwanda to remind people that scale does not always equal impact.

In advance of this year's meeting of the UN General Assembly, the Rockefeller Foundation is asking folks to weigh in on what they think is the most solvable of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 8-9, 2018)

September 09, 2018

6-500x500A weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

It's coming — whether we like it or not. Automation is likely to force a third of American workers  to switch occupational categories by 2030, write James Manyika, Manisha Shetty Gulati, and Emma Dorn in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, with the largest disruption occurring among middle-income workers without a college degree. "[U]nhampered by quarterly earnings calls or the voting cycle," philanthropy can — and will need — to step up. Mantika, Gulati, and Dorn suggest four areas where it can do so.

Education

In The New York Times Magazine, Sarah Mosle reports at length about the many challenges public school administrators face in "finding effective teachers, retaining them and helping those who need to get better."

In a photo essay in the same issue of the magazine, Brian Ulrich looks at the kinds of second jobs that teachers across the country are taking to make ends meet.

Why are many teachers forced to work second jobs? Could it be their wages are lower than ever? Sarah Holder reports for CityLab.

Global Health

On the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists blog, Steven Buchsbaum, deputy director of discovery and translational sciences in the foundation's Global Health Program, reflects on the launch, nearly fifteen years ago, and subsequent progress of the foundation's Grand Challenges initiative. 

Nonprofits

With summer a fading memory, Beth Kanter has a timely reminder about the causes and costs of lost productivity in nonprofit workplaces.

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Congress Introduces Bill to Revolutionize Philanthropy

August 27, 2018

When Americans picture a "philanthropist," they typically imagine a very wealthy individual — someone who gives billions of dollars away or establishes their own foundation.

Unfortunately, our tax code reinforces this stereotype by providing only the wealthiest Americans with tax benefits for giving back. Only taxpayers who itemize their deductions — those typically in the highest tax brackets — can lower their income taxes by giving to charity. Currently, about 30 percent of taxpayers fall into this category, but with the recent tax reform this number could drop to as low as 5 percent.

That would leave 95 percent of Americans who are denied the opportunity to lower their taxes by giving to charity. A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives has set out to prevent that.

FGA_image_0

On July 26, 2018, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) introduced a bill along with five co-sponsors that would help redefine the way America gives back by empowering a new class of Everyday Philanthropist.

The Everyday Philanthropist Act (H.R. 6616) seeks to empower working Americans to give back through a Flexible Giving Account (FGA). An FGA is a pre-tax payroll deduction for employee giving. Non-itemizers and itemizers alike would be able to set up an FGA through their employer, set aside a portion of their paycheck pre-tax to be donated to the charity of their choice, and immediately see their taxable income reduced. The employer would benefit as well from a reduction in its payroll taxes.

By empowering millions more Americans to give back, the legislation would dramatically increase charitable giving in the U.S. But the Everyday Philanthropist Act offers more than that.

The legislation represents a chance to initiate a major shift in the way America gives back. The FGA would encourage a culture of shared responsibility in the workplace, one in which employers assume a more impactful role in empowering their employees and the workplace is transformed into a community where employees at every income level feel inspired to give and engage.

With an FGA, tax-deductible giving would no longer be a privilege reserved for a select few. Instead, it would be an opportunity, attainable by all working Americans, to come together and create a positive impact in the communities they care about.

As a champion of the Everyday Philanthropist Act, The Greater Give will continue to work with members of Congress to encourage them to join Representative Paulsen in supporting this legislation and the millions of charities, businesses, and Americans who would benefit from it. The legislation has already garnered public support from many in the charitable sector, including Community Health Charities, America's Charities, and the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network.

To learn more about the Everyday Philanthropist Act and what you can do to support it, visit thegreatergive.org or follow The Greater Give on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Headshot_dan_rashke2_for_philantopicDan Rashke is the Founder of The Greater Give, a 501(c)(6) formed to increase charitable giving by cultivating a movement of shared responsibility between employers and their employees. Rashke also is the CEO of TASC, a third-party benefits administrator based in Madison, Wisconsin.

On 'Fake' Victories and the Need to Act

August 02, 2018

American-Poverty-768x512While no one would argue that Donald Trump is a student of history, he and other Republicans seem to have taken a lesson from a former "dean" of the Senate, George Aiken (R-VT), who was alleged to have said of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that we should simply "declare victory and get out." How else to explain the things Trump and Republican politicians are doing to "address" poverty in America?

Most of us have learned that the president, members of his administration, and his congressional allies are adept at creating "alternative facts" through exaggeration, misrepresentation, and plain old dissembling. After a one-day summit meeting in June with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un generated nothing in the way of detailed policy agreements, Trump declared that the North Korean nuclear threat had been eliminated. (Real-world developments subsequently invalidated the president’s assertions.) Similarly, at an extraordinary press conference following an unprecedented private meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the president dismissed the consensus view of American intelligence agencies that Russia was actively working to undermine our electoral and democratic processes and declared that no such threat exists. And now the president is focusing his magical-thinking act on the home front.

In July, the Trump administration declared "victory" in the War on Poverty — the unofficial name for a series of federal initiatives introduced in the 1960s by the Johnson administration to help people move out of poverty and provide assistance to those in need — and declared that poverty in the United States was no longer a problem the federal government need worry about. The administration's declaration was stunning on two counts: Republicans have a long history of opposing the War on Poverty, and poverty remains a huge problem in America.

Established measures of poverty show that in 2016 about 12.7 percent of Americans — roughly 43 million people — lived in poverty. And a recent United Nations study found that 18.5 million Americans are facing "extreme impoverishment." In fact, close to 2 percent of the population – more than 5 million of us — live on no more than $4 a day, including government assistance. Even more alarming, more than a few moderate-income Americans are included in a Federal Reserve study which found that 40 percent of us would not be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense without having to sell something or borrow the money.

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