Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: How Josh Nadzam Outran Poverty and Uses Art to Change Kids’ Lives

Sullivan Medallion Award winner Josh Nadzam came by his passion for helping others naturally—because others helped him when he needed it the most.

A 2011 graduate of the University of Kentucky (UK), Nadzam survived a hardscrabble life in poverty-stricken, drug-infested housing projects near Pittsburgh. Now the driving force behind On the Move Art Studio in Lexington, the changemaker returns as a facilitator for the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Spring Ignite Retreat in Raleigh, N.C., to be held April 5-7.

The deadline to register for this year’s event is March 20. Click here to learn more about it.

Josh Nadzam (standing in the rear) and his On the Move Art Studio team have introduced more than 10,000 at-risk youth to the arts so far. (Photo by Marcus Patrick)

As Nadzam explained to Kentucky author Steve Flairty of the online newspaper KYForward.com, he was raised by a single mom who “worked inconsistent hours at miserable jobs and inconvenient times just to ensure we could have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Things got so bad that my mother had to save up money to declare bankruptcy. Through her hard work and the assistance of various governmental programs, we managed to scrape by as we clawed our way through life.”

Adding to the family’s stress was his father’s alcoholism and multiple suicide attempts, followed by the death of Nadzam’s best friend in a car accident when Nadzam was 17. Despite these personal struggles, Nadzam, with his mom’s constant encouragement, kept his grades up and excelled as an athlete at school, which proved to be his saving grace.

After a fracas on the basketball court in which Nadzam knee-butted an opposing player from behind, he gained a new mentor in Coach Tom Karczewski, a.k.a., Coach K. The coach reached out to the youth shortly after the game and soon realized the full extent of his problems. “He totally fell apart,” Coach K told Flairty. “I remember tears streaming down his face as he told me that he was all alone at home with almost nothing to eat. His mom was in the hospital. He was so frustrated with life that he had to take his aggression out on someone. He told me about his father and all of the issues with him. He was just hopeless.”

A full track-and-field scholarship at the University of Kentucky helped Nadzam earn his college degree.

From then on, Coach K and other coaches took a special interest in Nadzam, ensuring that he had food to eat and constructive projects to keep him busy – and at a safe distance from the local drug scene. With their help as well as the guidance of another mentor, his aunt’s boyfriend known as “Uncle Brad,” Nadzam made it through high school, walked on to the track and field team at UK and soon won a full scholarship. He became one of the top milers in the SEC and won the Sullivan Medallion for community service in 2012 while pursuing his masters degree in Social Work.

As a dedicated community servant, Nadzam has been involved in and led many community initiatives, including #BringUsHome, Josh’s Run to Frankfort, and the 24 Hour Homeless Challenge. He also received the Lexington Leadership Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award as the co-founder and director of On The Move Art Studio.

On The Move Art Studio is a mobile art room created in a refurbished vintage trailer that travels to underserved neighborhoods and hosts free arts classes for at-risk youth. “Children from impoverished homes are often ‘left out of the picture’ when it comes to city development and engagement,” the On the Move website notes. “They become further marginalized as they are pushed back into their low-income neighborhoods.”

On the Move Art Studio reengages these children while trying to decrease their exposure to negative influences. The organization has served more than 10,000 children since it started and has recently begun raising funds to renovate a second trailer.

It’s no wonder Flairty included Nadzam in his “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes” series for KYForward.com. “Josh Nadzam knows all about redirections in his life,” Flairty notes in the conclusion of his article. “You just might call him an expert on the subject, along with a few other things, namely poverty, tragedy, triumph and purpose. As far as expertise on the subject of defeat, well, he has very little knowledge … because he has never accepted or dwelled on it.”

Impact Investing and Racial Equity: These Foundations Are Leading the Way

By Matt Onek

It has been inspiring to be part of the rapidly growing impact investing movement over the last several years, as foundations and their partners have committed more of their assets to social and environmental change. In the midst of this growth, Mission Investors Exchange (MIE) and our 250 members have taken a leadership role in keeping “impact” at the heart of the movement. But one critical element of “impact” has received insufficient attention: racial equity.

By 2020, median white American households are projected to own 86 times more wealth than African-American households and 68 times more than Latinx households. Significant racial disparities also exist in employment, educational attainment, access to healthcare, incarceration rates, and many other aspects of American life.

It is therefore crucial that racial equity become a central part of the impact investing movement. That’s why MIE recently started on its own journey in pursuit of racial equity, working both to evolve our internal practices and to surface best practices in the philanthropic community at MIE’s 2018 National Conference and as part of the Racial Equity track at SOCAP 2018. These and other collective efforts led up to this series, launched with a companion essay by La June Montgomery Tabron, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In a field in which a disproportionate number of leaders, like me, are white men, this series aims to present a diverse set of philanthropic voices. Together, MIE, Tabron, and the nine other foundation presidents will lay out the moral and economic imperative for action, as well as concrete ways philanthropy can ensure that racial equity is at the center of the impact investing movement as it continues to scale.

Moving from Positive Intentions to Bold Action

While the foundations that are using impact investing to advance racial equity embrace a wide range of investment strategies, they all started by stating a strong and intentional commitment to racial equity. As part of this process, they have undertaken the hard work of internal learning, investing time to understand how bias shapes their own thinking, as well as the systems and markets that impact the people and communities they serve.

Once foundations commit to racial equity, a world of investing opportunities opens up, with tremendous potential to positively impact individuals, organizations, and systems. Indeed, organizations can use all the tools in the impact investing toolbox—including program-related investments (PRIs) and mission-related investments (MRIs), investments in asset classes ranging from fixed income to private equity, and shareholder advocacy.

In deciding how to deploy these tools toward racial equity, investors are focusing on who controls and receives capital as it flows among asset owners, asset managers, intermediaries, investees, and the ultimate beneficiaries of products or services. We explore these questions below.

Who Allocates Capital?

People of color have often been locked out of positions that make investment decisions. And as Tabron explains in her essay, unconscious biases among decision makers can have a deep impact on the allocation of capital to individuals and communities of color.

To address these concerns, many foundations are examining and increasing the diversity of their own boards of directors, investment committees, and staff. They are also working to direct capital toward advisors and fund managers of color. Some, such as the Ford Foundation, consider this support of diverse investment decision makers as core to their overall impact investing strategy. Several foundations are also working to reduce racial biases by all investment decision makers by investing in firms like Illumen Capital LP, an impact investor that provides its fund managers with bias-reducing strategies to unlock latent financial return and impact.

Who Receives Investments?

Organizations led by people of color—whether small businesses, new ventures, or intermediaries, such as community development financial institutions (CDFIs)—often experience underinvestment. To address these disparities, foundations are examining and changing the demographics of the leaders they support, both through direct investing and intermediaries, and through PRIs and MRIs.

Northwest Area Foundation’s support of Native-led CDFIs, for example, ultimately helps revitalize local economies while directing investment capital to Native-led businesses. And Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation’s CDFI strategy is oriented around supporting businesses, housing, and community facilities that benefit low-wealth communities and people of color in the South.

In addition, many foundations are increasingly investing in broader funds that target entrepreneurs of color. The Detroit Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, created by Kellogg Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and the Detroit Development Fund, for example, more than tripled in size in 2018. Invest4All, an initiative of Prudential Financial, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, is focused on low-income communities of color in the South and invests in entrepreneurs of color among a variety of financial inclusion strategies. And Impact America Fund, supported by Prudential, Surdna Foundation, and Kellogg Foundation, directs capital to overlooked and underserved markets, with an emphasis on supporting leaders who have first-hand experience with the problems they seek to solve.

Who Is the Beneficiary or End User?

Impact investing capital, of course, ultimately supports programs, products, or services that directly address the needs of specific individuals and communities. Given the historic, systemic barriers for individuals and communities of color—including a lack of access to high-quality education, health services, affordable housing, and banking—it matters greatly who impact investments ultimately serve, and where service or product gaps disproportionately affect people of color.

Foundations are actively seeking to understand who benefits from the organizations in which they invest and targeting their investments accordingly. As noted, many strategies focus on supporting historically underserved communities of color in specific places such as Baltimore, Detroit, the American South, or Native American tribal lands. Other efforts seek to tackle sectors or systems that disproportionally underserve people of color, like Lumina Impact Ventures’ focus on post-high school learning and The California Endowment’s work in health. Still other investment strategies focus on solutions to systems and industries that negatively affect people of color, such as private prisons and predatory lending.

The individuals and organizations in the flow of capital often play more than one role. For example, we can characterize CDFIs led by and for communities of color as both investees and investors—both receiving capital from foundation investors and then deploying that capital to individuals, organizations, and communities. Foundations that hire and invest in leaders of color break down barriers for those individuals, as well as support the broader societal transformations those individuals can help achieve.

Making Racial Equity Central to the Impact Investing Movement

Philanthropy is ideally positioned to lead the charge for racial equity. Free to challenge status quo systems and free to use the power of their endowments to tackle societal challenges, foundations can ensure that racial equity becomes central to the growing impact investing movement. Some foundations, like Mary Reynolds Babcock and Winthrop Rockefeller, are even exploring bold commitments to align their entire endowments with their racial equity goals.

But this series makes clear that there is a broad range of approaches that any foundation can use. Now is the time for philanthropy and its partners throughout society to embrace their responsibilities and maximize their unique capabilities. Together, we can ensure that the impact investing movement plays a major role in the pursuit of racial equity.

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Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Jasmine Babers, a Publishing Prodigy at 15

Jasmine Babers, a facilitator at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming 2019 Spring Ignite Retreat and a proponent of women empowerment, believes every girl has a story to tell. But as a magazine publisher since the age of 15, Babers’ own story deserves a little attention, too.

Babers was still in high school when she launched Love Girls magazine. “Being a girl—being a teenager when I started the magazine and being surrounded by teenagers … I really was just immersed (in) what it’s like to go through the struggles that girls face every single day with bullying (and) with body image,” Babers says.

According to the Love Girls website, she created her own magazine to help a close friend who was being bullied at school—and others like her. “Like so many who face bullying and harassment, she struggled, wondering if the things being said to her were true,” Babers writes. “She lacked role models and mentors to help her (recognize) the amazing, intelligent and wonderful person she was.”

The cover model from Love Girls magazine’s fall 2018 issue

“I decided that I could sit back and watch this happen or I could do something about it, and that is how Love Girls Magazine was born,” she added. “I wanted to show my friend that she was beautiful enough, inside and out, to be in a magazine. I wanted to create a set of everyday role models for all the young girls who did not see themselves reflected in the media.”

The magazine, which is published both in print and digital formats, started out at just 10 pages and grew into a 40-pager. It focuses on self-esteem and women empowerment and provides girls with opportunities in writing, photography, event planning, and leadership. Today Love Girls has impacted over 25,000 girls across the nation.

Babers is now a senior at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she’s double-majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science. She is the treasurer and social chair of SISTERS, a member of Woman 2 Woman, and a founding member of the UIC philanthropy group. She also sits on the Student Advisory Board for the Dean of L.A.S. and the advisory board for the Provost and chairs the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women.

Off-campus, Babers takes on roles through Fellowships. She is a Peace First Fellow, where she advocates for young people to make peacemaking a part of their lives. She also recently won the prestigious Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowship.

Babers has received numerous awards, including the USA Characters Unite Award; the Prudential Spirit of Community Award; The Peace First Prize; The Women’s Connection Award; the Royal Neighbors of America Award; and the Young Women of Achievement Award.

Being a product of the foster care system, she says she is thrilled to be spending the next several months working on her project, Fostering Incarceration, where she is doing research and writing a book on the Foster Care to Incarceration pipeline.

Babers accepts a check from Characters Unite in support of her magazine.

“Today I am a college student,” Babers writes on her website. “My journey has led me to tell my story and to tell the story of others. I have had many challenges, although I let none of them define me. When I was first getting started, it was reiterated time and time again that I had two strikes against me: I was a woman, and I was black. I decide to add a third one: I was young. And the list could go on and on because I’ve faced many obstacles. I am a product of the foster care system. I am dyslexic. I’m short. But none of these barriers were so big that they couldn’t be broken. I found many people and organizations also believed in my mission. Royal Neighbors of America, Peace First, School Seed, Iowa Women’s Foundation, and USA Network provided funding and support along with many others.”

And Babers was glad to accept the support. “It’s OK to ask for help,” she notes. “It’s also OK not to know how to do everything. I really have learned to play to my strengths and not focus so much on what I’m not good at and keep working at things I excel at.”

How Foundations Can Help Opportunity Zone Communities Succeed

By Cody Evans & Agnes Dasewicz

The Opportunity Zone tax incentive–passed in amended form as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017–is a potentially powerful new tool for helping low-income communities. By providing breaks for certain investments in distressed areas, it has already led to the creation of nearly $1 billion in new funds. Officials from the Treasury Department expect $100 billion in private capital will be deployed through the incentive.

But the policy may fail to achieve its goals unless foundations guide investments in the right direction. Their deep experience in struggling local communities around the nation prepares them for the challenge.

Lawmakers passed this policy with the belief that investors don’t pay enough attention to the breadth of good financial opportunities available across the United States. But investors may still worry that low-income neighborhoods present more risk than other areas. And they may only use the Opportunity Zone tax break to enhance investments they would have undertaken anyway, rather than pursue potentially lower-return projects that truly help local communities.

Failure to address the challenges the Opportunity Zone policy seeks to solve has ramifications for a critical factor in communities’ health around the nation: the distribution of jobs. The majority of new employment in the United States over the past 10 years has come from the formation of new businesses, yet between 2010 and 2014 half of America’s new firms were concentrated in just 20 counties. Entrepreneurs and small business leaders in undercapitalized areas around the country need help, or their communities will fall further and further behind.

Fortunately, foundations already know how to serve as the connective tissue that channels investment to marginalized regions and nascent economic ecosystems. Here are their four proven approaches:

1. Support Independent Transaction Advisors

Since Opportunity Zone areas are now indirectly competing with each other for tax-advantaged capital, local public officials, association heads, business leaders, and other community constituents need expert advice to develop investable deals and recognize alignments of interest with new investors.

Transaction advisors—private and independent experts who work with local government officials to prepare a pipeline of potential private sector investments—can provide it. They helped Power Africa, launched under President Obama in 2013, deliver more than $5 billion in private investment for energy projects on the historically undercapitalized continent in the program’s first five years. Their efforts contributed toward lining up at least $10 in private funding for each $1 in public funding, demonstrating that well-placed funds can drive high multiples of market-rate capital towards beneficial investments.

Foundations who wish to support local champions in Opportunity Zones can use their limited funding to directly embed independent transaction advisors in city governments, local associations, or community nonprofits. There they can help prioritize projects, provide financial expertise, and become the focal point for Opportunity Zone investments. If enough experts are deployed nationally, they can form a powerful knowledge-sharing network, help develop appropriate metrics of success, and replicate approaches that work from one area to another.

The California Opportunity Zone Partnership from Accelerator for America, for example, will use experts from metropolises in California to advise leaders in smaller cities on attracting productive investment. Foundations could encourage similar programs across the country.

2. Support Policy-Aligned Fund Managers

By supporting fund managers who align their efforts with the intent of the Opportunity Zone policy, foundations can signal the best investment options among many, and in the process reduce financial risk for other investors and channel money to where it’s most needed. They can do this by:

  • Providing guarantees that would reduce the risk of investing in a fund by compensating investors for a pre-specified amount of losses.
  • Taking on first-loss positions in a fund’s investments.
  • Supporting new innovative fund structures.
  • Seeding new fund managers.

The federal government has a long track record of funding innovative businesses and investing structures through programs such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), In-Q-Tel (IQT), and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). By taking early stage risks that the private investing market wouldn’t bear, these institutions have used relatively small amounts of dollars to achieve massive impact. Foundations can occupy a similar space.

Access Ventures, an investment fund in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, has been rebuilding the low-income neighborhood of Shelby Park. Over the last five years, through a combination of investments, loans, and grants, the organization has supported local businesses and created more than 200 jobs. It is partnering with Village Capital, a small business investment fund based in Washington, DC, to replicate this experience nationally in places such as Atlanta, San Antonio, and Kansas City. Both Access Ventures and Village Capital were seeded and developed with public and foundation support.

3. Be Hyper-Local

When the Kresge Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation issued a request for letters of inquiry from aspiring Opportunity Fund managers, 113 of the 141 respondents were raising funds with an explicit state or local focus. This embrace of geographic specificity indicates that foundations will likely have many chances to support Opportunity Funds that share a focus on the same communities, while also giving them a position from which to ensure new capital goes toward inclusive growth.

Fund managers would benefit from such partnerships at all stages of the investment process. Before investment, they would enjoy access to community expertise that foundations have built around across the country, including recommendations for mission-aligned local investors. With foundations’ help, fund managers could also identify promising local projects that aren’t quite off the ground and help move them toward investment readiness.

Foundations could use program-related investments to support development of local entrepreneurs or the re-skilling of local workers. And once investments are ready, foundations can provide first-loss guarantees or other forms of support. Finally, they can help investors broker successful exits to other local investors years down the road.

In Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, the Incourage Community Foundation partnered with the local chamber of commerce to launch more than 20 programs. One of them, an entrepreneurial boot camp, helped launch more than 40 local businesses. The collaboration also led venture funds to support the programs and created workforce training that benefitted a dozen local companies. By combining its philanthropic efforts with local community investment, Incourage drove inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Foundations that replicate approaches like Incourage’s would have the chance to direct a whole new pool of capital towards inclusive investments in the local communities they already serve. They would also define what a beneficial project looks like for a local area, drawing in further investment from others who want to see their dollars go to work in a policy-aligned manner.

4. Develop and Track Success Metrics

Investing alongside the private sector will help foundations exert influence over the goals and success metrics of new Opportunity Funds—an especially important undertaking because the policy currently lacks impact reporting requirements. And by directly supporting new funds, foundations have the chance to shape fund managers’ definitions of equitable growth and ensure periodic reporting on those measures. It shouldn’t be too far of a reach—investors increasingly want partnerships with socially driven institutions to help them embed sustainable development measures into their financial goals.

There are already efforts in the foundation community to develop and publish standards for Opportunity Zone investments. Existing frameworks, such as the Social Progress Index, can also be used to develop best practices.

Harm or Help?

As the Opportunity Zone tax incentive enters the mainstream of the investment world, foundations have a choice. They can allow the policy to fall prey to the view that it is just another tax cut for the wealthy and an accelerator of gentrification. Or they can drive the policy closer to its intended outcomes by forming the much-needed connective tissue between private investors, community leaders, and the public sector.

Our most distressed communities are counting on their answer.

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Three Ways to Make Civic Engagement Efforts Really Work

By Hollie Russon Gilman & Elena Souris

When city government officials combine technical expertise with a real understanding of local residents’ lives, they stand to create truly effective policy. That diligence, however, requires time, money, and a willingness to experiment—resources municipalities usually have in short supply—and as a result, it can seem unrealistic.

But experiments with civic engagement, outreach, and philanthropic models in Philadelphia show it’s possible to make real progress despite these constraints. With our colleague, Chayenne Polimedio, and at the invitation of the Knight Foundation, we spent nearly a year researching how nonprofits, philanthropy, and local government in Philadelphia are engaging with and learning from “lived experts”—people who have first-hand experience with their community’s unique challenges—and combining these hyper-local insights with their own technical, policymaking expertise to make municipal government more responsive to people’s needs. Here is a look at three ways this is playing out.

1. Change What Services Are “Supposed” to Offer

At a time when civic trust is low and loneliness is high, public spaces like parks, recreation centers, and libraries can make a difference by fostering personal connections, as well as social capital between residents and government. They are where residents gather to participate in educational and after-school programming, to use free wi-fi and information resources, and to work out and play with recreational equipment. In short, they are accessible places where communities and local government can meet.

One innovative way to expand civic participation around existing public spaces is through structured volunteer organizations. In Philadelphia, most parks and libraries have “friends” groups, and recreation centers have advisory councils. These groups are made up of neighbors who help support their public spaces through fundraising, planning programming, providing light maintenance, and doing other work. They also host meetings and events, where they act as a mediator between group members and the city. In these forums, local residents can voice their concerns and views on municipal matters and build relationships with civil servants. A public park can become an entry point into local politics and enable new community leaders, thus helping the city make decisions with residents, rather than for them.

“The best caretakers [of public spaces] are the stakeholders,” says John “Stash” DiSciascio, executive director of a disc golf course volunteer group called Friends of Sedgley Woods. Members of the group participate in social gatherings, as well as tournaments to raise money for course upkeep and projects. DiSciascio’s passion for his neighborhood park has made him well-known within the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department and helped him become a community leader within the municipal system.

But even residents with less time than volunteer group members regularly visit parks, rec centers, and libraries. George Matysik, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance (PPA), sees these spaces as important channels for public service delivery—and not just for sports teams and afterschool activities. The alliance is working on revamping rec centers so that programming better serves the broader community. “Libraries are more than just books, and rec centers are more than just basketballs,” he says. One form of outreach involves block-walking to invite neighbors to free community dinners, where 20-60 residents usually turn out. When Matysik speaks with them, he’s careful to ask what the community needs, not what the rec center needs. The former gets answers like “ESL classes” or “job training programs”; the latter yields “sports equipment”—what people think rec centers are “supposed” to have. With this feedback in hand, PPA has set up more community meetings and elections for advisory council positions. This has created an effective outreach pipeline for diverse community members to build up sustained engagement with their rec centers and put their ideas into practice—without the time commitment of a formalized volunteer position.

2. Combine Creative Financing with Better Public Service Delivery

Social sector leaders can support and influence projects within City Hall, not just outside it. As a 2017 Knight Cities Challenge winner, for example, PHL Participatory Design Lab used its philanthropic dollars to place design fellows within a variety of Philadelphia’s city departments, with the aim of working with city agencies and recipients of public services to improve service delivery. One fellow worked with the Office of Homeless Services (OHS), which serves 20,000 people each year, to help define what “person-centered”—vs. traditional top-down service delivery—looks like in practice. One of the findings from interviews with OHS users was that not being allowed to bring in their own food into the centers, which it established as a health and safety precaution, was demoralizing. OHS is now working to make changes to this system.

Philadelphia has also found a way to fund resident-based projects through a controversial soda tax, which taxes sweetened drinks at 1.5 cents per ounce. The project’s funding model—a seven-year, $500 million investment—involves city government capital funds ($48 million); state, federal, and philanthropic grants ($152 million); and bonds. Alongside this, the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation has pledged $100 million to neighborhoods for Rebuild, a public-private effort that includes $3.28 million in new funding for the Fairmount Park Conservancy to support a citywide, civic engagement strategy. The strategy’s focus will be giving residents the ability to shape activities in Philadelphia’s public spaces. The Knight Foundation is also supporting Rebuild by making investments throughout the city. While the soda tax faced a variety of legal challenges, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately upheld it, and the money will support public services like education and repairing public sites through the Rebuild initiative.

3. Bring In New Voices—in a Structured, Careful, Thorough Way

Rebuild will seek to revitalize public spaces, empower communities, and promote economic opportunity. Given its massive scope, it will be especially important to involve community voices in the process. Rebuild, the city, and nonprofits see the project as an opportunity to create new interest around public spaces. Because not all prospective sites will receive financing, they’re not only using the moment to build future civic engagement infrastructure, but also supporting existing volunteer groups to make them stronger, more equal, and more inclusive.

Volunteer groups often reflect larger-scale, city-wide inequality. Higher-income residents are more likely to have free time for community organizing and fundraising. In addition, members of decades-old groups may not adapt to a neighborhood’s changing needs, or conversely, volunteer groups in gentrifying neighborhoods may reflect only a small demographic. To combat problems like these, the Fairmont Park Conservancy carried out organizational surveys to gauge its strengths and weaknesses, and required that advisory councils that weren’t following the mandatory election cycle hold new elections. Such efforts will help ensure that collaborative efforts to amplify residents’ voices will be more equitable.

Philanthropic work in Philadelphia also speaks to the opportunity for national and community foundations to work together. Some of the projects on the ground in Philadelphia are connected to the national Reimagining the Civic Commons Project, which includes a $40 million donor collaborative with $20 million from national foundations and $20 million in local matching funds. These funds are focused on rebuilding five cities: Akron, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; and Philadelphia. New models of local and national philanthropy, combined with creative financing like soda taxes or municipal bonds, demonstrate creative approaches to addressing the budget deficits municipalities face without sacrificing innovative policy approaches.

While some of these suggestions may seem small in scale, they nevertheless offer concrete examples of how social sector leaders can help bring together the expertise of residents and city government for healthier and more-vibrant communities—and how large-scale philanthropic work can best support those efforts.

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Upcoming Sullivan Events

The Sullivan Foundation exists to support those who work to make their world a better place, and one of the best ways we do that is through our events. From our retreats to our field trips, Sullivan events are places of inspiration, information, and connection for changemakers. And this spring, we have a great lineup of events.

This March, we’ll be holding a field trip for budding changemakers in Chattanooga. In April, we’ll be hosting our spring Ignite Retreat and a Faculty Summit. Read on to learn more about our upcoming Sullivan events and how you can be a part of them.

The Ignite Retreat

The Ignite Retreat is an awesome weekend that happens twice a year in the mountains of North Carolina. Participants spend three days focusing on learning, networking, and igniting change in their worlds. The retreat happens in April and October and rotates between Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

You can choose from three tracks for the Ignite Retreat: the personal track, the problem track, and the project track. No matter where you are as a changemaker, you can find tools to help you take the next step. Our next retreat will take place April 5-7 in Raleigh, and registration is open through March 30.

The Chattanooga Field Trip

We also have an awesome opportunity coming up for those in the Tennessee area. In February, we will be taking a field trip to Chattanooga to talk with some local business owners. These leaders are working to tackle pressing social and environmental problems in creative entrepreneurial ways.

This year’s field trip in Chattanooga will feature ten social enterprises who are changing the face of their city. These include the Glass House Collective, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, and Mad Priest Coffee Roasters. You can register online through February 13.

The Faculty Summit

If you’re on the faculty side of college operations, don’t worry; the Sullivan Foundation has programming for you, too. This April, the same weekend as our Ignite Retreat, we will offer a chance for faculty to learn more about social entrepreneurship. You will deepen peer relationships and connections and gain a deeper understanding of social innovation and the entrepreneurship community.

During the Summit, you’ll gain fresh new tools that you can apply in your classroom and on your campus. We’ll also provide a forum for you to get actionable feedback and suggestions for you to put into practice back home. Registration is open online through March 20.

Sign Up for Upcoming Sullivan Events

We are very excited about the upcoming Sullivan events we’ll have this spring. We hope you and your campus will get involved. If you’d like more information about any of our events, visit our website!

Changing the Climate by Leaving “Climate Change” Behind

By Robert Russell Sassor & Beth Strachan

Many movements struggle to let go of the revered stories they use time and again to win supporters, but change often requires a new narrative. In 2012, for example, the US marriage equality movement replaced its long-used “basic human rights” messaging with messaging focused on love and family. Doing so allowed the movement to overcome setbacks and dramatically shift norms, behaviors, and expectations through savvy campaign strategies. Since then, public support for marriage equality has been climbing steadily, from 37 percent in 2009 to 62 percent in 2017. And since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, it is now the law of the land.

Changing hearts and minds, building public will, and thereby influencing political will and judicial engagement on any issue requires that advocates first connect with people through language and stories rooted in values we authentically share. Yet by and large, climate change advocacy has continued to focus on the imperative of a stable climate and trends in rising temperatures (often accompanied by ice cap and polar bear imagery). The movement typically relays that we are in crisis mode, and must act immediately to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. But while all these arguments are true, they have largely failed to inspire individual action or widespread change in the United States.

Some leaders and groups are beginning to evolve climate change’s traditional narratives to, for example, encompass health impacts (“climate change is impacting our health”), but new messaging still often hinges on changing people’s attitudes toward climate change itself. It still seeks to build public will in support of the issue as a precursor to driving policy and action to tackle it—and it isn’t working. Surveys show that even though more and more Americans understand climate change is real, is human caused, and directly affects communities, the issue remains a low priority for taking action. More than a decade of investment in advocacy and marketing to raise the alarm on climate change—during both progressive and conservative ascendance—has not yet galvanized political or public will in the United States. In fact, the issue remains a political third rail even for people who believe we need to act now.

It’s worth asking then: Is there a fatal flaw in the discourse around climate change? Is it time to let go of the climate change “sacred cow” and create a narrative centered on common values? We believe the answer to both questions is yes, and a natural place to start is by focusing on the health benefits of clean air, water, and land.

Change Is in the Air

The health impacts of climate change are clear and evident; poor air and water quality, natural disasters, extreme heat, and wildfire make us more vulnerable to illness, disease, and death. In 2009, The Lancet medical journal declared climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” and in November, it released a report on how climate change is “shaping the health of nations for centuries to come.” These findings are underscored in a domestic context by the 2018 US National Climate Assessment, which notes the interconnected impacts climate change presents for the US economy, natural resources, and our health. The American Public Health Association is meanwhile prioritizing the issue on behalf of the nation’s public health field, and recently announced the launch of a new Center for Climate, Health and Equity.

Within the health field, the medical literature and galvanizing work of the World Health Organization and others are contributing to a particular emphasis on clean air. At last year’s Global Climate and Health Forum, for example, “air pollution” was the term on everybody’s lips, including Howard Frumkin’s of the the Wellcome Trust, who said: “Five years ago at a meeting on climate and health, we would have heard much less talk about air pollution … Air pollution has emerged as an incredibly powerful issue to advance our discussion of climate change.” He and others have noted that air pollution is salient for policymakers and people, because it is happening now, the pollution is tangible, and its impacts on human health are direct and recognizable.

Air pollution is also salient for health professionals. Independent medical literature underscores the urgency for action, which may be fueling the field’s newfound focus. A 2013 MIT study (using 2005 data) attributed 200,000 premature deaths in the United States per year to poor air quality. Studies are also uncovering other harmful impacts, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, cardiovascular diseases, systemic inflammation, impaired cognitive development and memory function, and kidney damage, as well as gastrointestinal, liver, lung, and renal cancers. (See a World Health Organization compendium here.) These conditions may also drive absenteeism in schools and workplaces, exacerbate health care needs and costs, and impinge on our well-being and resilience as individuals, communities, and nations. The impacts are far worse for those who live near sources of air pollution, which are disproportionately near communities already facing disparities. Consequently, the World Health Organization is unifying the field—and its policy and behavior change prowess globally and domestically—to tackle the health inequities air pollution poses.

This focus on air quality is one health-focused example that could serve as a compelling impetus for tackling climate change without necessarily referencing “climate” terms. An air quality narrative could, for example, entail calls to action that help end new fossil fuel projects and shift economies away from coal, oil, and natural gas. Domestically, strategies and messaging designed to prompt policies and action for cleaner air could help: safeguard comprehensive regulations in the Clean Air Act and standards for minimizing particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter; commit the nation to 100 percent clean and renewable energy for all; and create opportunity and political capital to advance a new clean power plan, restore emissions standards, and drive other high-impact policies that seem impossible today but could have public will behind them in two years.

Promising Early Evidence

This approach is already showing promise as a mechanism for motivating action in a clean energy context. While clean energy messaging has historically focused on climate change (“the Earth is warming, we need to do something about it, and clean energy can help”), Sierra Club’s US-based Ready for 100 Campaign instead focused on how air pollution from fossil fuels is putting our health at risk, and how clean and renewable energy will improve our health, leave a better world for our children, and save lives.

The campaign drew on a proprietary national survey conducted in 2015, which indicated that Americans’ values for health and quality of life, particularly for future generations, motivate support for clean energy. Respondents generally ranked protecting air and water quality as higher priorities than fighting climate change, and health-based messages about reducing pollution tested best as reasons to support clean energy goals. The Sierra Club research illuminated an opportunity to engage new clean energy champions (beyond those activated in a “climate change” context) through messages linked directly to their values, particularly through values related to their health.

In just two years, the campaign has already inspired 100 cities, along with 10 counties and two states (Hawaii and California) to pledge to shift to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.

Opportunities to Pursue

Given this, is it time for climate change advocates to develop a shared narrative that better taps people’s values and elevates our health, and in a way that will work across fields? How can we more fully connect health to other values, like economic security, economic development, social justice, environment and sustainability, energy independence, jobs creation, and just transitions for those whose livelihoods rely on the fossil fuel industry?

As we work to answer these questions, let us look to how we can promote more-robust collaboration, reduce duplication of effort, and reinforce central concepts; share resources (through pooling funding, resources, and tools), and mobilize and coordinate across fields and movements; and reimagine community engagement by leading with curiosity, and inviting people to talk about these issues in the context of their experiences and those of their loved ones. Together, we can inspire the policies and actions we seek.

If those of us who work to mitigate climate change unite to make health a national priority—bypassing the climate change third rail—it will be an instructive model for broader shifts in narrative and action, and a potentially formidable force for positive change in our communities.

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Solving Unusual Social Problems

If you’re at all involved in the social entrepreneurship world, there are several major topics you will have heard about. World hunger, clean water, preventable disease treatment, environmental care, social equality, and the like are huge problems that social enterprises are working to tackle. And the work happening in those realms is amazing, but what about the smaller problems?

As a changemaker, you may look around and wonder what problems most people don’t see. Maybe you want to go in a different direction with your efforts. If so, read on to learn about some unusual social problems changemakers are working to tackle.

Fair Trade Electronics

As changemakers, we tend to think more about where our products came from than most people do. Were our clothes made in some sweat shop in Indonesia, or were they made by fair trade artisans? But one industry we tend to forget about when we’re thinking about fair trade is electronics.

Because electronics are so expensive, it can be easy to assume that all the manufacturers are paid fairly for their work. But in 2012, a study actually showed that electronics manufacturers have the worst working conditions, on average.

So what are social entrepreneurs doing about it? Mostly, they’re starting their own electronics manufacturing companies where they can ensure their workers are paid fairly and treated well. You could also start a website that sells fair-trade electronics at near-wholesale prices, then using the profit you do make to raise awareness about this issue.

Supermarket Waste

If you’re like us, every time you clean out the fridge, you find some old bell pepper lurking in a drawer that you meant to use and never did. You have to throw it away, which is a waste of food and money. But it turns out grocery store shoppers aren’t the only people with this problem.

Grocery stores wind up having to throw away a lot of food, too. Like us, they’re estimating what they’re going to need and when it’s going to make it off the shelves. With products like produce that don’t have a long shelf life, they can wind up throwing out a lot of food.

Social entrepreneurs are tackling both the problem of supermarket waste and that of hunger all in one fell swoop. Instead of having to throw the food away, the stores can donate it to “secondhand” grocery stores (meaning they can write it off on their taxes as a donation). The social enterprise can then sell the food at a lower cost so that underprivileged communities can afford more fresh produce, and they can use the profits to feed the hungry.

Bad Tourism

When you went on that vacation to the French countryside a few years back, we’re willing to bet you didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the social impact of your tourism. After all, it’s supposed to be a vacation, right? But tourism done this way can have a huge impact on communities without benefitting them much at all.

It’s worth doing some additional reading on the topic, but in essence it boils down to this: when we visit a community, it’s easy to accidentally offend the residents. We all love a good museum, but sometimes those museums can turn local artifacts into nothing more than commodities for the tourists. And while tourists do spend money that goes into the economy, oftentimes it doesn’t go through ethical channels that get that money back to the people there.

There are several social enterprises endeavoring to change the way we visit the rest of the world. These groups work closely with the locals in a given area (often having several different destinations that they cover) to make sure travelers know the right ways to behave and spend their money to help the community. This also means the tourists get a more genuine cultural experience from the place they’re visiting.

Micro-Giving

A lot of people think that when you donate to charity, you have to donate hundreds or thousands of dollars at a time in order for it to make a difference. It’s also easy to assume that charitable giving comes only (or at least mainly) from individuals. But micro-giving, especially from businesses can make an enormous impact.

There are a lot of ways that people can donate money to charities by doing things they’re already in the habit of – opening tabs in a browser, for example. You can also ask businesses to make micro-donations from their profits, things that will cost them pennies per sale. For example, ask a baker to donate the monetary equivalent of a handful of flour for every loaf of bread that they sell.

Textbook Availability

If you are or were a college student, you have definitely spent some time in your career cringing at textbook prices. Textbooks are notoriously expensive, and they are one of the products that you can’t get a cheaper alternative for. So what happens if you’re an underprivileged student trying to get your books without going broke?

That’s just the issue that a number of social enterprises are working to solve. As a college student, you may also have found that you wound up with books you didn’t want at the end of the semester. Several changemaking initiatives are working to round up those books and either sell them at discounted prices to underprivileged students or donate them to students in developing countries.

Solve the Unusual Social Problems

As changemakers, our job is to look around at the world, see the problems others don’t, and find ways to address them. While there is no doubt that those working on tackling climate change are doing amazing work, there’s also great change happening in more unknown areas. We hope you’ve gotten some ideas and inspiration from this list.

If you’re looking for ways to solve the unusual social problems, or any social problem, check out the rest of our site at the Sullivan Foundation. We work to provide training and resources for budding changemakers. Learn about how you can join one of our Ignite Retreats for a weekend of igniting change.

Funding Innovations That Break the Mold

By Lateefah Simon & Timothy Silard

Patrisse Cullors is creating a network of rapid responders, as an alternative to police, to support victims and survivors of state violence and mass criminalization. Raj Jayadev is helping individuals who face incarceration, their families, and their communities play an active role in their defense. Nicole Pittman is taking on the practice of placing children on sex offender registries.

These leaders are finding new ways to break down barriers to opportunity and justice at a time when people of color, immigrants, and other communities face a resurgent wave of hostility and violence, both in the United States and elsewhere. In this moment, we need more leaders who are not satisfied with anything less than obliterating the systems of oppression that harm communities of color and working people, and who are deeply embedded in the communities they serve. But to make headway against these challenges, these leaders need those of us in philanthropy to step up and completely rethink our approach to investing in social change.

What does it take for philanthropy to effectively support emerging leaders and their risky ideas? Our experience with the Leading Edge Fund—a three-year fellowship launched by the Rosenberg Foundation and the Hellman Foundation in 2016 to support cutting-edge, social change ideas—has underlined the importance of four funding practices. While these practices aren’t particularly new, we believe our experiences over the past three years can offer some fresh examples of and new perspectives on how to apply them.

Give Leaders Space and Opportunity to Think—and Act—Big

Nonprofit and movement leaders are chronically overworked. The constant stress related to fundraising, and managing and growing organizations—all while advancing movements and organizing communities to push back against injustice—leaves little time or space for deep thinking about how to fundamentally change the odds for and with disenfranchised people.

The Leading Edge Fund is a state-based fellowship that provides unrestricted support to organizers and activists to help nurture their long-term vision for change. The fund supports fellows to think (and act) big by providing general support funds to use as they wish in their efforts to change our communities. Our hope is that the availability of flexible, unrestricted support will allow fellows the space to reflect and focus their energy and creativity on pursuing their boldest ideas. As one example, building on her strong history of advocacy and activism, including as a founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Cullors has used fellowship funds to support the development of community-based, rapid-response “justice teams” to combat police violence and to write her New York Times best-selling memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist.

Give Leaders Time to Try and Fail

In any endeavor, it can take years to turn promising ideas into reality, and that’s especially true for social movements. Take, for example, the movement to make marriage equality a reality in the land, and the ongoing fight for civil rights. Bold and transformative change is possible only through sustained, long-term, patient, and coordinated advances; there may not be a straight path to change, and the work may occur in fits and starts. But scarce resources often force nonprofits and activists to focus on the short term. The impulse can be to play it safe and stick to tried-and-true approaches that will appeal to philanthropic supporters, even if those approaches are not delivering the systemic change that will unlock real progress.

To get rid of restrictions and requirements that often stifle long-term thinking and groundbreaking ideas, we let go of the need to have measured outcomes. Instead, we decided to invest in the leaders and support their development for the long haul. We also connect fellows with experts and partners that can help them identify areas of growth as well as the type of supports they need. For example, Raja Jorjani, who is working to ensure that immigrants impacted by the criminal justice system have legal representation, was able to meet with Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and learn even more about the transformative power of litigation for social change.

We also let go of funding practices intended to “manage” grantees’ work. For example, the fund does not require detailed proposals or budgets with annual deliverables, quantified outcomes, and frequent reporting. Our expectation is not that fellows will accomplish their goals in one year or three years—or even 10 years. Rather than giving us ongoing grantee reports, fellows share their failures and successes with their cohort and with us during regular retreats, and submit annual updates about their efforts. Since we are focused on the leaders, rather than the success of their idea, accepting the risk that some of their ideas may fall short even as others take hold and flourish is baked into the design.

Support the Leader, Not Just the Organization

Leadership awards are typically tied to the work people are doing within a specific organization, and grants are awarded for project-based goals or for organizational support. Even in leadership development, the trend is to support not only leaders, but also their senior team, the board, or organizational systems.

By contrast, our fund is agnostic when it comes to affiliation. Fellows can be leaders or founders of staffed nonprofit organizations, solo operators with nonprofit status, employees of public systems or legal aid organizations, or individual activists. Instead, we focus on the strength of their potential and their ideas.

For example, Jayadev founded Silicon Valley De-Bug to mobilize communities in Silicon Valley around social justice issues, including workers’ rights and criminal justice reform. Today, the platform is a vehicle for community organizing to impact the outcome of cases and transform the court system. However, Meredith Desautels’ fellowship—and effort to end the incarceration of children—isn’t tied to her work with any one organization, and Jorjani is working within a government institution as a public defender.

Remember That Movements Thrive on Connections

Social justice work can be isolating. Its fierce urgency and the daily grind can be all-encompassing. And fundraising pressures can make organizations feel more like competitors than allies, which puts the success of our collective movements at stake.

Part of our work, therefore, is to help foster a network of activists who can support each other to advance equity and social justice. Toward this end, we convene retreats where fellows share ideas, get hands-on training to build their capacity, and grow and strengthen their personal relationships. Training has included how to make a case of support for funders and wellness for social justice leaders.

Fellows also have had the opportunity to collaborate on issues and projects during retreats. Raha Jorjani and Raj Jayadev, for example, collaborated on a symposium that focused on prosecutor accountability. Patrisse Cullors and Morning Star Gali organized a convening for leaders from Movement for Black Lives and Native organizers. We also make the retreats family friendly; fellows can bring their children to mealtime and retreat activities.

In other efforts to spur cross-fertilization and relationship building, we encourage fellows to use their grant funds to support networking with other fellows, whether through site visits to their communities or shared learning opportunities. As one example, Nicole Pittman visited Silicon Valley DeBug to learn how to integrate participatory defense in her work. From the beginning of this work, participants told us they wanted a “relational vs. transactional” experience—and we’ve tried to deliver.

All too often, nonprofit and community leaders feel bound and beholden to philanthropy, responding to our often-difficult requirements, and tailoring their ideas and proposals to what they think we want to fund. Working with these inspiring fellows has reminded us that the best role philanthropy can play in advancing social justice is to flip the power equation and work in service to those who are making a difference on the frontlines.

Listen to these grassroots leaders, invest in their great ideas, help them grow their networks—and then get out of the way. That’s what we’re trying to do, and we hope it is a promising formula for building and growing stronger social movements. Now more than ever, we need to give movement leaders the resources, flexibility, and connections they need to bring their vision for justice to life.

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Interview with a Changemaker: On the Move Art Studio

This week, we caught up with Josh Nadzam, a Sullivan Award winner in 2012 and the co-founder of the On the Move Art Studio. He told us about what the studio is doing to spread positivity and confidence to neighborhoods across Kentucky.

Can you tell me about the On the Move Art Studio?

I’m the cofounder, and we are a nonprofit. Our main mission is to go to low-income neighborhoods and have free art classes for the kids.

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