Warren Wilson College’s Free Tuition Plan Results in Record Freshman Enrollment

College enrollment numbers have dwindled nationally since 2011, but one small college in North Carolina’s mountains has found a way to reverse that trend in a big way.

Warren Wilson College’s new North Carolina Free Tuition Plan guarantees a tuition-free college education to every eligible incoming North Carolina undergraduate student. The plan helped bring in not only the largest incoming freshman class in the college’s history, but also the largest number of new North Carolina first-year students the college has had for at least 20 years.

The fall 2018 group of new students broke multiple records for Warren Wilson, a partner school in the Sullivan Foundation network of colleges and universities. The college welcomed 302 new students this year, and 250 of those were first-time students, the largest freshman class in the college’s history and a 71 percent increase over last year’s freshman class. Of the new freshmen, 104 were from North Carolina, a 246 percent increase over last year’s first-year North Carolina freshman numbers. Official census numbers are determined on the tenth day of class.

Given that national enrollment numbers for colleges and universities have decreased steadily every year since 2011, according to the National Student Clearinghouse and The Chronicle of Higher Education, this record-breaking incoming freshman class size for Warren Wilson is particularly surprising.

Community engagement is a requirement for graduation at Warren Wilson College. Here, a student works at a community garden as part of the school’s Service Day observance on August 23, 2018.

“College enrollments are largely flat or down across the country, so Warren Wilson College’s results are extraordinary given the current environment,” said Kevin Crockett, Senior Executive at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a higher education consulting firm where Warren Wilson College is currently a client. Crockett has over 20 years of experience developing enrollment and retention strategies.

“I am thrilled to see our enrollment numbers this year confirm that the Warren Wilson College North Carolina Free Tuition initiative has done exactly what we intended it to do – expand access to college education for students in this state, particularly access to the innovative integrated experience that Warren Wilson offers,” said Warren Wilson College President Lynn Morton. “Since its founding in 1894, this college has stood for educational access in this region. With NC Free, we are remaining true to our roots.”

“NC Free has definitely made me more interested in staying closer to home for college,” said freshman Hazel Freeman from Brevard, NC. “With NC Free, I am able to enjoy my college experience without having to worry about a tremendous amount of student debt.”

Concerns about student loan debt have recently made national headlines. Student borrowers in the United States currently average loans totaling $22,000 by graduation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Orientation Day, 2018, at Warren Wilson College

“I visited Warren Wilson three times and really wanted to go here. I was so excited to learn about the NC Free program because I never would have been able to come here otherwise,” said freshman Sierra Davis from Kernersville, North Carolina. “I am so excited to be here and am planning to major in environmental education. I’m already on a work crew at Verner Center for Early Learning – I love it!”

As Davis’s work at the preschool center shows, Warren Wilson College’s experiential education model fully integrates its liberal arts curriculum with work experiences and the Community Engagement Commitment, a graduation requirement that involves sustained community service work.

“We know that the NC Free Tuition plan has not only enabled more North Carolina students to attend Warren Wilson College, but it will also allow local students to invest the knowledge and skills that they gain here right back into our community and our state,” said Morton.

“When I received full tuition, it felt like everything was falling into place,” said freshman Clairissa Hitcho from Fayetteville, North Carolina. “It has made it possible for me to be able to achieve my dreams, be close to my family and get to stay in the beautiful state of North Carolina.”

This article was originally published on the Warren Wilson College website.

Mary Baldwin University’s Alternative Spring Break Yields Food for Thought

Ensuring access to healthy food starts from the ground up. That’s what students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University (MBU) learned on this year’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Athens, Georgia.

The trip, which took place March 2-6, was sponsored by the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement. MBU students were happy to get their hands dirty, helping out at organizations like Ugarden, the University of Georgia’s (UGA) student community farm, where they built raised plant beds and learned crop-protection techniques, and Grow It Know It, a trailblazing program connecting Athens’ middle schools to farms, where they harvested and cleared kale plants, turned compost, fed goats, and helped children make bread, all located right at the local school.

“I definitely saw our students process how gardening and growing food fits into the big picture of addressing climate change, food insecurity and sustainability,” said Robert Clemmer, MBU admissions counselor, who has a passion for food sustainability and helped organize the trip with the Spencer Center. “Students saw some of the most fortunate areas of Athens, but through the organizations we worked with, they were able to see how groups in the area are addressing issues in less fortunate communities.

Photo courtesy of Mary Baldwin University

They also visited UGA’s Botanical Garden, a living laboratory for learning about plants and nature, and the Athens Community Council on Aging, which maintains a garden behind their facility for growing and sharing produce with their community.

But the best part?

“I enjoyed eating fresh greens from straight from the ground, and the relief in knowing that fresh food can still be grown without harmful chemicals to keep the pests away,” said Jessica Hall, a Class of ’20 student who went on the trip.

This article originally was published on the Mary Baldwin University website.

Rollins College Recognized as National Leader in Engaging Students in Democracy

For the third straight year, Rollins College, one of the Sullivan Foundation’s partner schools, has been named a voter-friendly campus by a pair of national nonpartisan organizations. Rollins was one of just 124 universities in the nation to receive the designation for 2019–2020.

The Voter Friendly Campus initiative, led by Campus Vote Project and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), holds participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage students to register and vote. Its mission is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process.

Rollins was evaluated based on a campus action plan to engage student voters in 2018 and how the College facilitated democratic engagement efforts on campus. The Rollins College Democracy Project, a student-led civic engagement initiative, created a strategic road map to engage students in the electoral process.

Photos courtesy of Rollins College

“A big piece of this year’s action plan involved targeting specific majors that didn’t turn out to vote in as high of numbers in the 2016 elections,” said Bailey Clark, associate director of the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement. “We catered our programming to attract students who were less likely to be engaged.”

The Democracy Project partnered with the Orange County Supervisor of Elections and League of Women Voters to organize 20 voter registration drives on campus and collaborated with the College’s Office of Residential Life & Explorations to register students and stage voting simulations in first-year residence halls. More than 250 Rollins students either registered for the first time or changed their voting address to the College.

The Democracy Project’s plan also created spaces for political discourse. It hosted a pair of meet-and-greet events with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Mike Miller, the Republican challenger for Murphy’s U.S. House District 7 seat, and held three Politics on Tap events, which allowed nearly 100 students to discuss current events and policy issues under the guidance of a Rollins professor.

“Receiving this designation for a third consecutive year is singular proof of Rollins’ commitment to civic engagement and offering an education of and for global citizens and responsible leaders,” says Rollins President Grant Cornwell. “The meaningful work of the Democracy Project is a prime example of our students’ capacity to inspire action in our democracy and cultivate positive social change.”

 

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.”

Rollins College’s Department of Social Entrepreneurship Enlists Students on T-Shirt Campaign

When you’re looking to deliver a message to the masses, say it with a T-shirt. That’s the idea behind a contest sponsored by the Department of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College in Central Florida.

Rollins already has earned global recognition for its Social Entrepreneurship program, the first to be accredited by AACSB International, a nonprofit association that brings together educators, students and businesses to develop the next generation of leaders. AACSB accreditation ranks the department among the elite—less than 5% of business programs around the world attain it.

Now Dr. Tonia Warnecke, the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins, wants to spread the word about the innovative program campus-wide as well.

The department has challenged students to design a T-shirt that captures the essence of the program, Warnecke said. “In addition to coming up with a great slogan and design, we decided to have the contest as an opportunity to engage students in the social entrepreneurship major and minor,” she added. “It is important for students in the major and minor to be part of a community and to feel connected to the program they are enrolled in. It also gives them the chance to think critically about how they want to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship as well as share the opportunities provided by their major with others.”

It’s no secret that young people appreciate the fashionable simplicity of logoed T-shirts that express their interests and passions. “Students love having T-shirts displaying the programs, clubs, organizations, and sports they are involved in,” Warnecke said. “In addition to being fun and rewarding, the contest is a way for students to further develop their creative design and marketing skills.”

The contest launched on February 13, and the deadline for submissions is March 1, although Warnecke said the department may decide to extend the deadline as midterms approach. “We received our first submission the day after the contest launched, and I have received email inquiries from several students about the contest, so students are excited about it!”

Warnecke earned her bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and returned as a faculty member after receiving her masters’ degree and Ph.D. She co-developed the school’s Social Entrepreneurship major and minor at Rollins College in 2013, according to her Chair’s Message on the Department of Social Entrepreneurship’s website.

“In our global economy, thinking about business as a tool for social change has never been more timely,” Warnecke wrote in the Chair’s Message. “In the aftermath of the Great Recession, and in a society where environmental degradation and socio-economic inequalities are becoming more serious every day, social entrepreneurship helps students hone their skills of leadership, innovation and creativity and fully engage in their communities—local and global—as they apply business skills in novel ways.”

To learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship program at Rollins College, read the department’s mission statement here.

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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New Tool Could Help Objectively Evaluate Impact of Social Enterprises on Local Communities

As more corporations seek to quantify the social benefits they bring to local communities, Deloitte, one of the leading accounting firms and the largest professional services network in the world, has developed the Social Impact Measurement Model (SIMM) to provide some hard, accurate numbers.

SIMM is a machine-learning tool designed to forecast the impact of a large corporate investment—such as the opening of a new office or headquarters—on a community. It works with more than 140 social measures, including education, housing, family and migration, income and employment, and transportation.

Companies like Amazon and Toyota often accept multimillion-dollar tax incentives to relocate to or open a new factory, facility or office in a given county. Beyond the creation of new jobs, it’s difficult to quantify the corporation’s social impact in terms of factors like alleviating poverty, improving local schools or boosting public health.

“Our Social Impact Measurement Model accurately predicts what could result from a large capital investment—or what may or may not happen in its absence,” Deloitte says in a press release. “This machine-learning model estimates the social impact of investments at the U.S. county level for the four years following the investment, analyzing 142 social measures ranging from child poverty and reading proficiency to carpooling and population migration. The SIMM helps people better understand what a specific investment’s impact might be as well as why certain locations would see greater or lesser improvements than others. This can support more informed decision-making by companies, community leaders and policymakers—and enable greater coordination among them to help further the public good.”

Deloitte’s SIMM can also help investors objectively determine the value that a new social enterprise can bring to a community, said Janet Foutty, chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, according to AZ Business Magazine. “With the rise of the social enterprise—those organizations looking beyond revenue and profit to understand their impact on society—many of our clients are raising the profile of purpose-driven outcomes,” she said. “(SIMM) enables our clients to understand if their investments will pay social dividends, providing value to companies, communities and local governments.”

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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Philanthropic Leadership Means Following the Frontlines

By Alison Corwin

When we talk about “building the capacity” of frontline and grassroots leaders who are changing structures, policies, and systems, what does that really mean for funders? Many funders use antiquated and static systems of inquiry to identify and make judgements about which groups are well-equipped to achieve social change. The truth is that philanthropy holds a disproportionate amount of power; it serves as a gatekeeper for the resources that belong to our communities. And while the folks most impacted by any given issue—particularly frontline communities of color—hold the solutions and are in the best position to implement equitable systems change, our field continues to struggle with identifying and funding existing capacity on the ground.

An evolved approach is not only necessary, but also possible. As Ayanna Pressley, who beat a 10-term Congressman in her primary race in Massachusetts, said on her campaign trail: “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”

A funder’s role, then, is to build our own individual and institutional skills to receive and incorporate the insight these leaders and communities provide. We must listen to them, follow them, and respond in ways that help us model the systems change—the new rules, norms, and equitable power structures—they are creating.

It begins with community

For me, a big part of doing this is building a community of folks to talk to, and learn with and from, in a space that encourages vulnerability and welcomes curiosity. For example, I participated in a year-long collective-learning program for funders housed at the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG)—an organization that has centered its mission on power and racial justice for nearly 40 years. Called Project Phoenix, the program fostered a community of funders eager to work together at the intersection of democracy, the economy, and the environment, and enabled us to grow together and deepen relationships. Those experiences continue to heavily influence my view of what is possible through collective learning and action. In spaces like these and in the communities where we work, partners can cultivate trust over time by working together, making promises to one another, and addressing broken promises when they happen. In doing so, we remain accountable, transparent, and open to change and self-reflection.

Learning environments help those of us with white privilege and philanthropic institutional privilege ground ourselves and our work in community and, in many cases, re-educate ourselves about history. My formal education about the history and systems of the United States was in part an intentional miseducation to perpetuate the dominant white power structure. An evolved approach means recognizing that history is storytelling. We must seek out and listen to a wide range of stories, especially from communities of color, if we are to more fully understand how our current, racially unjust system in the United States came about, what has reinforced it, and what we can do to change it.

The real face of leadership

Funders do not always see that the lived experience of many powerful frontline and grassroots leaders is what makes them experts. Their expertise might not fit neatly into a box that funders can check off, and they may not agree with funders’ ideas or strategies. But it is not their role to agree with us or fit into philanthropy’s predetermined and often structurally racist criteria; it is our responsibility to see them, listen to them, and follow their lead. Building relationships and trust with these leaders means spending time with folks in communities—where they live, play, pray, congregate, eat, organize, dream, and work together.

Based on many conversations with field leaders about what it takes to recognize and resource frontline strength and leadership—again, particularly among leaders of color—here are some specific recommendations:

  • Be responsive to the way people and movements organize themselves. Social justice movements are highly informed and have their own analysis about how best to advance power, justice, and solutions. Funders shouldn’t be prescriptive about their own theory of change or outcomes. The Chorus Foundation, for example, uses grantee-led processes to make local funding decisions that support organizations working toward a just transition; shifting from old, extractive economies to regenerative, democratic alternatives that benefit frontline communities.
  • Support organizational capacity, as well as the capacity of individuals, networks, and coalitions. Not all impactful work happens inside a nonprofit structure, and it often requires that funders support an ecosystem of collaborative work. The Solutions Project’s Fighter Fund, for example, provides rapid-response grantmaking to support pivotal frontline leaders, not just organizations.
  • Make space for divergence and debate in movements, rather than force consensus and uniformity. Movements are not a monolith; movement leaders will not always agree on solutions, in part because they bring different experiences and histories to their work. The Advancing Equity and Opportunity (AEO) Collaborative creates space by bringing together leaders with a diversity of perspectives, across 13 states in the southeast, to advance environmental solutions rooted in equity.
  • Ask your partners what they need to be healthy and present in their work. Many frontline leaders are working tirelessly and on thin budgets. Cover the cost of childcare, eldercare, or other priorities when asking partners to travel or spend time away from their daily lives and community. The Andrus Family Fund, for example, helps strengthen grantee partners’ ability to serve system-impacted young people by providing flexible support that includes leadership development.
  • Provide long-term, flexible (general operating) resources at a level that allows leaders to dream, build, implement, and realize the change they seek. Restrictive funding keeps folks having to defend their communities daily, leaving little room for them to do systems-level work. More funders need to provide long-term resources that complement immediate and responsive support such as rapid-response funding.

Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, a national organization building Indigenous power, declared to a room of funders recently, “Philanthropy has historically invested in frontline, grassroots, and Indigenous leadership just enough for us to fail.” In other words, many funders expect transformative results from frontline leadership on a shoestring budget. They invest in frontline leadership work just enough to say they support it, but often not at the same level they fund white-led organizations or initiatives. I have heard others express this sentiment many times over—including at the Solidarity to Solutions Week, a frontline response to the Global Climate Action Summit, organized collectively by hundreds of It Takes Roots members and its directors Angela Adrar (Climate Justice Alliance), Cindy Wiesner (Grassroots Global Justice Alliance), Dawn Phillips (Right to the City Alliance), and Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network).

Grounded in race

Even if we implement these practices, we will ultimately fail to create real systems change unless we center and pursue racial justice and equity, both in our organizations’ internal operations, and in our external grantmaking and investment strategies.

Race is the predominant determinant of quality of life in the United States, and we know communities of color face disproportionate injustice. Racial justice—the systemic, fair treatment of people of all races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all—cannot be a separate goal or outcome; it must be the central objective of our collective work. We grantmakers must not only be allies, but also join our partners’ struggle on the frontlines, and recognize that the same communities bearing injustice are the heart and soul of our social movements.

What if our philanthropic practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion were the entry point for moving along a continuum toward justice and power?

Learning takes place in communities

I did not come to these ideas on my own. I certainly did not enter philanthropy six years ago understanding how to support capacity or power building. Resources such as NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit and the Funders For Justice’s Divest/Invest’s From Criminalization to Thriving Communities toolkit have been helpful guides along my learning journey. So has participating in communities of practice like NFG and others where I can be vulnerable and curious. I would not know how to, nor would I have the resolve or energy to do this work in isolation.

Together, by learning from and growing with these various philanthropic and frontline communities, we funders can shift the culture of philanthropy so that we are part of—rather than in control of—social movements and systems-change work.

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