This is actually the second year in a row that the D.C. area has been top ranked in entrepreneurship, but the overall growth of entrepreneurship in the U.S. is notable, with only four cities earning a lower score than last year, and some cities dropping in rank despite higher scores only because others jumped ahead. And while D.C. was the center of entrepreneurship in terms of city rankings, Virginia and Maryland were numbers one and two respectively when it came to comparisons by state, no doubt aided by the gravitational pull of the D.C. metro area, along with some impressive numbers out of Baltimore.
SOCIAL JUSTICE/MASS INCARCERATION | Despite research showing that employment leads to lower rates of recidivism, many returning citizens are met with endless barriers to joining the workforce. (Atlantic, 5/31)
– A newly-released report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the impact of having an incarcerated parent on families. According to the study, nearly 10,000 children in D.C.have a parent who has been jailed. (WCP, 4/26)
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According to a new report, high rates of food insecurity in the U.S. following the recession have yet to come back down, in spite of rising employment rates. (City Lab, 4/22)
Food insecurity in America is an issue that can be hard to see. It is not synonymous with poverty: two-thirds of food-insecure households have incomes above the national poverty level, according to new data from The Hamilton Project. The same report also demonstrates that the way food insecurity is measured often masks the extent of the problem. Instances of food insecurity often arise suddenly and temporarily, and as a result are difficult to track from year to year.
– While many residents living in neighborhoods with very limited access to quality, well-stocked stores would be glad to have the ability to order from fast online delivery retailers à la Amazon Prime, if they happen to live in a predominately black neighborhood, most will find that such services rarely extend to their neck of the woods. The pattern plays out in many metropolitan areas, including the Greater Washington region. (Bloomberg, 4/21)
by Graham McLaughlin, Managing Director, The Advisory Board Company (a WRAG member), and Anthony Pleasant, Owner, Pleasant Assembly
Putting Racism on the Table is a six-part learning series for WRAG member philanthropic CEOs and their trustees to explore key elements of racism together. Last week, participants looked at a case study on mass incarceration with speaker James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of The W. Haywood Burns Institute. Today, Graham McLaughlin, a managing director for The Advisory Board Company and supporter of Clean Decisions (a local business helping returning citizens transition from prison to outside life), and business owner and former Clean Decisions employee Anthony Pleasant, candidly share their respective experiences with navigating the justice system and discuss the challenges still facing returning citizens once they have served their time.
Graham I used to think socioeconomic class drove many bias issues and race was just a correlated factor. Then, I began living and spending the majority of my time with formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic men. In our first month together, I had more direct encounters with police and was treated with more suspicion (by everyone) than I had experienced in my entire life.
It is a world of continual negative feedback. It is a world, in words and actions, that calls you a monster every day. Some of the guys have tattoos, dreadlocks, and could be considered physically imposing. Others are clean cut and dress conservatively. They all face the same daily negative feedback.
Why does this happen? Why do three in four of our city’s black men serve time in prison – a larger percentage than in South Africa during apartheid? One explanation is that the power structure at all levels has extraordinary powers of discretion, and black (and Hispanic if they don’t just keep their head down) men are feared due to biases drilled into us from birth.
Studies show, police target minorities in warrantless searches, preschool teachers suspend black children at three times the rate of whites, prosecutors try black children as adults at a rate 18 times greater than that of white children, judges sentence blacks to 10 percent longer sentences than whites for the exact same crime, and put black children in prison six times as often for the exact same crime. Thurgood Marshall summed up why we have a perpetuating cycle of discrimination when he noted “the basis of the decision to single out [racial minorities for searches] is less likely to be inarticulable than unspeakable.”
And it doesn’t stop once you’ve served your time. When released, you are discriminated against in various areas, from employment, to housing, to civil rights, and live with the shame and stigma of being known for some of the worst things you’ve ever done (or potentially branded for something you didn’t even do). It’s hard to come back from all of this, and not be angry or give up and give in to substances that numb the cold, unfair realities of our society. Some are able to overcome these challenges but, as you will read below, even then the impediments of discrimination are never ending.
Anthony I went to prison as a teenager. When most young people are learning what it means to be an adult, I was learning to survive in prison. Coming out of prison, I was therefore completely unprepared for the world, and if not for Will Avila and Clean Decisions, I would be back in prison, a drug addict, or dead on the streets. Instead, I lived with Graham and Will, a support system almost no returning citizen gets.
Graham mentioned his surprise at police interference. My surprise was at the interactions between Graham and the police. Graham could talk back and reason with police officers – stuff I’d literally be locked up for – and they always believed him!
I know many of you know Graham as a good choir boy now, but he and I were both wild in our younger days. He always smooth talked the police, partly because of his silver tongue, but mostly because of his white face. He has no record. I went to jail for a murder I didn’t commit.
The justice system took ten years of my life. At the time, I was doing many other negative things in my life that deserved punishment, so ultimately, I accepted my sentence. But last weekend, the “justice” system took even more from me, and this time I was doing all positive things.
Two weeks ago, after spending a year learning the trade, I finally launched my own furniture assembly business. Last weekend, I was scheduled for one of my first jobs, living out what should have been one of the happiest, proudest days of my life. Instead, I ended the day penniless, hopeless, and in a jail cell after police pulled up behind my parked car saying they had received a call about a car on fire. Mine was not. They told me to get on the ground, ran my registration (that had an issue I was unaware of), found a “weapon” (the knife in my toolbox), and took me away in handcuffs after leaving my three power drills and toolbox sitting on the side of the road and sending my car to the impound, robbing me of my life savings and the equipment I need to make a living.
My public defender – usually overworked and, therefore, advising to plea out regardless of the case – actually fought for me, and I’m confident I’ll beat the weapon and forged registration charges. However, I don’t go back to court until May 12, can’t get my car out until then, no longer have the tools I need to make a living, and after investing everything in starting the business, not only do I not have any money to my name, but I also owe a donor from Changing Perceptions (the non-profit Will started to support guys coming home) a $1,000 loan repayment, and have no way to earn the money to pay him back.
I was making positive decisions and building a company in the model of Clean Decisions that would hire and help other returning citizens. Now, I have nothing, and if I was like most returning citizens with a limited network, rather than being blessed to have the support and resources of Will, Graham, and Changing Perceptions, I’d go back to drugs and just give up. I will make it. Most wouldn’t.
This is what justice looks like in America.
James Bell, speaking on mass incarceration at WRAG’s most recent Putting Racism on the Table session, advocated for listening sessions with the community to better understand one another. If you’re interested in following that advice, every weekend about 10-12 Clean Decisions/Changing Perceptions members (all formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic males) get together for a “Pancake Saturday” breakfast and discussion. Feel free to email them to participate and hear perspectives and suggestions for leveraging your power and resources to improve our area’s justice system.
Overall, the new study offers the most exhaustive account yet of the rich-poor gap in American life expectancy.The data reveal that life expectancies continuously rise with income in America: The modestly poor live longer than the very poor, and the super-rich live longer than the merely rich.
– Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) president and WRAG Board member Yanique Redwood, and CHFAdministrative and Communications AssistantKendra Allen, share how their organization has used learning journeys to further connect with their grantees and view their work from a different perspective. (NCRP, 4/7)
– Congratulations to Washington Area Women’s Foundation president Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat and her team for receiving Leadership Greater Washington’s 2016 Innovative Community Partner of the Year award! The award was sponsored by The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
Let’s take two hypothetical people, Bernardo and Bernadette. Bernardo makes $2 million a year and spends half of it, or $1 million, on housing. Bernadette makes $20,000 a year and spends just a quarter of it, or $5,000, on housing. According to the golden rule of affordability, Bernardo’s housing is unaffordable, and Bernadette’s is affordable. But of course that’s ridiculous: Bernardo has $1 million left over to spend on other things, while Bernadette has just $15,000. Bernardo will have no trouble getting by in the District with that disposable income, while Bernadette will struggle mightily, particularly if she has kids. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m not factoring in taxes here; even though they’ll take a bigger chunk out of Bernardo’s paycheck, he’ll still be just fine.)
There’s another problem with the 30 percent threshold: Most D.C. households don’t meet it. […] According to a recent study, 51 percent of D.C. renters pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. For some households, that’s fine: A single person with a high income and no car or kids to worry about can pay half his income in rent without a problem. For others, it’s not: A mother of three kids can hardly afford to put most of her meager salary toward rent. The trouble is that things tend to skew the other way. Among very low-income households, 84 percent pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, while just 4 percent of high earners do. That’s problematic for a host of reasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that the 30 percent limit has simply become unrealistic for the majority of households in a high-cost city like D.C.
AGING | A new study from AARP found that among adults between the ages of 45 and 70 that were surveyed, nearly half of those who had lost their job in the last five years and found a new one were making less than they previously had been. Most also found themselves working fewer hours, as securing full time work became more difficult. More highlights from the study can be found here. (WBJ, 3/31 and AARP blog, 3/30)
CSR/COMMUNITY | Opinion: In this op-ed, Robert Musselwhite of the Advisory Board Company, discusses the great positive impact that can come about when business interests and a desire for social change combine. (WaPo, 3/27)
– In a different type of March Madness, Mayor Muriel Bowser convened contractors and developers to drum up interest in several projects across the District aimed at growing affordable housing, the tech sector, and job training in the city. (WCP, 3/30)
EDUCATION | After its Title IX legality was called into question, the plan to open an all-boys school for minority students as part of the “Empowering Males of Color” initiative was given a thumbs up by Attorney General Karl Racine. (WCP, 3/30)
THIS WEEK IN CSR
– Rachel Tappis, the associate director of community impact for The Advisory Board Company, gave us some insight into what she has learned so far as a participant in the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, and why she can’t wait for the next session. (Daily, 2/19)
THIS WEEK IN THE WRAG COMMUNITY – The Washington Business Journal features a profile of each of this year’s Minority Business Leader Awards honorees. Congratulations to Rosie Allen-Herring of United Way of the National Capital Area, Terri Copeland of PNC, and WRAG Board member, Debbi Jarvis of Pepco, on a well-deserved honor! (WBJ, 2/20)
– In her latest post, WRAG president Tamara Copeland shared some great news concerning the Community Wealth Building Initiative (Daily, 2/18)
We hear a lot of talk about racial wealth disparities among America’s current workforce, but another, less-buzzed about piece of the puzzle is the racial retirement savings gap that is leaving many aging Americans without a safety net. (WaPo, 2/18)
White families had over $100,000 more in average liquid retirement savings in 2013 than African American and Hispanic families, according to an analysis done by the Urban Institute, which released a series of charts illustrating wealth inequality in America. That difference has quadrupled since 1989, when white families had $25,000 more in average retirement savings than minorities.
In terms of ratios, white families went from having five times the average savings held by minorities, to having between seven and 11 times the average amount.
HOMELESSNESS | Opinion: The New York Times feature, “Room for Debate,” examines multiple approaches to tackling the issue of homelessness through the eyes of leaders and researchersin the field. Here, you can read the perspectives of each debater on how best to approach homeless services. (NYT, 2/19)
More cities have adopted a homeless policy which might seem like common sense – give homeless people housing. Proponents say it saves money over time and is more humane. Opponents call it a naive approach to a complicated problem, which also costs too much.
Is giving homeless people homes more effective and sensible than making them stay in shelters or on the street?
– The District’s Office of GLBT Affairs (newly retitled as the Office of LGBT Affairs), the D.C. Department of Health, along with the help of a private research organization, are joining forces to conduct a comprehensive health survey that seeks to inform health advocacy initiatives geared toward the LBGT community. For the first time, data will also be collected on transgender individuals. (Daily, 1/23 and Washington Blade, 2/18)
PHILANTHROPY/NONPROFITS | Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has released their new digital publication, Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity, with guidance for funders on how to design an impactful approach customized to their grantees. (GEO, 2/5)
by Rachel Tappis
Associate Director of Community Impact
The Advisory Board Company
When I received my acceptance to the 2015 class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, I was thrilled. Incredible guest speakers, classmates from well-known companies, compelling and substantial subject matter, all led by highly-respected faculty members? Sign me up!
CSR program managers often work in small teams, and it’s rare that fellow employees outside of our departments truly understand the challenges we’re charged with in our roles. The opportunity to spend eight full days over a year immersed in the theory behind what we do, and to come away with practical, applicable steps to heighten our impact, is a luxury I was eagerly anticipating.
We began our year of learning in January with “The Business of CSR,” led by the incredible Tim McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. It’s difficult to adequately sum up the value we derived from our first session, but below are the major takeaways that – one month removed – I can say have truly impacted the way I approach my daily work and the broader strategy behind our program direction:
Remember the why: Lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s review of the evolution of CSR, as well as the major trends in the field over the past several years, allowed our class to revisit the foundation on which our programs are built and re-center ourselves in the goal of what we do and the potential for what we can accomplish.
Go after your greatest challenge: CSR practitioners – especially those who work in small teams – may not always have the opportunity to brainstorm creative solutions to problems with colleagues who hold different perspectives and experiences. The opportunity to do this with our CSR Institute peers was tremendously helpful in the moment, and comforting because we were beginning to establish a terrific network of smart, passionate colleagues from whom we could seek advice and feedback in the future.
Take risks: Michael Smith, special assistant to the president on the My Brothers’ Keeper Initiative, visited from the White House and encouraged us to “Be Fearless” in our approach to generating social impact. The underlying theme amongst the five tenets he shared – make big bets, experiment early and often, make failure matter, reach beyond your bubble, and let urgency conquer fear – is that sticking with the status quo won’t move the needle to the magnitude needed.
Make a compelling business case: Rose Kirk, president of the Verizon Foundation gave great insight on building the business case for CSR, hitting specifically on how to engender critical leadership buy-in and how to evaluate the integration of CSR focus along various business lines. Dane Smith, managing director of FSG also reviewed the concept of shared value, which allowed all of us to examine our program interventions under the lens of how they further the business aims of our organizations alongside social impact.
Build mutually beneficial partnerships: Evan Hochberg, chief strategy officer from United Way Worldwide, delved into nonprofit relationships and revealed his secret sauce for building impactful partnerships that last – building the foundation on shared goals, creating an equal interest in assets, and ensuring transparency and effective account management.
Learn from past successes: Reviewing case studies of successful CSR and shared value integration helped to put the principles we discussed into a day-to-day context that, while different from those we each operate in, gave further depth to the types of challenges we’ve each faced from a logistical and management perspective, and demonstrated that they are not insurmountable.
Between the immense value I derived from the first session and the extent to which I’ve enjoyed keeping up with my classmates over the past month, it goes without saying that I can’t wait for our second session in March!
Additional funds received by D.C. schools serving at-risk students are proving to boost programming offered. The largest investments went to middle schools, where funds were put toward additional technology, more counselors, and extended school days. (WaPo, 12/2)
The D.C. Council approved $80 million to serve the needs of 36,000 students who are in foster care or are homeless, who are receiving welfare benefits or food stamps, or who are performing at least a year behind in high school. That’s about 40 percent of all of the city’s public school students.
“We know poverty affects the way children can succeed in school,” said Soumya Bhat, education finance and policy analyst for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. “Children are more likely to come to school hungry or to be exposed to trauma or have health problems.”
ENVIRONMENT | Last month, WRAG co-sponsored with the Summit Fund, Roger & Vicki Sant, the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and the Federal City Council, an event to acknowledge progress and encourage participation in the continued revitalization of the Anacostia River and its watershed. You can view a special film from the event, The Anacostia River: Making Connections, by Stone Soup Films.