Tag: Democracy Collaborative

Information Overload: The Victim, the Culprit, the Solution

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Piled on my desk are several issues of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a few copies of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Bruce Katz’s The Metropolitan Revolution, the latest report from the Democracy Collaborative and assorted articles that I should read. Sound familiar? What does this tell you? That I’m still caught up in the last century’s hard copy preference? While that’s true, the bigger point is that I am constantly surrounded by information that I don’t have time to read, think about, or learn from because I am too busy doing.

Consider this from a 2013 article by science and technology writer David Russell Schilling:

Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

Now at the same time that we are drowning in information, we’re all adding to it. Yes, WRAG, and probably most of you who are reading this post, is a part of the problem. We all manage programs, produce reports, host seminars – all chock full of information – good information, valuable information – but information that many don’t have the bandwidth to utilize.

Enough! At least, that’s what WRAG is saying.

Thanks to a grant from the Taproot Foundation, WRAG will be undertaking a comprehensive effort to learn what we do that truly helps our membership be more effective and responsible in their philanthropy. That is our mission. We want to be more laser-focused in accomplishing that mission. We still want to offer that inspiring speaker, that provocateur who will push us to think more expansively, but we also want to offer our members what they can use now, what they need now. We want to offer them tools, information and speakers that enable them to be more effective and responsible philanthropists. WRAG members, you’ll be hearing more. Stay tuned.

Community foundations across the country highlighted in new report

The Democracy Collaborative has released a new report called, “A New Anchor Mission for a New Century,” that features 30 community foundations from around the country that are leveraging their role as anchor institutions to increase their impact in their communities. The report highlights WRAG’s and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s role in launching the Community Wealth Building Initiative in our region. (Democracy Collaborative, 11/17)

In 2011, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers began to explore an emerging enterprise development project, the Metropolitan Washington Community Wealth Building Initiative, and hired The Democracy Collaborative to conduct a feasibility study. After that study was completed, the association appointed The Community Foundation for National Capital Region as the leading funder to oversee implementation of a network of green, employee-owned businesses creating wealth-building jobs in low-income communities and connected to anchor demand, for which it retained CDFI City First Enterprises and business consultancy Next Street. The first business planned is an employee-owned clean water management company, for which New Markets Tax Credits and other funding is currently being sought.

VETERANS | As part of their pro bono program, Deloitte collaborated with the University of Southern California’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families on a piece of research exploring veterans needs. On Thursday, December 4th, Dave Porges, National Director of Corporate Citizenship, will lead a session where you can learn more about the study. RSVP here.

FOOD | The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that 20 percent of what ends up in municipal landfills is food. Many families and organizations are taking on new ways to reduce food waste as their personal responsibility. (NPR, 11/17)

HIV/AIDS | According to a new D.C. Department of Health Report, “D.C. Takes on HIV,” half of adult D.C. residents say that through city prevention campaigns, they’ve learned more about HIV. (WCP, 11/17)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | In their “2014 Home Affordability Study,” personal finance website, Interest.com, gave out grades to the country’s largest cities based on the ability of middle-income families to afford a median-priced home. The D.C. region was given a “C”. (DCist, 11/17)

ARTS | Art exhibit shows ‘What Hope Looks Like’ (WTOP, 11/18)

EDUCATION | As Chancellor Kaya Henderson prepares the District’s school budget for next year, she declares 2015 “the year of the high school,” after years of focusing on improving outcomes for lower grades. In addition to greater emphasis on high schools, Henderson also announced other areas of focus, including (WaPo, 11/17):

[…] giving more students citywide access to rigorous learning experiences, improving opportunities for young men of color, and increasing the number of schools that offer a longer school day.

Simply put, it’s cold! Throughout the region, however, there are a few ways to help those who may not have a warm place to go. Here are a few suggestions

– Ciara

What does it take to launch a new initiative?

2014 WRAG Delegation to Cleveland

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

It was 2011 when I first learned of the Evergreen Cooperatives from three local grantmakers – Linda Howard of the Summit Fund, Kristin Pauly of Prince Charitable Trusts, and Margaret O’Bryon then of the Consumer Health Foundation. The Evergreen Cooperatives are worker-owned businesses located in underserved areas of Cleveland that supply nearby anchor institutions with services and goods they need. This philanthropy-led initiative in Cleveland, designed to actually move people out of poverty and into the middle class, was causing a buzz. By inviting the Evergreen Cooperatives’ leader to speak with local leaders, these three foundation executives started a powerful conversation.

A spark/an idea. The spark was undoubtedly the dynamic presentation (View part 1 and 2) by Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative, the organization that had been hired by the Cleveland Community Foundation to lead this work in Cleveland. He shared the model, the goals, and the potential for the Greater Washington region with funders, nonprofit leaders, and government officials. There were many questions and some reservations about the model’s potential here, but overall, attendees left wondering, “What if this really could work?” However, that spark alone was not enough to launch the initiative.

Resources and research. A group of about a dozen funders combined their resources for a $250,000 pool to hire Ted Howard and the Democracy Collaborative (based at the University of Maryland) to research the viability of the Evergreen model here in our region. This work included interviewing almost 200 local leaders. Afterwards, there was no question that an adaption of the principles and ideals of the Evergreen Cooperative’s worker-owner model was possible here. But, the due diligence alone was not enough to get it off the ground either.

Deeper research. Now a leader was needed to decide what kind of business had the greatest opportunity for success and to develop a capital plan to underwrite the start up costs of that business. John Hamilton, President of City First Enterprises, was that leader. He understood the business world and he understood the needs of the community. John and his team determined that the biggest opportunity laid in anchoring this work to a municipality. Next, they determined that stormwater/cleanwater management was the area of work with the greatest immediate potential here in our region. Combining those two factors with a desire by Prince George’s County to identify new approaches to combat wealth inequality in the County made Prince George’s County the optimal municipality to begin this work.

Collaboration. So, what does it take to launch an initiative? A strong cross-sector collaboration to meet a community need is a must have. The philanthropic community was the catalyst, the academic community provided the research, and government had a need to address: compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act standards. All of these factors have converged in a way to make the initiative possible.

The last ingredient. Even with all the partnership stars aligning, there is still work to be done. All parties are eager to launch the initiative and implement the tenets of community wealth building in Prince George’s County, but are awaiting finalization of the necessary agreements. We are excited about the potential impact of the Community Wealth Building Initiative and look forward to providing you with an update of our progress soon.

Note: Late last month, WRAG hosted the second tour of the Evergreen model for local funders potentially interested in becoming a part of this work. To learn more, contact Tamara Copeland at WRAG or Jason Washington at City First Enterprises.

Stormwater, lettuce, and the promise of community wealth building

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

When thinking about starting a business, one typically focuses on two key elements: the market potential for the proposed product or service and its profitability. Funders in the Greater Washington region are thinking about starting businesses. But they are approaching the task in an unusual way.

Like any business owner, grantmakers seek profitability and long-term sustainability. But beyond these common objectives, the philanthropic entrepreneurial vision shifts a bit. Funders also want to ensure that new businesses lead to positive social changes in our region. They want businesses to create jobs that provide entrance into the workforce for low-income individuals. They want businesses to tap into the procurement power of local anchor institutions, like universities, hospitals, and local governments, to ensure their long-term sustainability in the community. And, they want these businesses to be employee-owned so that they generate true community wealth, not just paychecks.

To achieve this ambitious goal, funders have launched the Community Wealth Building Initiative.

Last year, the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland was commissioned by a group of funders to meet with nearly 100 leaders in the region to determine their receptiveness to and the feasibility of the community wealth building model. With overwhelming support for the project, the funders hired City First Enterprises to identify cooperative business opportunities that hold the most potential for success. Yesterday, before a packed room of funders, John Hamilton, head of City First Enterprises, shared his vision for taking this effort to the next level.

City First has identified two potential enterprises: stormwater management and the greenhouse production of lettuce. The feasibility of the first rests in high public interest in improving the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The possibility for the latter is related to the high demand – approximately $170 million a year – for lettuce by area hospitals and universities.

Conversations are now underway with local jurisdictions and anchor institutions to determine where best to locate and launch these businesses. What started out as an idea in 2011 has been researched and nurtured, investigated and analyzed. The opportunities are there. The funding community is ready to take the next steps. The Community Wealth Building Initiative may truly be transformative for some low income residents in the region.

This effort isn’t about having a job. It’s about owning one’s future.

Note: This Initiative is housed at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. For more information, contact Angela Jones-Hackley.