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.
HOUSING/DISTRICT Washington City Paper reveals how loopholes and legal jargon in laws designed to protect residents have continuously threatened the rights of tenants in the District. One law, in particular, is often scrutinized to the benefit of property owners, causing some to fear that tenant rights are slowly crumbling. (WCP, 2/12)
The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, passed in 1980, is at the heart of the District’s efforts to protect tenants from landlords who seek to displace them. The essence of the law is simple: Before an owner sells a building, she or he must give the tenants a chance to buy it themselves. The reality is much more complex. Basic questions of definition—what’s a sale? what’s a fair price?—have taken TOPA (as it’s known) to the courts and back so many times that 35 years after the law’s enactment, still no one really knows what it means.
TOPA isn’t the only area where the city’s well-intentioned housing laws have failed to prevent tenant displacement and rising rents. The core mechanism for fighting these trends is the city’s rent-control law. In theory, it should limit rent increases in apartment buildings constructed before 1975, which comprise the majority of D.C.’s rental housing stock. In practice, due to exceptions built into the law, landlords have capitalized on rising demand by pushing tenants out via lucrative buyouts and replacing them with much higher-paying renters, or by petitioning the city for rent hikes far beyond the usual limits.
But TOPA is the statute whose ambiguities are most routinely plumbed by lawyers, challenged by tenants, and decided by the courts.
– On their blog, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy explains why the national Get on the Map campaign, in which WRAG is participating, is critically important for the social sector, and especially so for funders who invest with an equity lens. (NCRP, 2/12)
Related: WRAG members looking for more information on how to participate in Get on the Map to contribute to WRAG’s own Foundation Maps platform can join the first of three “how to” webinars today at 2pm.
– Opinion: In an effort to bring greater accessibility and an abundance of opportunities to people around the world, a group of foundations including Open Society, are pledging to become key players in the fight over net neutrality. Here’s why they think more philanthropists should get on board. (Chronicle, 2/11)
Per Scholas will receive $25,000 to develop a training program to help low-to-moderate income adults launch and navigate cybersecurity careers. The Mentoring Center is getting a $75,000 to launch a D.C. chapter of BlackGirlsCode, a non-profit organization focused on introducing programming and technology to a new generation.
– Clean Decisions, a new D.C.-based business co-owned by The Advisory Board Company‘s Graham McLaughlin, is helping returning citizens transition from prison to outside life by connecting them with recurring jobs cleaning kitchens at area businesses. (WCP, 2/10)
FOOD | In the ever-shifting landscape of food retail, a recent Washington Post blog reports that some of our country’s largest food makers are selling less packaged, processed foods in grocery stores. They’re selling more of them to low-income consumers in dollar and discount stores at higher per unit prices. At the same time, DC Central Kitchen offers a guide to improving healthy food offerings at corner stores based on their success in the District. (WaPo, 2/7 and DCCK, 2/11)
ARTS | Check out Washington City Paper‘s 2015 Spring Arts Guide that includes recommendations for museums, theater and much more here. (WCP, 2/2015)
EVENTS | Grants Managers Network is celebrating their 10th Annual Conference March 16-18 in National Harbor, MD. More than 60 sessions, plus expanded networking time, are on the agenda, which includes learning tracks on effective practices, outcomes/evaluation, compliance, and data intelligence, among others. To learn more and to register before the early bird rate ends, click here!
Late last week, WRAG held the first class for the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University. CSR leaders from our region and far beyond gathered for the first two-day session of the year-long program. Below, The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin, a member of the inaugural class, shares thoughts on the first session.
By Graham McLaughlin
Director, Community Impact
The Advisory Board Company
With an incredible slate of speakers, faculty members who could teach both the practicalities of the work as well as big picture concepts, and participants from well-known global and regional companies, the bounce in my step as I walked to Johns Hopkins for day one of the inaugural Institute for CSR wasn’t just from the two cups of coffee I’d needed to fortify myself against the cold.
When I learned during introductions that our classroom had previously been the headquarters of the East German embassy, and therefore, due to their desire for secrecy cell phone signals would be unavailable, my appreciation for this opportunity to now truly take a step back from the day-to-day grew even further.
Below, I’ve listed a few takeaways from our (uninterrupted) focus on “The Business of CSR,” the first of four two-day sessions across the year, but my main takeaway from the session, and why I’m so grateful to have participated, was that while we may not have been able to share cell phone transmissions with the outside world, the openness by my fellow participants to share both their successes and challenges was incredibly valuable.
Rarely do we as CSR leaders get to engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions on how to build a vision and execution strategy that will yield the greatest social and business impact. Due to lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s brilliant facilitation, high quality speakers who were told to be provocative in order to push our thinking in different areas, and the expertise of fellow participants, we were able to have these types of discussions from basically 9-5 each day, leading me to have some immediate ideas for improving our “Community Impact” program as well as ways I need to alter my thinking to position us to drive greater impact in the medium-long term as well. Below are three highlights relevant for any program:
Where There is No Vision, the People Perish
This biblical quote is courtesy of guest speaker Michael Smith, Director of the Office of Social Innovation, as he pushed our group to “be fearless.” Thinking big and outside of normal paradigms is necessary to drive transformative change in society and your business. It’s also critical to have a clear vision of what success looks like, what it takes to accomplish, and why your firm is uniquely positioned to execute on this transformative vision.
No Man is an Island…and the Same Principle Holds for CSR
CSR must be integrated into the business, and we as leaders are the ones who must make that happen. Guest speaker Dane Smith, head of FSG’s North American consulting practice, emphasized shared value as a way to scale social impact and business outcomes. Jon Spector, President of the Conference Board, outlined how to make the business case for CSR initiatives to your CEO. In both cases, a critical point was that CSR is not a siloed division in the company, but rather an ethos imbued into the decision-making of the organization.
Multiply your Impact through Partnership
Depending on the size and reach of your company, you may be able to create a program that yields significant impact without deep and varied partnerships. However, to fulfill your total potential impact, your company must become a force multiplier for good, not just partnering with organizations. As guest speaker Jennifer Kim Field from the UN Foundation put it, your company must “curate” these partnerships so they go from transactional to transformational. Creating these types of partnerships requires discipline- in selecting partners, in communicating effectively, and in measuring impact- but yields significant reward for the extra work.
In addition to The Advisory Board Company, the Institute’s inaugural class includes representatives from the BP Foundation, Freddie Mac, the Freddie Mac Foundation, the International Monetary Fund, Washington Gas, Bank of America, Pepco, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Hilton Worldwide, IBM Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Kaiser Permanente, Lincoln Financial Group, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Deloitte, and the Verizon Foundation.
ARTS | Only 27 percent of the plays produced in D.C. this theater season were written by women. To address this disparity, 44 theater companies from around the region have committed to producing a new play by a female playwright in the fall of 2015: (WaPo, 1/24)
The Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, encompassing virtually every large, midsize and fledgling theater company in and around the city, is being billed as a landmark event in the effort to put new plays by female playwrights onstage. Its organizers acknowledge that it won’t permanently rewrite the statistics showing that in this country, about four plays by men get produced professionally for every one by a woman. But the festival does throw down a gauntlet, in the cause of striking a more equitable gender balance — especially given that surveys show that women make up as much as two-thirds of the theatergoing audience across the nation.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY | In a special piece on the Forbes site, the Advisory Board Company‘s Graham McLaughlin writes about why his company is placing a new emphasis on empathy among their employees:
We want to do this because it will further our mission and our margin. By creating this empathetic workforce…we think we can better understand, at a gut level as well as an intellectual level, the needs of our member hospitals and higher education organizations, as well as those of our communities.
By combining our unique skills and expertise with an empathetic approach to our member and community interactions, we can better anticipate their needs and the needs of those they serve, work with our members as a true partner, and ultimately create transformational, positive change in healthcare, education, and our communities.
HEALTH/WORKFORCE | Check out the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region‘s blog for a video about a new health clinic in Ward 8. The clinic also features a workforce development program, funded by the foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, that trains neighborhood residents for positions at the clinic. (CFNCR, 1/24)
EDUCATION | DC schools chancellor Kaya Henderson has announced the creation of a task force on standardized tests to, in her words, “help put testing in the proper perspective.” (WaPo, 1.24)