Earlier this week at the Nancy Latimer Convening for Children and Youth, Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, former vice president of community philanthropy at The Minneapolis Foundation and former MCF board chair, was honored with the “Nancy” award for her many years dedicated to advancing the cause of early childhood development.
In her acceptance speech, she offered five lessons she has learned from her efforts and hopes that others take to heart as well. They can also be applied to many other areas of philanthropy. Here are five excerpts from what she shared:
- We must never underestimate the unique needs and opportunities of both people and place.
“I’m thrilled that both the Race to the Top funds and the i3 work are spread across different geographies; and as a North Minneapolis resident and a board member of the Northside Achievement Zone, I’m so glad to see the deep focus on North Minneapolis. We will learn a lot about how to enter a community, how to build on the strengths of that place’s people, how to customize services and opportunities, and how to meet the universal goals that we have for all of our children by using targeted approaches.”
- We need to continue to embrace the importance of race and culture in our early childhood work.
“Our world is fast changing where minorities in many communities will soon be the majority; this is true in our own Hennepin County and other parts of the state…The stark disparities in outcomes for specific groups of children of color compel us to explore new strategies and to link the science of early childhood with the art of a culturally specific response.”
- We need to work harder and faster to build a bridge between early childhood and K – 12.
“While there are great models emerging, I don’t think that we as a field have begun to shift our thinking to the whole child continuum both from a program and policy perspective that extends beyond kindergarten…I’m excited about the emerging Strive model and the focus on creating a seamless Cradle to Career system for our children. The good news about this is that Strive acknowledges that the success of our children all starts with a positive early childhood experience, and we should leverage that opportunity for the cause. “
- We as funders must become and remain adamant about the importance of advocacy and the role of foundations in that space.
“Elected officials are there to work on behalf of the good of the people of our state. As funders we bring a unique voice to these conversations and we have to stay ever present along with our nonprofit allies. As this fall brings every House and Senate member up for re-election, many school board and county commissioner races, and the highest offices in our federal government, we need to individually and collectively use our voices for the kids who cannot vote. “
- We must be more committed than ever to defining philanthropy’s role as extending well beyond that of a grantmaker.
“Most of us have many tools in our toolbox in addition to grantmaking, including community knowledge, relationships with donors, convening, communications and public information strategies including social networking, policy and advocacy. We have both ‘cash and cache’ and we should think strategically about when and how to use each.”
She ended with what she said are two of her favorite quotes. From Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” And from Zora Neal Hurston: “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land at the sun but at least we would get off the ground.”