Inspiration, Renewed Commitments at the Ambassador Awards

April 10, 2014
The Saint Paul Foundation's Carleen Rhodes with this year's Ambassador Awards honorees.

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners’ Carleen Rhodes with this year’s Ambassador Awards honorees.

On April 7, The Saint Paul Foundation held its annual Facing Race Ambassador Awards. The purpose of this event is to honor “…individuals working to build communities where everyone feels safe, valued and respected.”

This year, over 500 people came out to celebrate and honor this work. It was fantastic to see such a multi-generational crowd. Attendees included youth, elected officials, and those from the nonprofit, philanthropic, education, business, and government sectors.

Carleen Rhodes and Rowzat Shipchandler opened the event with an overview of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners’ renewed commitment to racial equity including the racial equity framework. This framework will promote racial equity through the various roles of the foundation: as community participants, economic entities, funders, employers, fundraisers, and leaders.

People were nominated from all across the state. This year, there were two Ambassador Award recipients, Jada Sherrie Mitchell and Justin Terrell, and three Honorable Mention recipients, Jennifer Godinez, Bukata Hayes and Dr. Cecilia Martinez. The Ambassador Award winners each received a $10,000 grant and the Honorable Mention winners each received a $1,000 grant that they may present to the nonprofit of their choice.

Award winning local photographer, Wing Young Huie, was the keynote speaker. He asked questions such as “How much does society shape ideas of who we are,” “Who gets to say who is a Minnesotan,” “When are we different and when are we the same,” and “Are we aware of our subconscious assumptions?” He demonstrated the power of the media across space and time, showing how some reactions to one photo were strongly influenced by images and assumptions from the Vietnam War many decades earlier.

It was a wonderful night of greeting old friends and meeting new ones, building the beloved community, and renewing personal commitments to advance this work.

- Jennifer Pennington, MCF member services fellow


Putting “My Brother’s Keeper” to Work in Minnesota

March 27, 2014
mbk

Attendees watched clips from President Obama’s speech and heard from those who were there.

On March 25, MCF convened a group of Minnesota foundations and elected officials to provide information on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and identify next steps for how Minnesota can coordinate efforts.

My Brother’s Keeper is aimed at helping boys and young men of color by addressing the disproportionate ways they are at risk. Read more about it on this February 28 MCF blog post.

Trista Harris, president of MCF, David Nicholson, executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, and Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, were all guests of the White House when Obama formally announced My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, and they each provided a recap of the event and the urgency and importance of engaging in this work. Mayor Coleman said, “This is the most important work that any of us in this room will ever do.”

David Nicholson stressed that this should be a cross-sector, bottom-up movement. Community solutions that demonstrate positive outcomes should be valued, invested in, and scaled up.

Trista Harris spoke about coordinating efforts, identifying local programs that work and investing in them to scale up, and the importance of public policy to address comprehensive systems change.

Mayor Coleman gave examples of how cities can change their policies and procedures so that low-income neighborhoods are not adversely impacted. For example, St. Paul Public Works would change street light bulbs on a complaint basis. However, not everyone knows who to call to get a street light fixed, and sometimes street lights weren’t getting fixed for two years. The city changed its policy so that light bulbs are changed every two years, approximately the life of a street light bulb. There are numerous ways that government can review policies and procedures to ensure there is equity across government services.

Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated World Cafe discussions about what next steps to take. Participants completed pledge forms on how to support efforts.

MCF will provide ongoing information on the federal effort and the opportunities to connect with it. As Trista Harris said, “We have a lot of great local programs that work, and if we coordinate efforts, we can make a big impact. We’re always so much smarter together.”

- Jennifer Pennington and Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF Fellows


Meet the 2014 Facing Race Ambassador Award Winners

March 25, 2014

raceThe Saint Paul Foundation will honor five anti-­racism advocates at the eighth annual Facing Race Ambassador Awards on April 7. The Facing Race Ambassador Awards program was created in 2007 to recognize anti-­racism leaders and promote the need for productive community-­wide conversations about race.

“Reducing racial disparities is one of the critical challenges facing Minnesota,” says Carleen Rhodes, president and CEO of The Saint Paul Foundation. “We are committed to this cause and honored to celebrate the hard work and dedication of individuals fighting for racial equity.”

This year’s celebration will honor two racial justice advocates with Ambassador Awards:

  • Justin Terrell, Justice 4 All program manager for TakeAction Minnesota, and
  • Jada Sherrie Mitchell, a Tartan High School senior and community youth leadership council member in Oakdale.

Mitchell is the youngest individual to receive an Ambassador Award.

“Jada and Justin have demonstrated tremendous leadership in addressing disparities in education and employment,” says Rhodes. “We are honored to recognize the accomplishments of these courageous community leaders.”

Three additional individuals will receive honorable mention recognition for their efforts to end racial disparities in Minnesota:

  • Jennifer Godinez, Minnesota Minority Education Partnership
  • Bukata Hayes, Greater Mankato Diversity Council
  • Dr. Cecilia Martinez, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy

There’s still time to register to attend the event! Tickets are free; RSVPs are required by March 28. The awards celebration also features a keynote address by photographer Wing Young Huie whose award winning work has included “The University Avenue Project” and “Looking for Asian America”.

For all the details on the celebration, visit The Saint Paul Foundation’s website.

Congratulations to the honorees!


Reflecting on a Renewed Commitment to Racial Equity

March 18, 2014

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge the Racial Equity Framework

The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation, both MCF Members and affiliates of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, hosted a breakfast earlier this month to announce their newly-developed racial equity framework.

A room full of guests listened as MN Partners CEO Carleen Rhodes and Amherst H. Wilder President May Kao Y. Hang shared findings from “Facing Race: A Renewed Commitment to Racial Equity.” The 30-page report serves as a call to action for leaders at both foundations, and stems from their longstanding commitment to fostering racial equity. The hope is that other foundations throughout Minnesota will use this as a tool in their own efforts to create a more equitable philanthropic sector.

In 2012 The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation commissioned a taskforce; they drove the process that identified five different roles the foundations held in the community. With leadership placed in the framework’s center, the roles now include: Community Participants, Economic Entities, Funders, Employers, and Fundraisers. The roles are based on a corresponding set of expectations that the task force recommends board and staff use as an accountability guide. Here’s a deeper look into what each role looks like:

·         Community Participants: As Minnesota becomes more racially diverse, foundations owe it to themselves to host convenings that encourage open dialogue; take the time to meaningfully build connections with communities of color; and learn the ways in which racism impacts the communities they serve.

·         Economic Entities: This role recognizes how racial justice and economic justice are linked. It challenges foundations to do more than just hire a racially diverse staff by encouraging mindfulness around choosing vendors and investment firms.

·         Funders: Setting guidelines, developing programs, and supporting affiliate grantmakers in their best practices around incorporating a racial equality lens will help foundations to better reflect the diverse communities they serve.

·         Employers: Taking a look at internal systems, foundations should ask themselves “Are we intentionally recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing employees of color?” “How are we creating a workplace culture that values everyone’s contributions?” “Do our stakeholders and communities know about our commitment to eliminating institutional racism?”

·         Fundraisers: Community foundations have a unique role as fundraisers. A commitment to racial equity not only plays a key role in nurturing relationships with current donors; but it also is instrumental in cultivating new relationships with a more racially diverse, culturally competent generation of donors.

What is most encouraging about this new framework is how it holds leadership accountable to walking an influential walk – and talking a correspondingly influential talk. As members of the local philanthropic community, we have to examine our privilege, realize how we are a part of current challenges, and get ready to step beyond what’s comfortable in order to advance. This will require courage, honesty, and openness. It will also require foundations to invite feedback and insight from diverse communities to really take root.

This should be a proud day for MCF, whose groundbreaking Diversity and Inclusion Action Kit helped shape Facing Race.

- Venessa Fuentes, MCF Philanthropy Fellow


Minnesota Grantmakers at the White House

March 13, 2014

obama2In February, President Obama announced My Brother’s Keeper, an interagency initiative to determine what public and private efforts are working for young men and boys of color and how to expand upon them. Foundations nationally will direct at least $200 million toward the effort over the next five years in addition to $150 million already pledged or awarded.

Minnesota’s philanthropic community was well represented at the announcement. Here, Trista Harris, MCF president, and David Nicholson, executive director, Headwaters Foundation for Justice, reflect on their attendance at the historic announcement with Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Have you seen philanthropy and government come together like this before? What’s important about this moment?
DN:
I have seen foundations and government come together on a local level. I work with the Northside Funders Group where the state, city and county are working alongside foundations to identify common needs and opportunities for collective impact. But, most examples I can think of focus on a specific “it” – a policy or a solution – rather than on the whole.

TH: I think this could be a transformational moment for our country. It allows foundations to lift up best practices and scale up programs that support a consistently underserved population, while the government takes a systemic look – across all federal agencies – to ensure we are effectively serving men and boys of color.

What are the potential impacts for communities of color?
DN: This is an opportunity to focus on what works and finally move some of the persistent disparity numbers in health, wealth, education and opportunity for members of all communities.

TH: When we bring out the best in the most marginalized communities, we bring out the best in America as a whole.

What are the potential impacts for the community as a whole?
DN: We all have a vested interest in the success of everyone in our community. If one group, in this case boys and men of color, are many rungs behind on the opportunity ladder, it is prudent and strategic to focus on them.

TH: As a country, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind. We need the full participation of every American. By focusing on men and boys of color, we are strengthening communities for everyone.

What was it like being in a briefing with the President?
DN: For me personally, it was powerful to see the grandeur and size of the White House. It was very exciting to be in a room with so many people who have such a long commitment to this work.

TH: It was humbling and awe inspiring to be in the White House with a group of amazing people who have been working for decades to improve the lives of men and boys of color, to be joined by the President, who is personally committed to the effort, and to hear from a group of young men who will be impacted directly. It was the single most important experience in my professional career.

What opportunities are there for Minnesota to leverage this momentum?
DN: Minnesota momentum is critical. We have a long history of philanthropic leadership and thoughtful bipartisan initiatives, yet we have not been able to use that to address our dramatic and desperate outcomes for communities of color.

TH: There is great work happening in Minnesota, and this is an opportunity to connect it to national momentum. The African American Leadership Forum, Summit Academy, Brotherhood Inc., Harvest Prep School and Hiawatha Academy are all doing excellent work, so I look forward to Minnesota foundations and government leaders coming to the table and to Minnesota being one of the first states to scale its efforts.

Minnesota grantmakers are invited to continue the conversation at “My Brother’s Keeper: What’s Next for Minnesota?” a facilitated dialogue on Tuesday, March 25.


Achieving Health Equity in Minnesota

March 6, 2014

stethMinnesotans are engaging in new conversations about health equity. The Minnesota Department of Health issued the report Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota to engage citizens in critical thought around the pervasive inequitable public health disparities in our state.

The report provides a foundation for organizations and communities to collectively engage in conversation and create a context for change.

Advancing health equity aligns with MCF’s goal of promoting prosperity, inclusion, and equity by eliminating barriers for people of color in Minnesota. The MCF Government Relations and Public Policy Committee started the conversation about health equity recently with Jeanne Ayers, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Mental Health.

Highlights from her health equity presentation:

  • The Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota Report suggests policy is directly connected to health equity and disparities. The report is a tool to engage in continuous dialogue about health inequality and allow for organizations and communities to organize a narrative for collective investment.
  • An array of health inequities persistently affects African American, American Indian, LGBTQ, and Hispanic/Latino families. Health inequities are neither random nor unpredictable.
  • Race and structural racism contribute to heath inequalities. Structural racism is defined as an array of dynamics that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color and American Indians.
  • Environment and social systems impact health and create necessary lifestyle approaches. Social, cultural and economic conditions equate to health conditions — positive or negative.
  • Summative data on disparities suggest the need to: identify policy processes and systems needing change; lift up best practices; and obtain data to document, monitor, and evaluate progress.
  • Moving beyond structural racism to achieve health equity is a challenge yet possible with collective organization and impact strategy.

MCF will continue to engage in dialogue about health equity to promote community health and to build it into the work of community members. In addition, MCF will be looking at this issue as a potential focus for future public policy advocacy.

We encourage grantmakers and community members to read the report Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota to understand the current conditions of health inequality in Minnesota and to identify a role to alleviate this disparity.

Visit MCF’s Public Policy web page to learn more about how to get involved with MCF’s public policy advocacy activities.

- Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF fellow, government relations and public policy

Photo cc osseous


Getting Minority Businesses Into the Stadium Game

March 4, 2014

4464678203_396bf92f19_nToday we welcome Teresa Morrow, vice president of external relations and marketing at The Minneapolis Foundation, to share how the foundation’s Working Capital Loan Fund, a $1.5 million Program Related Investment (PRI), is helping minority businesses get into the game of building the new Vikings stadium.

In late 2012, a Minnesota legislative appropriation and the investment of the Vikings football organization launched plans for a billion dollar sports facility in Minneapolis. Many supporters of the new stadium project heavily promoted the economic activity that would result from the construction of this new facility.

Access to Working Capital is Large Barrier
However, without intentional efforts to level the playing field in terms of access to financing, the stadium will not be the inclusive project that the Legislature envisioned. The goal of The Minneapolis Foundation’s Working Capital Loan Fund is to eliminate the single largest barrier to the inclusion of Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contractors in this project: access to working capital.

Due to shorter business histories, narrower asset bases and limited access to conventional financing, the only sources of working capital for MBEs are expensive ones. Providing working capital at a more reasonable cost to these MBEs leverages the stadium’s benefit to the entire community by developing long term quality employers, new skills, and capacity—not only for the MBE but also for its employees.

The Working Capital Loan Fund
The Working Capital Loan Fund is a $1 million, 3-year Program Related Investment of The Minneapolis Foundation. The investment is a loan to Meda (Metropolitan Economic Development Association), which is an experienced Community Development Financial Institution. The fund takes a ‘reuse and recycle approach’ with 75% of the fund deployed at any given time. These funds are expected to revolve four times annually, providing up to $12 million in short-term loans to participating MBEs.

Enthusiastic Donor Response!
Donors to The Minneapolis Foundation were invited to participate in this PRI by investing a limited share of capital from their Donor Advised Funds, resulting in a loan pool of $500,000. The Minneapolis Foundation matched the Donor Advised Fund investments to create the $1 million PRI. The Foundation (and the Donor Advised Funds) will earn a modest annual return, and at the end of three years the principal will be returned by Meda.

The response on the part of donors was enthusiastic, with full funding provided in just a matter of weeks. While the support of donors has been gratifying, the interest by potential borrowers is equally satisfying. Small business owners are now receiving tools that will truly help them ‘get in the game!’

Related: For more on the topic, see Mission Investing Gaining Minnesota Momentum, a post by Wendy Wehr, MCF’s vice president of communications and information services.

Photo cc MoDOT

This post was updated with additional information from The Minneapolis Foundation clarifying its PRI.


President Obama Announces “My Brother’s Keeper” and Philanthropy Investment

February 28, 2014

obama9Boys and young men of color too often face disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success in our society.

Today in the U.S., if you are African-American, there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll grow up without a father at home, and you’re more likely to be poor, to not read well, to be expelled from school and eventually to end up incarcerated.

And, as President Obama stressed yesterday, “The worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We pretend this is a normal part of American life instead of the outrage that it is. These statistics should break our hearts and compel us to act.”

Act is what the President did Thursday as he signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force, an interagency initiative to determine what public and private efforts are working for young men and boys of color and how to expand upon them.

The President has built a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity and reverse troubling trends that show too many boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks.

For yesterday’s announcement, he was joined by philanthropic leaders — including MCF President Trista Harris and David Nicholson, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice — and representatives from communities, business, government and faith groups.

Foundations have already made extensive investments in support of boys and young men of color. Building on that, yesterday 10 foundations (including MCF members The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation) announced additional commitments of at least $200 million over the next five years to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for positive impact in the lives of boys and young men of color.

Look for more next week on Trista Harris’ D.C. experience.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


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