Engaging Families in Early Childhood Programs and Policies

May 8, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 3.46.24 PMThe Start Early Funders Coalition champions affordable, accessible, high quality care and education for children in Minnesota by leveraging the group’s funding interests to advance public policy and community supports for early childhood education and programs.

Last month the coalition convened community leaders and practitioners to provide information on effectively engaging families in early childhood programs and policies.

The convening focused on two questions:

  • What exactly does “family engagement” mean?
  • How can we implement effective strategies for developing family partnerships, particularly across diverse cultures and varied early childhood programs?”

Family & Community Engagement for Healthy Child Development

Betty Emerita, consultant, Development and Training Inc., and Richard Chase, senior research manager, Wilder Foundation, examined family and community knowledge systems — the informal and formal ways that children learn at home and in their community.

The Family and Community Knowledge Systems Project:

  • Underscores the importance of how programs recognize, interact with and support these important systems in which children are embedded.
  • Aims to expand how we define and support healthy whole-child development and program quality from the perspective of family and community knowledge systems.
  • Highlights and measures ways to strengthen family and community engagement with formal systems to improve early childhood programs, policies, and practices — particularly for low-income children and children of color.

For more on their research, read the resulting publication: Promoting and Measuring Family and Community Engagement for Healthy Early Childhood Development.

Barb Fabre, director of White Earth Reservation child care, and Carolyn Smallwood, executive director, Way to Grow, reflected on their experience using the family and community engagement tool and noted that it increased positive family engagement outcomes and deepened the engagement and understanding of the children and families they served.

Family Engagement Programs and Best Practices

Christine DeGroote, early childhood education specialist, Head Start, presented the organization’s engagement framework for parents, family and community and its success measures. She highlighted the importance of crossing contexts at home, in early childhood programs, school and community to ensure success for children and families.

Mi Yang, parent leadership trainer, Cross-Cultural Leadership Action Program (C-Clap) presented curriculum that her organization used to train community leaders, relatives, parents and providers to educate and empower parents. She encouraged the audience to consider the following:

  1. All parents want their children to succeed
  2. We must believe in parent’s best intentions
  3. Change begins with knowledge

Andre Dukes, family academy director, Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), presented NAZ’s ending multigenerational poverty approach, highlighting the role of the Family Academy’s parent curriculum, which builds upon a family’s existing strengthens and then adds tools to parents’ skill sets to increase positive parenting practices.

Ellen Haefner, early childhood family educator, reviewed Faribault’s Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program structure and highlighted initiatives surrounding parent education and opportunities for children and families.

Cisa Keller, director of government and community relations, New Horizons Academy, noted implications for effective family engagement with regard to public policy, including an increase of early learning scholarships and multiple federal efforts such as, Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships, proposed CCDBG changes and more.

Rae Jean Hansen, senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, closed by encouraging attendees to use the research and best practices of the panelists to further work for effective family education and high quality early care.

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

 


Grantmaking for Community Impact

May 7, 2014

promise1Last month, MCF hosted Christine Reeves from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Reeves gave an overview of philanthropic giving in the U.S. and shared her thoughts on where the sector should go from here.

Go Beyond “Grantmaker”

Reeves advocated for the term “philanthropic practitioner” rather than grantmaker. While the latter can be limiting, the former includes funder, partner, supporter, evaluator, advocate and champion — embodying more of what philanthropy can do to be effective. And she thinks it would be great if philanthropic organizations were so effective that “we put ourselves out of business.”

Reeves also discussed power dynamics between philanthropic organizations and grantees. For example, she said philanthropic practitioners should act as though their endowments are contingent on a positive review by their grantees, in much the same way that a grant is contingent on the positive review of a grantmaker. Grantees are evaluated by philanthropists, and sometimes philanthropy is evaluated by grantees. But even when it is, the outcome is never tied to dollars.

Use Targeted Universalism

Reeves then explained the concept of targeted universalism as an effective grantmaking strategy. Targeted universalism says if you target money to address needs and reduce disparities for the most marginalized, overall well-being (by many metrics) improves for everyone. Conversely, if a philanthropic organization tries to help everyone equally, they may unintentionally exacerbate existing disparities.

Fund Social Justice and General Operating Support

Reeves said, “In Minnesota, only 13% of philanthropic dollars go to social justice initiatives, yet this is an effective approach to solving long-term problems.” She asked: Would Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King, Jr. receive a grant today? Are philanthropic practitioners championing incrementalism or funding true movement? How do we create fertile ground for the next Gandhi, Chavez or King? Today 2% of U.S. foundations fund social justice.

Reeves also stands firmly behind general operating support, which she said means “letting go and trusting grantees.” Seven percent of U.S. foundations provide general operating grants today.

In Minnesota, the largest share of grant dollars goes to programs, but general operating support represented 30% of grant dollars in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. See Giving in Minnesota, 2013 Summary Report, page 7, for specifics.

Philanthropy’s Promise Explained

NCRP started Philanthropy’s Promise to change U.S. funding priorities, and more than 177 grantmakers have signed on to date. Philanthropy’s Promise celebrates foundations that intentionally target the bulk of their grant dollars to benefit underserved communities and invest substantially in advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement to address the root causes of social problems and promote equity, opportunity and justice.

What does Philanthropy’s Promise look like in practice? Grantmaking organizations that sign on commit to give 50% of their dollars to underserved communities and 25% to social justice organizations or movements. Because by applying targeted universalism, we all do better.

- Jennifer Pennington, MCF member services fellow


What Can You Learn from PFund’s Community-led Grantmaking?

April 29, 2014

pfund1aWith a belief that community members can best determine where funding will have the greatest positive impact, PFund Foundation (an MCF member) has long been committed to community-led grantmaking. In its last round of grantmaking and guided by a strategic direction of increased regional participation, PFund involved community more than ever. A summary of changes PFund made follows.

And, for a more detailed look at how you can incorporate PFund’s learning into your next grants round, check the spring issue of Giving Forum (online and in your mailbox now).

5 Changes:

  1. Expand the table. Historically PFund has engaged community leaders based in the Twin Cities. In its last grants round, it added leaders from Greater Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and it plans to recruit from Iowa and South Dakota.
  2. Connect community leaders. In addition to reviewing written grant proposals, during its last grant round, community leaders held 24 site visits – in person and virtual. This connected leaders in new ways.
  3. Build shared knowledge. To enrich everyone’s understanding of LGBT communities in the Upper Midwest, PFund is convening community leaders.
  4. Foster mutual commitment. PFund is moving from recruiting volunteers annually to inviting community members to serve 3-year terms on its grant committee.
  5. Create a playbook. The foundation’s guidelines, approaches, policies and more are now documented in a resource that will be used and updated by the grants committee annually.

Did PFund do something that your organization could build on to increase your level of interaction with and commitment to the communities you serve?

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


Inequities – Experienced by Some – Threaten All

April 23, 2014

FRSeveral days ago I received an email from Marketplace with the subject line: Forget the 1%. The 0.01% owns 12% of all wealth in America. When I clicked through, things got worse: Around 50 percent of the US population has zero net wealth. Their debts, effectively, equal their assets.

Despite some familiarity with income inequality and persistent poverty in the U.S., the reality of so much being owned by so few and of so many owning nothing at all hit hard.

Even with the Great Recession behind us, numbers that reinforce the harsh realities of racial and economic disparity are released daily. “The Urgency of Now: Foundations’ Role in Ending Racial Inequity” in the latest issue of The Foundation Review presents many of the issues and the depth of the challenge we find ourselves in. It surveys philanthropy’s evolution in addressing poverty and traces a long history of the racialization of institutions and systems.

But the article, by Gary Cunningham, Northwest Area Foundation; Marcia Avner, University of Minnesota — Duluth; and Romilda Justilien, BCT Partners also explores multiple approaches that foundations can use to advance racial equity and prosperity. And it offers specific approaches used by the Northwest Area Foundation, an MCF member, that others working for equity could also employ.

MCF and many of its members work in multiple ways to advance equity. By equity, we mean the conditions that will exist when factors such as racial, ethnic, economic and geographic differences are no longer predictors of life outcomes. We believe it’s important because inequities experienced by some threaten the future prosperity of all.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


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!


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