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

March 27, 2014
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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



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



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