The Nicholas P. Bollman Award

The Nicholas P. Bollman Award honors the memory of longtime friend and Funders’ Network co-founder, Nick Bollman, who died in 2007. The values that guided Nick’s life and his work, and his influence on others, personify the values and hopes of the Funders’ Network and continue to provide inspiration. Nick was a beacon of hope for all people who believe strongly in their obligation to improve conditions for future generations without hesitation or expectation of reward. We are proud to recognize leaders in the field who continue Nick’s legacy of advancing thoughtful and progressive solutions to a variety of contemporary problems. The Bollman Award is given out each year at the Funders' Network annual conference.

Bollman Award Recipients

Amy Solomon (2016)

This year’s recipient is Amy Solomon, trustee of the Jenifer Altman Foundation and former program officer at the Bullitt Foundation. An inveterate explorer and experimenter, Amy is always searching for new ideas to address intractable problems, while working collaboratively across local, regional, and national perspectives. Described repeatedly as a weaver and connector, Amy has played a masterful role in connecting people and issues, and shaped her philanthropic portfolio to bring inclusiveness and equity to the center of her grantmaking strategy. A leader in our field, Amy is a former board and program committee member of the Climate and Energy Funders Group, Health & Environmental Funders Network, Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders, TFN, and Philanthropy Northwest.

Click here to read her acceptance speech.

Lois DeBacker (2015)

Managing Director, Environment, The Kresge Foundation

The Funders' Network is pleased to announce that Lois DeBacker is the recipient of the 2015 Nicholas P. Bollman Award. Lois is the managing director of the Environment program at The Kresge Foundation, where she leads the Environment team in developing, implementing, and assessing the impact of grantmaking strategies that address climate change.

Lois was praised for embodying the values that guided Nick Bollman's life and work and for making a real difference in climate change grantmaking, including her work enabling organizations working with low-income communities to better plan for climate change.

Lois was awarded the Bollman Award at the 2015 Funders' Network Annual Conference.

Click here to read her acceptance speech.

Read how Lois is  "Putting Inclusion at the Forefront of Climate Resilience."

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Lois DeBacker: Putting Inclusion at the Forefront of Climate Resilience

Lois DeBacker's passion for environmental stewardship was kindled in high school, where she became an activist in support of recycling, land conservation and environmental education.  She went on to study history at the University of Michigan, but quickly changed her major to political science after an instructor defined politics as the process by which society makes decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. At that time, DeBacker realized that if she wanted to work for environmental protection, she had better understand politics. Interviewed recently, she said, “I think I was right about that.”

After completing her undergraduate studies, a job as a legislative aide in the Michigan state senate deepened her interest in public policy and led her to pursue post-graduate studies at Princeton University.  She earned a master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, focusing on urban and domestic policy, and immediately returned to state government to join the Michigan Department of Commerce. At the time, the governor was championing a variety of environmental issues and the Commerce Department was the hub of activity.

There, DeBacker was tasked to work on environmental policy and also served on a cross-functional team to craft Michigan's first pollution prevention legislation. Soon after, the state created the Office of Waste Reduction Services, and she was asked to lead the new office as a joint venture between the Departments of Commerce and Natural Resources to support business and industry waste reduction programs.

After the administration changed in 1991, DeBacker entered the philanthropic sector. She joined the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which was doing cutting-edge work around environmental health and exposure to toxins.  Her early work at Mott focused on grantmaking to address toxic contamination in low-income communities. She also supported grant work that focused on protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“At the time,” DeBacker said, “information was just coming to light about endocrine-disrupting chemicals and the ways toxins bio-accumulate within the Great Lakes system." Mott's funding and advocacy for Great Lakes water quality standards ultimately influenced Federal policy for other national waterways under the Clean Water Act. 

Mott also was one of the funders of the first People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, at which the Principles of Environmental Justice were adopted.  After the summit, DeBacker tracked follow-on efforts supported by Mott.

DeBacker served at the Mott Foundation for more than sixteen years and earned the role of Associate Vice President – Programs before joining The Kresge Foundation in 2008. There she contributed to the organizational transformation underway through the leadership of its new President and CEO Rip Rapson. Her staff was charged with designing a grantmaking strategy focused on climate change, and under DeBacker’s leadership they built out a solid program that addressed both climate change mitigation and adaptation through distinct strategies.

As the Kresge Foundation’s overall transformation continued, the Board of Trustees concluded in 2011 that the Foundation’s overall purpose was to create opportunity for low-income people in American cities. As the clarified purpose became the North Star for each of Kresge's programs -- arts & culture, Detroit/community development, education, environment, health, and human services – as well as its social investment practice, Kresge’s Environment team needed to take a fresh look at its program strategies.

DeBacker and her team began a lengthy process to determine how to reshape their climate change work in a way that would embrace Kresge’s focus on cities and low-income opportunity while building on the Foundation’s recent funding in the space.

Working with the Kresge board, DeBacker and her team redefined their program goal.  Effective March 2014, the goal became to help communities, particularly those that are low-income, build resilience in the face of climate change. Kresge employs a comprehensive concept of climate resilience, which embraces mitigation, adaptation, and social cohesion as equally important. 

“Resilience is about more than recognizing and reducing vulnerabilities that climate change will introduce or worsen.” DeBacker said. “Building resilience requires thinking about mitigation and adaptation simultaneously and recognizing the role of people. While technical solutions are important to climate mitigation and adaptation, they’re insufficient. You also need to think about the relationships that exist between people within a place.”

DeBacker and her team found that this relationship was the neglected realm, especially with respect to people living in low-income communities which are disproportionately impacted by climate change and whose residents are rarely tapped for input to create solutions.  “In our view, climate change planning and policies to date have included insufficient analysis of the differential needs and interests of low-income people and communities,” said DeBacker.

DeBacker says Kresge’s shift in thinking - which was fully embraced by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and staff alike - has brought about a profound change in how the Environment team approaches its work.

The first expression of the Program’s new strategic framework was the launch of the "Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity Initiative" in July 2014. The goal of the initiative is to strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations to influence local and regional climate-resilience planning, policy development, and implementation to better reflect the priorities and needs of low-income people in U.S. cities.  Last fall, the Foundation awarded planning grants to 17 organizations with a strong record of accomplishment in low-income communities to develop plans to deepen their individual and collective leadership in climate resilience.  This year, Kresge will award up to 15 of those organizations with multiyear funding to implement their plans.

Through this first program of its kind, DeBacker said Kresge wants to grow the cadre of individuals and institutions that are both expert in climate resilience and strongly grounded in the needs and interests of low-income communities.

DeBacker's influence is being felt. “Lois believes that universal climate resilience goals will not be met without intentional strategies to address the unique circumstances of low-income populations,” wrote her Bollman award nominators. “[Her] vision has transformed Kresge’s environmental funding priorities and informed many of its peers and partners across the country.”

Low-income communities already a have myriad of everyday stressors, from food insecurity to air pollution to inadequate transportation options. But DeBacker has found that many people within those communities also are aware they are on the front lines of the havoc climate change may inflict. “Climate change is a threat multiplier,” she said. “Many people in low-communities realize it will worsen already problematic conditions. As communities make investments in flood protection or the reliability of the energy supply, there’s an opportunity to influence which residents and neighborhoods will benefit.  For example, if green infrastructure is going to be deployed within a community, then there is an opportunity for low-income neighborhoods to benefit not just from a hazard-reduction standpoint, but from the amenities and jobs that come with it. But that’s not going to happen unless there are effective advocates in low-income communities representing community members’ voices so that they get their share of protection and benefits.”

DeBacker is also being lauded for embodying the values of the Nicholas P. Bollman Award, which was established to recognize leaders whose commitment to building strong, sustainable and equitable communities inspires others without hesitation or expectation of reward. “Lois exemplifies the leadership that Bollman Award was designed to recognize,” her nominators wrote.

DeBacker credits her foundation experience at both Kresge and Mott for her deep appreciation of and respect for grantees. Her advice to beginning grantmakers is simple: “Always be honest, transparent and respectful. Have faith in your own knowledge but approach the work with humility. Feed your intellectual curiosity with a genuine interest in learning from all the people you encounter."

She also advises grantmakers “to be self-aware of the privilege that many of us carry due to our race, class, and/or gender.  Philanthropy exists to benefit all of society.  To do that well, we must be attentive to the factors that underlie existing inequities, and we must be alert to when unconscious bias may be influencing how we approach our work.”

“I’m grateful to the mentors and peers who have helped to shape who I am today, as a person and a professional,” DeBacker said. “And I’m honored to receive the Bollman Award.”

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Patricia Jenny (2014)

Vice President of Grants, The New York Community Trust

Patricia Jenny, Vice President of Grants, The New York Community Trust, is the recipient of the 2014 Nicholas P. Bollman Award. 

Lauded for working creatively and expansively to solve problems, Jenny was the driving force behind the Local Sustainability Matching Fund and an early supporter of the then-fledgling Funders' Network. Jenny's work occurs at "the nexus of community development and the environment where all the thorny issues of the real world play out," and her interdisciplinary thinking and focus on collaboration are hallmarks of her grantmaking principles.

Jenny joined The New York Community Trust in 1986 and has managed the national and New York City environmental grantmaking program and the local workforce development grants program. She developed two funding collaboratives: New York City Workforce Funders, which is a partner with the city on innovative employment projects, and the One Region Funders' Group, a New York-New Jersey-Connecticut funders group focused on sustainable communities and transportation issues.

She serves on the boards of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and Health & Environmental Funders Network and formerly served on the board of Cause Effective. She worked with Nick Bollman when they co-chaired the Neighborhood Funders Group in its early all-volunteer days. Later, she championed and supported the Funders’ Network, serving on its board from 2002-2008.

Jenny holds a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a B.A. from Brown University.

The award was presented to Jenny on March 18th at the 15th Annual Funders’ Network Conference in Boston.

Click here to download a pdf of "The Power and Art of Grantmaking" or click "read more" to read it online. Click here to download Pat's acceptance speech.

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The Power and Art of Grantmaking

Pat Jenny’s career path has taken her from protecting the remains of past communities to protecting the futures of existing communities. A history major at Brown University, Jenny went to work for the Massachusetts Historical Commission after graduation, helping communities protect archeological and historical resources. “In Massachusetts, there are historic and archeological resources everywhere. Most publicly financed projects must identify all archaeological and historical resources and make not disturbing them a priority,” she says. “We literally went around the state and worked with different towns, officials, and residents who were active in preserving historic heritage.” The job introduced her to the world of community development in a general sense and spurred her desire to delve more deeply into the field academically and professionally.

Pat chose to pursue city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she concentrated on housing and community development policy. After working in Washington, D.C., she relocated to San Francisco and became a consultant in Berkeley, doing contract research for the federal government and the state of California. By the time she moved to New York City, she was completely hooked on policy issues and knew she wanted a job in either city government or philanthropy. “I ended up deciding between a job at the New York City Transit Authority and The New York Community Trust. I chose The Trust and started my grantmaking career.” Jenny is now Vice President for Grants at The New York Community Trust (The Trust).

In her 30 years as a grantmaker, she’s seen a lot of changes but believes that “the principles of good grantmaking don’t change.”

“When I started, most foundations were institutions that had been established over the last 50 or more years with permanent endowments or part of the fast-growing field of community foundations, like The Trust. More recently, many individuals who have accumulated wealth in technology or finance at a relatively young age have opted to pursue their philanthropic goals differently. They are not necessarily tied to the idea of a permanent endowment—and instead want to spend-down their philanthropic assets in their or their children’s lifetimes, and maintain a direct role in identifying and ensuring outcomes.”

Applying business principles to grantmaking and nonprofit operations is another shift Jenny has witnessed during her career, with mixed results. “In the early ‘80s, there were a number of people who believed nonprofits should adopt business practices and generate revenue through affiliated enterprises. My feeling is that although all nonprofits should be managed efficiently and effectively, business principles aren’t necessarily the best way to resolve some of society’s thorniest issues, many of which generate from poverty. Partnerships between the public and philanthropic sectors, however, do present opportunities for addressing some of society’s vexing problems of inequality, environmental protection, or public health.”

The Real Power of Grantmaking

Jenny believes that much of the real power of grantmaking lies in collaboration. “You can identify an issue and understand that a number of foundations with different approaches can all contribute to tackling the issue,” she says. “They don’t have to step out of their normal way of doing business, but they can pool funds and make a difference and learn from each other. There is great power in that, and it allows the full diversity of philanthropic institutions to participate in attacking a particular issue.”

Her skill at inspiring collaboration was highlighted in her nomination for the 2014 Nicholas P. Bollman Award, which honors the memory of Funders’ Network co-founder and longtime friend Nick Bollman by recognizing leaders in the field who advance thoughtful and progressive solutions to a variety of contemporary problems.

“Her interdisciplinary thinking and focus on collaboration across sectors and geographies is at the heart of Jenny’s work,” reads her nomination.

“Jenny inspires other funders to join with her in collaborative grantmaking,” it continues, citing Jenny’s founding roles in the New York City Workforce Funders (housed at The Trust), Local Sustainability Matching Fund, and One Region Funders’ Group (both staffed by the Funders’ Network). “Her early embrace of an interdisciplinary, regional approach to creating healthy places puts her among the thought leaders in philanthropy.”

Indeed, The Trust has a long history of collaboratives, such as the Fund for New Citizens, founded at The Trust in 1987 as a joint foundation effort to help immigrants in New York City. Collaboration, Jenny says, can also help foundations address sensitive or complex issues.

For instance, in 1989, The Trust formed a funder group, the New York City AIDS Fund, in response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. At that time, AIDS was heavily stigmatized, misinformation about the disease was rampant, and many of its sufferers and their advocates were ostracized. “The Trust was one of the first foundations to make grants to address the AIDS epidemic,” Jenny says. “A lot of foundations were squeamish about that so they could make a grant to The Trust instead.” The Fund, now winding down, has awarded approximately $19 million in grants to 180 nonprofits located throughout New York City’s five boroughs.

One of today’s complex subjects is jobs, something The Trust and its Workforce Development Fund, a 12-year-old collaborative of 40 foundations and corporate philanthropies, is navigating. “The 2008 recession and loss of jobs were huge,” Jenny says. “As the jobs come back economy-wide, they are being created at the very top—for those who are highly skilled and highly compensated—and they’re being created at the bottom—jobs with very little pay and no benefits. You can’t live on them. This is an area The Trust is really focusing on. How do we create better jobs and, in the words of Bill Clinton, make work pay, while at the same time preparing the least skilled job seekers for jobs that can support a family?"

Jenny identifies another complex issue getting attention: expanding public health interventions for diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension that go beyond medical care to encompass active living, diet, and lifestyle, and environmental and community concerns. She sees it as another area ripe for collaboration. “We are investigating a place-based healthy community initiative in the South Bronx and have found a number of other funders going down the same path for the same neighborhood.”

She’s looking forward to meeting the challenge. “I have the most fun doing cross-program initiatives,” she says.

Get Out and Talk to Everyone

Part of Jenny’s current work at The Trust is managing a $40 million grants program and a grantmaking staff of ten, including seasoned professionals and those newer to the field. “New grantmakers know a lot about a subject,” she says, “and now they have to learn the art of grantmaking. New grantmakers need to understand they really are in a privileged position as ‘bankers’ for the nonprofits. The funded organizations are the ones on the front lines doing the actual work, obviously, but funders direct the resources and can also become good advisors.”

She recommends that new grantmakers “get out and talk to everyone. Get out and talk to nonprofits, get out and talk to government, get out and talk to fellow foundation colleagues, and you’ll end up being the most informed person out there.”

There’s also a tension to grantmaking that Jenny is careful to point out. “There is an art to learning to respect a grantee—answer their emails, return their phone calls, provide as much information as you can—while maintaining the kind of distance that allows you to make objective decisions on a competitive basis. The best grantmakers in New York City, that’s what they do day after day—make one judgment call after another. The skill of grantmaking is really an art, not a science—making the choices about the best organizations out there to get done what needs to get done.”

She also recommends grantmakers make sure they stay grounded in reality. “You have to learn you’re everybody’s best friend and it doesn’t really mean anything. You’re not really their friend. In fact, I advise that grantmakers get involved in something where they have to go raise money. I think that’s really important. It keeps you humble. It’s very important to understand how hard it is to ask for money. You can really lose your perspective on that.”

Being awarded the 2014 Bollman Award brings Jenny almost full circle with the Funders’ Network (TFN). She worked with Nick Bollman when they co-chaired the Neighborhood Funders Group in its early all-volunteer days. Later, she championed and supported TFN, serving on its board from 2002-2008. “I personally have always enjoyed affinity groups,” she says. She currently serves on the steering committee for the Health & Environmental Funders Network and on the board of Environmental Grantmakers Association.

Her work today continues to resonate within the TFN framework, “We are revising our environmental grants guidelines with the intention of addressing global climate change, habitat, and environmental health issues through a strategy grounded in smart growth and Funders’ Network principles,” she says. “Our whole purpose is to create more livable communities.”

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Luther Propst (2013)

Founder, Sonoran Institute

Luther Propst founded the Sonoran Institute in 1991 and served as the executive director until December 2012. Under Luther's vision and leadership, the Institute grew into one of the most innovative and influential nonprofits working in western North America, promoting conservation policies that recognize the needs and aspirations of local communities. The Sonoran Institute helps communities conserve and restore their natural and cultural resources and manage growth and change through collaboration, civil dialogue, sound information, practical solutions and big-picture thinking.

Luther is truly a leader in the area of collaborative conservation. He has pioneered work that is community-based and reflective of local values and stayed true to a vision of environmental advocacy that combines opposition to harmful actions with significant investment in building beneficial long-term relationships and collaboration. Under Luther’s leadership, the Sonoran Institute has collaborated with multiple parties, cutting across sectors to include stakeholders who are often opposed to land conservation efforts.  He has inspired many others to seek a less adversarial approach to conservation work and instead focus on developing strong partnerships by reaching beyond traditional boundaries. Luther truly excels at sorting through complex problems and identifying the opportunities for progress. His wisdom and optimism are inspiring; where many others would see a particular situation as “hopeless,” Luther always sees the silver lining.

Click here to download a pdf of "Changing the Conservation Conversation" or click "read more" to read it online. Click here to read Luther's Bollman Award acceptance speech and his "Top Ten" pieces of advice for funders.

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Changing the Conservation Conversation

Luther Propst was, as W. Somerset Maugham wrote, “a man born out of [his] due place.” Born and raised in North Carolina, he never felt an affinity for his rural southern home, and instead found himself increasingly fascinated by the mythic lands of the American West. His first real experience there was a classic American road-trip—after high school, he and two friends loaded up a pick-up and headed due west. “I remember thinking,” he says, “this wasn’t just an opportunity to see the West—I was scanning the content of the rest of my life.

A move to a place that felt more like home than home would have to wait, though. Propst returned to North Carolina, where he attended college, graduate school, and law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a master’s degree in regional planning and a J.D. He then began practicing law at Robinson & Cole in Hartford, Conn. “They had a specialty in land-use law,” Propst says, “and that’s where I learned about land-use law and planning. We had land-use analysts on staff and helped cities through the planning process. My law practice was a hybrid of land-use planning and representing cities in front of councils.”

Propst drew upon that experience when he moved from practicing law to Washington, D.C., where he directed the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Successful Communities program. Two years later, with a small grant from WWF, he made the jump west and started the Sonoran Institute. “I started with a basic premise of WWF’s work in the developing world,” Propst says, noting that he also just made a lot up as he went along, “which was to have an approach grounded in building mutually productive relationships between people who manage wildlife areas and the people who live nearby. I wanted to help build the concept of managing protected areas so that they benefitted communities in America.”

“In the West,” Propst says, “people care about the natural and cultural resources. We began in the urban fringe of Arizona, the Colorado Delta, and the Northern Rockies working to create better communities while protecting what those communities cared about. We helped communities discuss what they valued and what they wanted to be in the future. And we’ve pretty much stayed on that track all along. The tools have become more sophisticated and the scope has expanded dramatically, but the basic premise has stayed the same.”

The Sonoran Institute grew quickly—today it has offices ranging from Montana to Mexico—a sign that to most would signal success, but that’s not always how funders have viewed it. According to Propst, “Smart growth outcomes are harder to quantify than other types of community development and conservation because there are so many factors at work. You can measure the outcomes of land protection or economic development projects, but smart growth is intangible, so it’s harder to measure how Sonoran has succeeded. That makes the work challenging and enjoyable, but many funders have a problem with a lack of measurable outcomes.”

Changing the Conservation Conversation

Early on, Propst’s approach to involve communities and listen carefully to their values was at odds with how some other groups were operating in the area. “A large percentage of the bigger environmental groups are focused on approaches that treat the communities as if they are irrelevant to the conversation, so there’s push back. On the one hand, you’ve got smart growth advocates pushing for compact walkable communities and on the other hand you’ve got communities who don’t see density as a good thing. The key is not to shake your finger at them but to show them in a dialogue process how more people and walkability can make their communities a more desirable place to work, live and play.”

It’s Propst’s unique collaborative, non-confrontational approach (there is a 2012 High Country News profile of Propst called “Beyond the Politics of No”) that garnered him multiple nominations for the 2013 Nicholas P. Bollman Award, which honors the memory of Funders’ Network co-founder and longtime friend, Nick Bollman, by recognizing leaders in the field who advance thoughtful and progressive solutions to a variety of contemporary problems.

One nominator says, “But most significantly, the ability of the Sonoran Institute to bring together diverse interests in collaborative problem solving is its unique contribution. Getting these interests to work together collaboratively in a civil dialogue is a major challenge. Through Propst’s leadership, the Sonoran Institute has become a trusted convener of a wide variety of stakeholders so that enduring solutions can be achieved.”

“He has inspired [us] and many others to seek a less adversarial approach to conservation work and instead focus on developing strong partnerships across traditional boundaries. Propst truly excels at sorting through complex problems and identifying the opportunities for progress. Where many would write off a particular situation as ‘hopeless,’ Propst always sees the silver lining,” says another.

Propst’s approach gives communities a safe space to work through often thorny conservation issues. “When you start a conversation with ‘what do you value about this community,’” he says, “you are more likely to reach an agreement than if you start with a threat.”

Protecting the West

Since World War II, according Propst, the area has been the fastest growing region in the country, and climate change will affect the West, particularly the Southwest, more than most places in the United States. The region is currently in what’s been termed by some as a mega-drought, and water in the West is a major area of concern. “In an arid region, you must eventually look at the limits to growth, particularly if you value protecting rivers and waters,” Propst says. “Do you want to sacrifice rivers and wetlands to accommodate more people? The West will be required to make more stark choices among water, agriculture and food, and quality of life than other parts of the country.”

Propst stands by his conviction that conservation advocates need to think more about the opportunities that working at the community level present, and that includes helping industries active in the region see beyond their bottom line. “You have to get people who think about the West just in terms of their professional life to break beyond defending their turf and think about what’s good for the community. Agriculture is often a leader in protecting community values, but in the energy industry, it’s tremendously difficult to talk about community values. Places like Pinedale, Wyo., and Williston, N.D., though, will have to clean up the mess when the circus leaves town, so it needs to be done.”

He sees the knowledge economy as a key driver in the future of the West and to attract that industry and its workers, the region needs to create communities people want to move to, whether it’s in a city such as Tucson or Denver or a mountain town such as Glenwood Springs or Bozeman. “Sustainable economic prosperity comes from investing in good land-use patterns. Smart growth and amenities,” Propst says, “attract highly skilled workers.”

“The West is unique for many reasons,” he says. “Not only is it the iconic landscape of America, it’s unique in the world in that it’s the leading place in the temperate zone where you have access to the most advanced elements of the global economy plus the opportunity to get to wild lands quickly. Public lands put an ownership boundary on sprawl and development. Cities like Denver and Salt Lake and Phoenix are juxtaposed with wild lands, where fish swim in undammed waters and you can walk on a wilderness trail and not see anyone.”

After 21 years, Propst recently stepped down from the organization he founded but he will remain in the place that he loves (he says his favorite place is “west of the 100th meridian”), splitting his time between the Sonoran desert and the Yellowstone region. “Right now,” he says, “I’m sitting in a townhouse in Jackson, Wyo. In one direction is a huge wilderness area. In the other direction is a walkable, bikeable development where I can go to a dozen restaurants without getting in my car. That’s what’s intriguing about the West.”

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Claudio Martinez (2012)

Executive Director, Hyde Square Task Force

Claudio Martinez was recognized for his 20 years of tireless service advocating for Boston's low-income Latino residents and engaging youth to serve and mobilize their communities. Through his leadership, a once crime-plagued neighborhood has been transformed into a diverse and vibrant community that draws immigrants, artists, and professionals and promotes affordable housing, open spaces, and sustainable small businesses.  Under his leadership, The Hyde Square Task Force has received numerous awards, most recently Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builder Award in 2011. Claudio is also being honored for his strong commitment to small and immigrant-led non-profits and his advocacy on behalf of Boston’s “majority minority.”

Appointed to the Boston School Committee in 2008 and re-appointed in 2012, Claudio helped to found and currently co-chairs the English Language Learner Task Force. Also a trustee of The Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and a Barr Foundation fellow, Claudio has had an extraordinary impact on Boston’s Latino community and youth. Claudio has been recognized as one of Boston’s Ten Outstanding Young Leaders and received the Boston Center for Community and Justice’s Humanitarian Award. In 2010 and 2012, he was named to El Planeta’s Powermeter list in recognition of his extraordinary impact on Boston’s Latino Community. Click the "Read More" link for the text of his acceptance speech or click here to download a pdf.

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Funders' Network 13th Annual Conference
Bollman Award Winner Claudio Martinez’s Remarks

March 27, 2012
Seattle, Wash.

Good morning and thank you so much for inviting me here to receive this recognition today. I never knew Mr. Bollman, but I understand that many of you have powerful memories of a man who is described as "a beacon of hope." It is truly an honor and a privilege for me to travel from Boston to receive an award that carries the name and spirit of a leader like Nicholas Bollman.

I am a long time resident of Hyde Square, a neighborhood in Boston that many low-income immigrants, Latinos, and African Americans call their home. At Hyde Square Task Force we don’t often use words like "smart growth" and "livable community" to describe our work…. but it is a perfect description of the end result we are hoping for; a community that has built an environment that meets many of the working and living needs of our residents, a community that has local resources to enhance health and safety, a strong sense of connection to one another, and that celebrates life and hope through civic engagement, arts, and culture.

But why is this little neighborhood in Boston so well-known?

I believe it is because our teenagers have been and are at the center of demanding and creating changes to improve their community, health centers, housing, train and bus stations, parks, and schools. And these teens don’t just complain and demand from others to do it. They lead by example working every day to improve the centers of civil society in our neighborhood and our city. This is where and how they learn to think critically about the inequities and discrimination they face every day.

For example, they tutor younger kids and teach peers in our schools and health centers. And this is how they learned what really goes on in these institutions. They work there, and as Manuel (Dr. Pastor) was suggesting yesterday, they sometimes even work alongside "the enemy" in putting together the jigsaw puzzle. But sometimes they also play a little chess when they have to and they sure know how to punch back if necessary. They don’t just get together with people that think like them and cry oppression expecting power to give a damn about it. They do the hard personal work and the hard community work that it takes to bring liberation. And during this journey of thinking and sweating, they organically become leaders in their community. 

Over the past decade the list of their community organizing accomplishments is truly impressive. Youth, supported by adults, have had major success in reclaiming a once drug- and violence-infested neighborhood (called by the DEA the cocaine capital of New England), in bringing comprehensive sexual education and civics education to the public schools, in pushing the government to renovate our parks and improve basic city services, increasing teen jobs, voter registration, and celebrating Afro Latin culture.

Most of our teens’ parents are immigrants, many undocumented, and English is their second language. Most of the youth are underperforming students and uninvolved in creative and fun activities. In many ways they are invisible in their schools and invisible to many Boston and Massachusetts residents as well; many of them are not heading toward college but they are not in a gang either, as many would like us to believe. We see their potential and invite them in. In spite of their challenges they use their energy and capacity to create a healthy, vibrant, safe, and joyful community.

For many of these teens living in Hyde Square, especially those for whom English is a second language, these experiences become the first time anyone has listened to them or taken them seriously. We don’t want them to be silent anymore. We work with them to find their voices and use them for good. Once they start working and speaking out they begin to understand their power and the complication of using power for the benefit of others. But that’s when they become engaged and bring that engagement back into their schools, improving their grades, graduating from high school, and doing post-secondary work as well as attending and completing college.

Boston is a majority-minority city searching, in theory, for a next generation of leaders that includes people of color from disadvantaged communities historically excluded from civil society. Through their work in their neighborhood and schools, our Latino and African American teens and young adults are being trained to take on those leadership positions ensuring that everyone will be represented in the halls of power and all communities will have equitable access to resources and opportunities.

But as you know, some of you better than others, this journey to become visible is still too hard to travel, with little incentives, for most of these teens and for most adults in our communities, including many of us here today.

Indigenous leadership - people that live and work in distressed communities to bring positive change and are reflective of the demographics of those communities - is not yet a very popular concept even amongst the most "revolutionary" circles.

If we are going to achieve the dreams Manuel (Dr. Pastor), Denis (Hayes, Bullitt Foundation) and "Funk Master Fong" (aka Richard Woo, The Russell Family Foundation) described in their great presentations yesterday, we are going to need to figure out how to better support these types of long term community governed efforts. This - development of indigenous leadership - is what creates and strengthens civil society and the fabric of all our communities, the relationships that sustain people in need for the long term. Not the new program of the month from the next venture philanthropist of the week.

I spent the first ten days of this year in Haiti, a country with the second highest nonprofits per capita ratio in the world and very little to show for it. Very few of these nonprofits are governed, managed, or staffed by Haitians. Somehow we think we can do it for them without them. And Boston and the NGOs and their funders, as well as the government and the private sectors, the unions, and many so-called social justice organizations, unfortunately, are not that different from the NGOs in Haiti when it comes to promoting or including intelligent and outspoken indigenous leaders at the higher levels of their organizations.

It has become clear to me that unless we equip, support, and walk with the people we want "to help," our efforts will never yield the results we are looking for. It is not enough we build green affordable housing if people in the community are not part of this process, in an honest way, at the higher levels of decisionmaking, not just during the charette process.

How come we at so many foundations give millions of dollars to "high impact," business-oriented nonprofits, Ivy League-managed, evidence-based measurement tools… bla bla bla bla… please spare me the business talk until your board, staff, list of contractors, services providers, and investment management companies include women and people of color as well indigenous leaders. "High impact leaders and boards" that parachute into our neighborhood but will never raise their kids here are an empty promise.

How come we so seldom invest equally in locally governed organizations, run by local leaders, with real dollars, long term? Apparently they are not good enough…but somehow we expect these organizations, people, and communities to thrive and progress? Let’s walk with them and let’s not confuse pity for empathy.

Boston, I’m sad to report, is not that different from Port-au-Prince when it comes to this issue of exclusion of indigenous leaders.

And when I say "we" I include myself  in the family of foundations, nonprofits, and government bodies. As a board member of the Boston Foundation, the Nellie Mae Foundation, and as a fellow and advisor to the Barr Foundation, I know firsthand how we help, and how we don’t help, to promote and increase "indigenous leadership" and participation in our city.  As a high school drop-out, ironically today, I’m a Boston School Committee member. I am the only immigrant and the only Latino member of an appointed School Committee - somebody said token smile - that oversees a system that has more than 60 percent of Latino and immigrant students combined, if not more (and tragically still less than 10 percent of Latino and immigrant teachers).

As for education, Manuel (Dr. Pastor) mentioned Germany yesterday. In my opinion the reason Germany is doing so well is they have embraced rigorous technical and vocational education. We need educational systems that lead to employment in the jobs of the future. The U.S. has a troubled racial history with regards to vocational education and must fix it ASAP. I welcome all of you to check the Nellie Mae Foundation proposals for changing our educational systems.

As a father of a recent college graduate from one of the most expensive universities in the U.S. I wish my son knew how to fix an electrical fuse (or at least know what an electrical fuse is) instead of calling me every time an electrical appliance stops working. Too much education, too little knowledge.

The lack of people living in distressed communities at the higher levels of decisionmaking in Boston’s government, nonprofit, civil society, and private sectors only leads to more civic disengagement in our communities and no outside "high impact organization or initiative" is going to change that.

As it was suggested yesterday, we need to indentify and invest in leaders and networks of unlikely partners: grassroots organizers, nonprofit, business, and government leaders to strengthen our civil society through investing in the development of indigenous leaders and organizations that give the tools and opportunities to our most vulnerable youth and families in our neighborhoods …. so they can control their destinies and put together the pieces that create a vibrant, safe, and joyful urban community.

Will Boston and the U.S. create the systems, networks, pathways, and opportunities for our hard-working youth to be invited and welcomed to solve the jigsaw puzzle that will insure our survival on earth? I sure hope so… Or would these youth find it too difficult a journey not worth the sacrifice, and exit like so many of our youth and our friends in the past?

I’m here today because of the hard work of thousands of young people in my neighborhood who still so patiently believe it is possible to lead a meaningful and dignified life in the U.S.A. So on behalf of them and hundreds of youth activists and organizers in Boston and beyond, I accept the 2012 Nicholas Bollman Award.

Thank you so much to all you members of Funders’ Network and for this honor and for your support !

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Dr. Emily Young (2011)

Senior Director, Environmental Analysis and Strategy, The San Diego Foundation

Dr. Emily Young, Senior Director, Environmental Analysis and Strategy for The San Diego Foundation, is the recipient of the 2011 Nicholas P. Bollman Award.

Emily is a recognized environmental leader in the San Diego region, which is renowned for its diverse and complex environmental habitats. Her works fuses the principles of smart growth and climate change issues to address the myriad of challenges facing San Diego’s air, water and land. Known as a unifying force, Emily reaches across boundaries and builds strong and enduring partnerships to achieve common goals. Her efforts have increased the funding, capacity and reach of The San Diego Foundation and its grantees and produced robust on-the-ground results. A leader who inspires real change, Emily also inspires people to imagine that a healthier, safer San Diego is within reach for all.

Emily’s vision has been instrumental in building The San Diego Foundation’s Environment Program. Emily oversees the Foundation’s Climate Initiative and spearheads the Environmental Working Group (EWG), recruiting volunteers with strong environmental expertise to engage deeply on the issues. Thanks to the leadership of Emily and the EWG, the San Diego region has added 28,000 acres of conserved land and engaged more than 2,000 residents and more than 20,000 new volunteers in environmental stewardship.

Hooper Brooks (2009)

Director of International Programmes, The Prince's Foundation for Building Community

Hooper Brooks was a co-founder of the Funders’ Network and served as chair of its board for the first four years of the Network. He continued to serve on the board for two additional years, stepping down due to term limits in 2006. He was instrumental in charting the course of the Network and inspiring engagement among other funders.

More than anyone, Hooper is responsible for the smart growth field that exists today.  Not only was he a founding funder of Smart Growth America, he supported numerous fledgling state and regional organizations that have grown up to have significant influence on the future shape and character of the places they – and we – care about.  At the Surdna Foundation, Hooper was also an icon in the environmental grantmaking community even while he welcomed community revitalization funders into the movement. He really gets the interconnectedness of urban and environmental issues and funded and networked accordingly. His role as a bridge between environmental and community development funders led to a new conversation in philanthropy, and the creation of the Funders’ Network.  In fact, we first met Hooper at a meeting of environmental and community development funders focused on brownfields issues, a meeting that was hosted by Nick Bollman.  Small world. 

Now at the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, Hooper is sharing his talents and creating innovative models of appropriate urbanism across the globe, in diverse locales including but not limited to Britain, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone and India.  His visionary leadership and actions truly reflect the values and ethos embodied by the Nicholas P. Bollman Award, which we were pleased to present to our friend, Hooper L. Brooks.

Nicholas P. Bollman (2008)

Nick Bollman, one of the nation’s most prominent and influential regionalists, was a co-founder of the Funders’ Network. The Nicholas P. Bollman Award was established in his honor following his death in 2007.  Nick, a native Oregonian, worked for twelve years for the Irvine and Hewlett Foundations and then became the founder and president of the California Center for Regional Leadership (CCRL). Nick’s intention was to help local governments work together and breed a new group of activists which he named "civic entrepreneurs.” After he left CCRL, Nick moved to Florida, became a senior fellow at the Funders’ Network, and began working for the Network in the arena of climate change. He also consulted for the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University and for the New Voice of Business.

The sudden and shocking death of Nick Bollman left a gap in the Network’s capacity and an empty space in our hearts. Nick was an individual with a rare combination of talents, personal and professional, and one of the warmest and kindest human beings we have ever known. Recognizing an outstanding individual in his memory serves as a slight balm to both the family and friends who still suffer from his loss. Nick was awarded the first Bollman Award posthumously.

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