CREWS Initiative Takes On Water Systems, Climate Change, And Inequity

By Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Senior Program Officer, Kresge Foundation 


Through the Kresge Foundation support for TFN’s Urban Water Funders and Partners for Places green stormwater infrastructure grants, TFN has been honored to participate in the Kresge Foundation’s CREWS learning community. In this post, originally published by Water Online, Dr. White-Newsome shares how leaders in the CREWS Initiative are advancing water equity and moving the sector forward.

The water industry and the communities it supports are beset with many problems when it comes to failing infrastructure and systems; but some have it worse than others.

You could call it a triple threat. After decades of deferred investment, America’s water systems are in desperate need of updating and repair. Now, those systems are battered as never before by climate change. As a warming planet brings more frequent and intense storms, our nation’s water infrastructure — sensors, SCADA systems, miles of pipes, pumps, and tunnels — is being pushed to the limit. And deeply entrenched inequities ensure that low-income communities and people of color suffer the greatest impacts — from devastating floods to skyrocketing utility rates.

The connections among water, climate change, and inequity are clear. But until recently, that intersection went unexplored and unaddressed. The Kresge Foundation set out to change that: Since 2016, the Foundation has invested some $14 million in the Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems Initiative (CREWS).

CREWS works to transform urban stormwater and wastewater systems, so that they will be able to provide reliable, equitable, and innovative services to communities, despite the uncertainties introduced by climate change. To that end, CREWS deploys grants and social investments (e.g., low-cost loans, financing) to support green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in low-income communities and communities of color that experience repeated flooding.

As importantly, CREWS strengthens human infrastructure, by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders: water utility leaders, municipal GSI managers, community organizers, engineers and project developers, environmentalists, and others. The initiative focuses on making sure those stakeholders have the technical information they need to develop climate-informed, equitable water solutions, as well as the knowledge and tools needed to address the systemic and institutional racism that pervades the water sector — and our nation as a whole.

You can read the entire post here.

About the Author

Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome is a senior program officer at The Kresge Foundation, a national private foundation headquartered in Detroit. She is an alum of TFN's PLACES fellowship, a year-long leadership development program for professionals in philanthropy to better understand issues of race, equity and inclusiveness — and to then translate those skills and knowledge in to their grantmaking practices. She is active in TFN's Urban Water Funders and GREEN working groups.

Don’t Ask How Am I Doing, Ask What Am I Doing. What Are We All Doing?

BY Shawn Escoffery, Executive Director, Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation

TFN Board Member and the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation‘s Executive Director Shawn Escoffery recently shared his first-person account with The Chronicle of Philanthropy about his experience being arrested in Los Angeles during the recent protests, saying “Don’t ask how am I doing, ask what am I doing. What are we all doing?


I see the hate in their eyes when I close mine. Also, the smirks. And hear the laughter.

It’s been three weeks since my arrest, and I still see their faces. A few showed compassion, even sadness. But I wasn’t sure if it was for me or for them; for the realization that when they chose to put on a badge, they joined the most powerful gang in Los Angeles.

I am a 46-year-old man and the head of a philanthropic foundation. But I’m still afraid of the police.

I tense up every time I see a cop. I’ve been pulled over many times for driving while Black. I know how warm the hood of a police car feels when you’re being searched. Those who are supposed to “serve and protect’’ have treated me as less than human.

So, when another Black person is murdered by the police, I don’t just watch the horror on television. I scream. I cry. I get angry.

My inbox is flooded with the requisite, “I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine what you are feeling.” What I’m feeling? What about what you are feeling? This should hurt you deeply. You shouldn’t hurt just for me or your Black friends. We’ve done such a good job at segregation in America that we even segregate pain.”

Another Black person is lynched in America. People write skillfully crafted letters. People protest.

I was protesting, too, when I was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department about five blocks from my apartment.

I was officially arrested for breaking a curfew, ostensibly put in place to stop looting. I did see opportunistic mobs and reckless youth break into stores downtown, and even some anarchists looking for a fight. But the police did nothing. Instead, when the chaos was over, they targeted peaceful protestors holding signs and chanting in front of police headquarters. We were old and young; Black, brown, and white; trans, gay, straight, and gender nonconforming; rich and poor.

How It Happened

As the clock approached the 6 p.m. curfew, the police ordered everyone to disperse. We complied — some hastily and others lingering, still taking in the moment. We were in the line of sight of an army of cops and National Guard in full gear, prepared for war. I was one of those who lingered, taking photos. At 6:15 p.m., I was a few blocks from my apartment when I was met by yet another line of cops in riot gear — blacked-out body armor, helmets, cans of pepper spray, rifles slung over shoulders. I told one of them that I was heading home and that I was instructed to walk in this direction. He replied with a smirk. A group of officers rushed from around the corner and formed a tight line in riot position. I was trapped, along with about 15 other stragglers. There was no place to go and no impulse to run. We were peaceful protesters. Our only weapons were our voices and a few cleverly worded signs. And, of course, our cellphones to bear witness.

We were told to sit down with our hands on our heads — until the plastic zip-tie handcuffs came out and our hands were forced behind our backs. After an hour of sitting on the curb with my hands cuffed painfully tight, we were loaded into a transport bus. We drove for a few blocks and were told to get off and stand facing a graffiti-tagged wall. Eventually we were allowed to turn around. I was relieved to see the crowd around me and the determination in everyone’s eyes. I think I cracked a smile under my face mask.

The smile didn’t last long. A group of cops noticed the words on my T-shirt: “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” I am — always. A white cop called his buddies over, also all white, and pointed at me in my handcuffs. They all laughed.

In that moment, it didn’t matter that I graduated from MIT. That I’m the child of Jamaican immigrants who believed deeply in the promise of America and did everything possible to give me a better life. It didn’t matter that I am the executive director of a philanthropic foundation with a fancy office on Wilshire Boulevard.

A Latinx sergeant told me that my T-shirt was racist. I wanted to tell him that I actually root for him, too — another person of color operating in a system that isn’t designed for him.

Read Shawn's full piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy here entire article here.

About The Author:

Shawn Escoffery is the executive director of the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation, where he leads a team committed to social justice and addressing the historical inequities that plague many lower-income communities. Since joining the Foundation 2018, Shawn has led the organization through a strategy revisioning process, created a fellowship for someone who was formerly impacted by the Justice System, and launched an Impact Investing portfolio with a 10% carve-out of the endowment. The Foundation now focuses on Criminal Justice Reform, Environmental Justice, and Affordable Housing Preservation with a trust-based approach that is centered in place and emphasizes lasting partnerships as well as capacity building. With assets exceeding $120 million, Shawn oversees a $5 million annual grantmaking budget and is responsible for sourcing impact investments ranging from $250,000 to $1 million aimed at advancing racial and gender equity. Prior to joining RPDFF, Shawn directed the Inclusive Economies portfolio at the Surdna Foundation – a nationally focused family foundation with over $1 billion in assets. In this role, Shawn worked to support the development of robust and sustainable economies that include a wide range of businesses, equitable economic policy, and access to quality jobs. Shawn managed a $9.5 million annual grantmaking budget and an impact investing portfolio over $10 million. As an urban planner with over 20 years of experience, Shawn has worked on community economic development and affordable housing projects across the country. Shawn holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English Literature from Rutgers University and a Master’s of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also holds certificates in Communications and International Relations, Urban Redevelopment, and Effective Leadership from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke University, respectively. Shawn currently sits on the board of directors of The Funders Network and Hispanics in Philanthropy.

"Mini" but Mighty: Partners for Places Mini Grants Awarded

By: TFN Staff

The Funders’ Network (TFN), in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, is excited to announce the recipients of six Partners for Places Mini Grants, intended to help local governments, local foundations, and frontline community-led groups build relationships, align project ideas, and center racial equity in water, sustainability, and climate action work.

Partners for Places is a matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government leaders, community groups, and place-based foundations. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to advance efforts to create communities that are sustainable, prosperous and just.

The Partners for Places Mini Grants, while not matching grants, are designed to spark new relationships or deepen existing connections that will hopefully help these communities develop a successful Partners for Places project proposal in the future. (To learn more about Partners for Places Mini Grants click here.)

These six communities have received Partners for Places Mini Grants:

Chicago, Ill:

Amount: ($7,500)
Project title: Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards
Project description: The grant will be used to support the efforts of the partner organizations to develop a proposal that addresses key goals around sustainability and equity.
Frontline community-led group: Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands
Funder partner: Hamill Family Foundation

Duluth, Minn.

Amount: $9,257
Project title: Lincoln Park Block-by-Block: Urban Sustainability Led from Equity
Project description: The mini grant will expand community engagement and partnership development through direct support of outreach materials, virtual engagement technology, participation incentives to residents, and project management.
Frontline community-led groups: Ecolibrium3
Funder partner: Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation

Knoxville, Tenn.

Amount: $9,257
Project title: Embedding Equity & Frontline Perspectives in Sustainability Planning
Project description: To convene and facilitate an equity working group to understand frontline community perspectives, apply an equity lens to proposed actions and develop equity implementation principles for a climate action plan.
Frontline community-led groups: Community Voices Coalition, Socially Equal Efficient Economic Development (SEEED), Centro Hispano, Three3, Inc.
Funder partner: East Tennessee Foundation

Maui County, Hawai’i

Amount: $8,857
Project title: Community Driven and Tech-supported Water Planning for Hawaiian Homesteads
Project description: The mini grant will support scoping meetings with Molokai homestead community members to identify how University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa technical resources might support community-driven water planning.
Frontline community-led group: Hoʻolehua Homestead Agriculture Association
Funder partner: Hawaiʻi Community Foundation

Memphis and Shelby counties, Tenn.

Amount: $7,017
Project title: Equitable Development Plan for the Memphis 3.0 Summer/National District
Project description: This grant will be used to assemble an equitable development task force to identify priorities for a Partners for Places matching grant proposal.
Frontline community-led group: Heights Community Development Corporation
Funder partner: Hyde Foundation

Racine, Wisc.

Amount: $8,557
Project title: Racine’s Resilient Community Centers
Project description: Organizers will conduct community needs assessments in public community centers to plan for resilience hubs, addressing environmental injustices related to water, climate change, housing and transportation.
Frontline community-led groups: Amigos de Cesar Chavez Community Center, Racine Voces de la Frontera and Youth Empowered in the Struggle, and Racine Black Legacy Project
Funder partner: Fund for Lake Michigan

About Partners for Places

Partners for Places general grant program is supported by The JPB FoundationKendeda FundThe Kresge FoundationNew York Community Trust, the Pisces FoundationThe Summit Foundation, and Surdna Foundation.

To date, Partners for Places has awarded more than $7.4 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to over $16 million in investments.

The next RFP for the Partners for Places matching grant program will be released this summer.

Please visit the Partners for Places webpage for more information.

For questions about the Partners for Places Mini Grants or matching grants program, please reach out to Ashley Quintana.

Bonus Reads

Learn about the Round 16 Partners for Places grantees, announced last week. (Grantee communities include Douglas County, Kan., featured in the top photo on this blog post.)

Partners for Places was recently featured in Inside Philanthropy. Read the full story here!

Partners for Places: Meet the new grantees!

By: TFN Staff

Helping low-income elderly residents age gracefully in more energy efficient homes. Creating a shared community vision for open spaces like prairies and wetlands. Engaging and amplifying historically marginalized voices in decisions that impact how they live, work, play and get around.

These community-based approaches that address climate impacts, strengthen local economies and improve the well-being of all residents are the latest round of projects that will receive funding thanks to the Partners for Places matching grant program.

Six cities in the U.S. will receive more than $640,000 to support these sustainability efforts — which focus largely on empowering and engaging low-income neighborhoods and building partnerships between government sustainability offices and place-based foundations.

Douglas County, Kan., will use its Partners for Places grant to help create a community vision for open spaces. Photo credit: Douglas County

Ann Arbor, Mich., will improve the quality of life and health outcomes for low-income seniors — while simultaneously reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions — through the launch of a program that helps them age in place. By teaming up with local partners, such as Meals on Wheels, and energy efficiency experts, the city hopes low-income seniors can live longer in their place of choice with a combination of direct human services, physical improvements to their homes and energy efficiency upgrades that reduce their monthly expenditures.

In Newport, R.I., inequitable access to resources makes it difficult for residents in the low-income neighborhood of North End to have the same opportunities offered to residents in other parts of the city. Additionally, it is a neighborhood prone to flooding from stormwater runoff. Their Partners for Places project will engage the residents and educate them in ways to actively participate in municipal discussions that affect their neighborhood, including a large development plan under consideration for their area. It will also work directly with the residents to identify and install green infrastructure installations that will serve as a model for the rest of the community.

Burlington, Vt., the first city in the nation to secure 100 percent of its energy from renewable generation, hopes to accomplish an ambitious goal of eliminating fossil fuel use from the ground transportation and thermal sectors by 2030. Recognizing that accomplishing this goal depends on including the voices, insights, and experiences of a wide variety of community members, Burlington will use its Partners for Places grant to help create a Transportation Equity Coalition of agencies and members of traditionally underrepresented communities, particularly those who lack access to single-occupancy vehicles.

Park City, Utah, is also hoping to achieve its net-zero carbon goals by 2030 with cross-cutting strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and support community resiliency. Building equity and authentic community engagement into strategies to combat climate change is also at the heart of their Partners for Places project, which will include a year-long community and stakeholder engagement process to connect decision-makers to voices throughout Park City.

Chicago, Ill., will use its Partners for Places funding to support community engagement focused on equitable transit-oriented development. Photo credit: Chicago Transit Authority.

Over the years, the program has fostered dozens of relationships between local governments and funders, who often continue to work toward solutions beyond the initial grant project. For example, this grant cycle includes an effort in Chicago, Ill., to ensure that transit-oriented development is done equitably. It builds upon a collaborative relationship sparked by an earlier Partners for Places project in the city, which sought to better connect low- and moderate-income residents more easily to “green” programs. As the city’s transit lines spur development, this new Partners for Places grant will help fund efforts to develop a plan that deepens community engagement in low-income neighborhoods and emphasizes affordability and connectivity between neighborhoods.

In Douglas County, Kan., county leaders recognize the importance of open spaces — such as native prairies, wetlands, agricultural lands and historic sites — to create a sustainable and thriving place to live and work. They will use their Partners for Places funding to build relationships across the community to create a shared vision that will identify the guiding community values related to open space that will in turn inform local government decisions about how best to increase sustainability, improve planning and zoning and preserve the area’s cultural and natural heritage. This work will inform the development of the county’s climate action and adaptation plan underway later this year.

“Many agencies and organizations have been working on these issues for years, but there is not a comprehensive strategy to address these pressures,” said Douglas County Sustainability Director Jasmin Moore.  “The creation of an open space plan will be a game-changer for our community. I believe it will expand options for both public and private land owners, which will lead to flood damage control, maintaining rural character, enhancing overall ecological integrity, preservation of history, and ultimately, higher quality of life.”

Partners for Places, led by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (TFN) in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), will provide $312,755 in funding to these six cities through the grant program. With contributions from local matching funders, a total of $642,247 will be committed to fund sustainability projects in these selected cities. This grant cycle includes $54,240 — plus the local matching funds — awarded to the green stormwater infrastructure project in Newport. TFN and USDN are excited to partner with Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, a practitioner network that supports communities seeking to grow green stormwater infrastructure programs, to support outreach efforts and participate in reviewing stormwater infrastructure project proposals.

“Partners for Places brings an equity lens to the critical work of creating more sustainable and resilient communities,” said Pat Smith, president and CEO of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. “That means truly listening to and lifting up the voices of those that are disproportionately impacted by climate change — low-income communities and people of color. These projects are significant because they create intentional, authentic engagement with people who are on the front lines of climate change to create community-driven solutions.”

To date, Partners for Places has awarded nearly $7.4 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to over $16 million in investments.

The matching grant program brings national funder investors together with place-based funders to support local sustainability and climate action projects. The program is supported by seven investor foundations: The JPB Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The Kresge Foundation, The New York Community Trust, Pisces Foundation, The Summit Foundation, and Surdna Foundation.

Partners for Places will open a new round of funding for the general grant program this summer.

Ann Arbor, Mich., is working on a pilot program that will allow senior citizens to age gracefully in more energy efficient homes. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The latest Partners for Places grant recipients and their matching funders are:

  • Ann Arbor, Mich. ($99,252): To help launch and implement an “aging in place” program that helps low-income seniors age gracefully in their current housing, improving their quality of life and health outcomes while simultaneously making their homes more energy efficient. Matching funder: Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation ($99,252).
  • Burlington, Vt. ($33,264): To build equity into the process of transforming Burlington’s transportation system, while addressing the city’s goal of eliminating fossil fuel use from the ground transportation sector by 2030. Matching funder: Anonymous ($50,000).
  • Chicago, Ill. (75,000): To create and implement an innovative policy process, plan and engagement strategy for Chicago’s transit-oriented development ordinance, with an emphasis on equity, affordability, and connectivity between neighborhoods. Matching funder: The Chicago Community Trust ($75,000).
  • Douglas County, Kan. ($26,000): To complete the first phase of  open space plan development, focused on building relationships and identifying guiding community values related to open space. Matching funder: Douglas County Community Foundation ($26,000).
  • Newport, R. I. ($54,240): To engage North End underserved residents in mitigating polluted neighborhood runoff and foster relationships between the City’s Department of Utilities and local funders. Matching funders:  Prince Charitable Trusts ($18,120), Rhode Island Foundation ($18,000) and Van Beuren Charitable Foundation ($18,120).
  • Park City, Utah ($25,000): To develop an equitable, building decarbonization and efficiency plan to meet Park City’s net-zero carbon goals by 2030. Matching funder: Park City Community Foundation ($25,000).

For additional information and media inquiries, contact: Tere Figueras Negrete, Communications Director at the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities,

TFN's 2020 Annual Conference : We've Gone Virtual

By Pat Smith, President and CEO

I hope that this message finds you well, safe and healthy in these uncertain times.

Our team at TFN has been hard at work these past few weeks helping the network and our community of funders navigate the implications this global pandemic has and will continue to have on the people and places we serve — joining in calls urging action and decrying racism, creating space in our working groups and PLACES Alumni network to lift up learning and share strategies, and amplifying voices and resources from across the sector that focus on disproportionate impacts faced by low-income communities and people of color.

Like so many of you, we’ve also had to pivot to an all-online format for our learning through the rest of the year.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve re-imagined our TFN Annual Conference as a virtual learning experience.

Even though we would have loved to have hosted our funders and friends at our in-person conference, originally slated for last March in San Diego, we are still looking forward to sharing, learning and connecting with you. We are bringing you a wealth of learning opportunities throughout the month of May as part of TFN’s 2020 (Virtual) Conference: Bridge the Divide.

TFN’s annual conferences have always brought together leaders in philanthropy who are committed to creating communities that are sustainable, prosperous and equitable.

As we face these challenging times, which have brought unprecedented challenges to the health and economic well-being of communities across the globe, our network will continue its work bringing people together to find common ground and inspire collective action — even if that means coming together in a virtual space.

This year’s conference theme, Bridge the Divide, was intended to lift up philanthropy’s unique potential to bridge differences, foster connections and build partnerships — and address urgent issues such as climate change, economic disparity and racial injustice.

Our new virtual lineup delves into these issues, with an added emphasis on creating a space within our virtual events to share and learn about how coronavirus is shaping our world.

We are also carving out a virtual space that hopefully offers a chance for inspiration and respite, such as a May 11 performance by the San Diego-based Playwrights Project and a chance to “quarantine and chill” with us during our Sunday Night at the Movies event.

View our full schedule of events here.

We hope you’ll join us to learn, share and be inspired.

About the Author

Pat Smith, TFN President and CEO

Pat joined the Funders’ Network in July 2018, bringing with her a wealth of expertise in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She is formerly a senior policy advisor for the Reinvestment Fund, a national leader working to rebuild economically-distressed communities through the strategic and innovative use of capital, data and partnerships.

Funder Briefing: How can we advance green and clean transportation in coronavirus recovery?

By: TFN Staff

Reaching 2030 climate goals for transportation emissions requires both electrifying more vehicles and reducing driving. Join us for a funder briefing on how our allies in Washington are working to ensure that both electrification and mode shift are included in Congress’ coronavirus recovery and stimulus packages. Advocates have secured $25 billion for transit so far and are now focused on making sure the funds will be deployed for the good of all and in climate friendly ways.

The funder briefing, Advancing Clean and Green Transportation in Coronavirus Recovery takes place at 4 p.m. ET May 5. Come learn about work to date and how funders can support work on future stimulus packages. We’ll explore the idea of creating a shared set of priorities. The briefing is co-hosted by the Climate and Energy Funders Group and TFN.

Jonna Hamilton from Union of Concerned Scientists will share how they’re framing the need for clean transportation moving forward.
Corinne, Kisner, executive director of National Association of City Transportation Officials will provide on-the-ground perspective on how cities are responding to budget challenges, cuts in transit service and creating more space for physical distancing.
Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America will share strategies for advancing a green transportation agenda in upcoming bills. Moderated by John Mitterholzer, senior program officer for The George Gund Foundation, who serves on the design committee for TFN’s Sustainable Mobility and Equitable Access funder collaborative.

When: May 5, 2020 – 1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET
Where: Register here.

Think Outside The Imaginary Box: A Call To Action

By: Dion Cartwright, Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development 

This message originally appeared in the PLACES Connection Newsletter, which goes to the Alumni of the PLACES program.

As we all live, and for some fight, through the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to see the impact that decades of systemic and structural racism is having on low-income communities and communities of colors. The inequities that long existed before this pandemic are continuing to be on display as we see higher death rates among African Americans, Hispanic and Native communities.

On a daily basis we are witnessing the disproportionately negative effects of existing racial gaps and the constant increase of white privilege and power. We are seeing African Americans die at an astounding rate. We’re seeing limited access to testing in communities with higher rates of underlying health conditions. We are seeing undocumented immigrant families suffering from the effects of the coronavirus, but unable to access relief services or quality healthcare. We are seeing a massive number of jobs lost and further reduced access to basic human needs including access to healthy food and technology.

During a time when traditional philanthropy wants to retreat from their giving because of impacted investment portfolios, we must recognize the need for philanthropy to step up. This is the time when we should invest more in those we often overlook. Investing in youth who don’t all have access to quality education, reducing the digital divide and addressing technology needs in underserved communities. Investing in the infrastructure of local farmers who are working hard to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry families. Investing in minority-owned and small businesses who work hard to boost our local economies. Investing in local nonprofits who constantly work to address community needs.

We are living in a critical moment in time where we have an opportunity to step into our leadership. We have an opportunity for a paradigm shift. Imagine leaving our usual thinking behind and replacing it with a more equitable and just way. The PLACES Fellowship was created ten years ago as a way to help practitioners in philanthropy better understand issues of race, equity, and inclusiveness, and translate into their grantmaking practices. During and beyond this pandemic, we need to remember our purpose. We need to remember that we were created to improve the lives of all people and serve communities for such a time as this. We need to remember that we are in a unique position to be flexible in our grantmaking approach and can be innovative in how we work with communities to develop community-driven solutions to problems.

My call to action for each of you is to think outside the imaginary box. To look beyond the self-imposed restrictions that we’ve put on ourselves as funders. My call to each of you and the organizations you represent is to remove all barriers, erase all inequitable practices that we’ve upheld for so long and step up or step in during a time when we can be that one ounce of hope that few have and many have lost.

Our time is now to bridge the divide.

In Service and Solidarity,

Dion Cartwright
Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development


Building Community Wealth That Lasts

By: Diane Ives, Fund Advisor, The Kendeda Fund

Diane Ives, fund advisor for People, Place, and Planet at The Kendeda Fund and steering committee member of the Funders’ Network’s GREEN working group, shares a reflection on the what it means to build community wealth that lasts beyond grant cycles and builds economic prosperity for all, including our planet.

"Last spring I had a chance to visit two of the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation businesses in Cleveland, Ohio – Green City Growers and Evergreen Cooperative Laundry. This was not my first time visiting these operations, or even my second. Over the years I have returned time and again to watch these companies make headway in shaping the new economy. They are part of a growing movement to bring democracy to the workplace through employee ownership – a trend taking root across the United States.

At Green City Growers, a mission-driven company providing dozens of local restaurants with immediate access to hyper-local food, new LED lighting is in place and floats of lettuce and basil are happily soaking up the rays. Our tour-guide, Ernest, has been at the greenhouse for several years. He is a worker-owner who has moved up from an entry level position to assistant general manager who exuberantly shares his life, the work at Evergreen, and his appreciation for a grandmother who encouraged him to become a worker-owner at Evergreen.

Opened in early 2012, the Green City Growers’ greenhouse was engineered and constructed specifically to grow specialty greensSituated on a 10-acre inner-city site that was once urban blight, the greenhouse—with 3.25 acres under glass–now serves as a vibrant anchor for the surrounding neighborhood.

The laundry has undergone a transformation since I last visited. The Cleveland Clinic has contracted with Evergreen to provide the workforce for their new laundry facility, an impressive operation can wash 30 million pounds of linens annually. Four worker-owners will be taking a trip to Minneapolis to learn how to repair and maintain the new, German-manufactured laundry equipment. Another second-chance worker, Charles, has been with Evergreen laundry since it first opened in 2009. He now has a seat on the board, voted in by his peers. Through Evergreen’s Home Ownership Program he purchased a home for no more than the cost of his monthly rent. Tymika, a second chance worker who has put in many hours in the laundry, now heads up two divisions that prepare linens for the Cleveland Clinic’s surgery rooms and family care centers. She motivates her workforce with enthusiasm, and the occasional offer of pizza (in the break room).

Kendeda has been supporting Community Wealth Building efforts like Evergreen since 2009, in an effort to build economic prosperity for all within the means of the planet. Our funding over that decade has focused on advancing economic systems change that starts at the community level. These include worker coops, community land trusts, anchor institution procurement strategies, and municipal and local public enterprise."

Read the full blog post here.

About the Author

Diane Ives has worked with The Kendeda Fund since 2003, and currently serves as the fund advisor for the People, Place, and Planet program.

Diane has also worked with the Tides Foundation, Beldon Fund, Putnam Foundation, and the Enlyst Fund. Her experiences include national programs that advance environmental and economic sustainability; locally based community development efforts; international programs that support communities and ecosystems; and state-level efforts to support strategic environmental policymaking.

Throughout her career Diane has served in varying capacities for and with foundations, including as a board member, executive director, program officer, grants manager, and consultant. Diane is a graduate of Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She served as a community development Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, from 1983 to 1985.

She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her husband and son.

Nonprofits employ nearly 500K Michiganders. They need SBA Payroll Protection Program funds

By Wendy Lewis Jackson and Aaron Seybert, The Kresge Foundation

TFN members Wendy Jackson and Aaron Seybert from The Kresge Foundation recently share their reflections on how the SBA Payroll Protection Program funds are vital to supporting Detroit's nonprofit sector with the Detroit Free Press. Wendy, a former TFN board member, is currently the co-chair of TFN's Inclusive Economies working group.

"From feeding the hungry, to supporting COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, nonprofits are integral to confronting the pandemic in Detroit, across Michigan and across the country. 

But the nonprofit sector is itself badly battered economically and deeply in need of substantial, targeted support. Nonprofits are anxiously awaiting a new round of the federal Payroll Protection Program, which is up for debate in Congress this week. If it passes, it would need to be followed by ardent support and prioritization of nonprofits from local lenders and state officials.

According to the Michigan Nonprofit Association, nonprofits employed nearly 470,000 people in the third quarter of 2018. This number represents just over one in 10 of Michigan’s total nonfarm jobs, and is larger than Michigan’s leisure and hospitality industry. 

In Detroit, this sector is particularly vital. Nonprofits are the institutional first responders working shoulder to shoulder with government to flatten the curve and meet emergency needs. Nonprofits make up the civic and societal muscle that’s worked to revitalize our community, and will be essential in rebuilding after the financial storm has passed."

Read the rest of this op-ed here.

About the Authors

Wendy Lewis Jackson is managing director for the Detroit Program. She leads The Kresge Foundation’s efforts to revitalize Detroit and to strengthen its social and economic fabric. Her work supports organizations providing economic opportunity for low-income people and addresses the needs of vulnerable children and families.

Aaron Seybert is managing director of the Social Investment Practice at The Kresge Foundation. He previously served as a social investment officer supporting the American Cities and Detroit Programs at Kresge. He joined the foundation in 2016.  Prior to Kresge, he served as executive director at JPMorgan Chase Bank, where he was involved with community development banking focused on New Markets Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credit investing.

A Note From Home

By Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation  

TFN member Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and is co-founder and chair of the US Impact Investing Alliance.

Today on the Ford Foundation's blog Equals Change, Darren shared his reflections on the Covid-19 virus, the role he thinks funders can play in recovery and our need as a people for caution, courage and calm during these trying times. 

"Dear colleagues and friends:

During these strangest of days, one cannot help but feel disoriented.

Our circumstances—and the way we make sense of them—are evolving so rapidly that, even as I draft these lines, I cannot know which will hold true tomorrow or the day after, much less during the weeks and months ahead.

The strangeness takes many different forms. As I work from home—practicing the “social distancing” that the experts counsel—the speed of news, closures, and conference calls is juxtaposed with an unsettling quiet. No one is bustling around my home office the way they would the Ford Foundation corridors.

How can things be moving so fast, and also so slowly?

And yet, I recognize that my lockdown in a Manhattan apartment, while hard for me to process, is certainly no hardship. Those of us who benefit from such privilege would be well served to remember this during the days and months ahead. Far too many are facing real hardships: frontline healthcare professionals, as well as retail, hotel and restaurant workers, and others for whom survival depends on hourly and tipped wages.

And yet, I recognize that my lockdown in a Manhattan apartment, while hard for me to process, is certainly no hardship. Those of us who benefit from such privilege would be well served to remember this during the days and months ahead. Far too many are facing real hardships: frontline healthcare professionals, as well as retail, hotel and restaurant workers, and others for whom survival depends on hourly and tipped wages.

No matter where we find ourselves, though, we share the anxiety that comes with staring straight into the unknown—even if we’ve already been living with some elements of this altered reality. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis is an extreme extension of trends and feelings of uncertainty that have defined the last few years: The unprecedented has become the ordinary, in nearly every facet of life.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, I have been reflecting on the timeless words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

As the pandemic and its consequences threaten lives and livelihoods, we see—yet again—just how inextricably our fates and fortunes are intertwined. We see how each of us is directly, and indirectly, responsible for those around us."

Read the rest of his blog here.

About the Author

Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, an international social justice philanthropy with a $13 billion endowment and $600 million in annual grant making. He chaired the philanthropy committee that brought a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and is co-founder and chair of the US Impact Investing Alliance.

Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs including the Rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1990s, as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation—Harlem’s largest community development organization—he oversaw a comprehensive revitalization strategy, including building over 1,000 units of affordable housing and the first major commercial development in Harlem since the 1960s. Earlier, he had a decade-long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS.

Darren co-chairs New York City’s Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and serves on the Commission on the Future of Rikers Island Correctional Institution and the UN International Labor Organization Commission on the Future of Work. He also serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Gallery of Art, Art Bridges, the High Line, VOW to End Child Marriage, the HOW Institute for Society, the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment, and the Committee to Protect Journalists. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is the recipient of 13 honorary degrees and university awards, including the W. E. B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard University.

Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first class of Head Start in 1965 and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, which in 2009 recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award—its highest alumni honor. He has been included on numerous annual media lists, including Time’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative People, and Out magazine’s Power 50.