Four ways philanthropy can effectively partner with governments to support equitable vaccination distribution and ensure that more individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19.
This article originally appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review.
After nearly a year of living through the biggest public health crisis in generations—with 100 million people infected, 2 million people dead, and almost everyone’s lives disrupted—the world is desperate to see widespread vaccination against COVID-19. But the excitement of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine approvals in December 2020 has since dampened after a rocky rollout to get those vaccines into people’s arms. It’s not enough to have a vaccine; it must be distributed effectively and equitably.
The good news is that vaccine distribution is picking up speed in many places. In the United States, President Biden has promised to invest significant federal dollars to provide states with the resources they need to vaccinate their residents. But this support will take time to secure and distribute while the need remains urgent. One barrier is significant rates of vaccine hesitancy rates, driven in part by a history of medical exploitation and mistreatment toward people of color in the United States. A recent study showed that just 14 percent of Black Americans and 34 percent of Latinx Americans trust that a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe.
Moments like this call for public-private partnership. In my role managing public-private partnerships for the Office of the Governor in California, I’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that working together and leveraging the strengths of both sectors has created significantly more impact than working alone.
As we move into this new phase of attempting a historic mass-vaccination campaign in the United States, many in the philanthropic sector are eager to support the process in ways big and small. But given the unpredictable nature of the vaccination roll out, foundations and donors aren’t always sure how to leverage their investments most effectively.
While we still have much to learn as the process continues, the following are four ways philanthropy can effectively partner with governments now to support equitable vaccination distribution and ensure that more individuals are vaccinated against COVID-19:
1. Invest in Trusted Messengers
Experts say that as much as 90 percent of the population must achieve immunity to eliminate COVID-19, and yet public confidence in the vaccine—particularly among communities of color—falls far short of that. About a quarter of the public feels hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning they say they probably or definitely will not get it. This is much higher among Black adults, with 35 percent saying they definitely will not get vaccinated.
We know that trusted messengers—well-respected community leaders who live and work in ethnic and racial minority communities disproportionately affected by the virus—are important to reaching vaccine-hesitant communities. However, community-based organizations like local health clinics or promotoras that often play that role aren’t always large enough to apply for state or local funding. Philanthropy can help fill that gap.
An unlikely example that provides a great playbook for what works is something unrelated to public health: the US Census. The country recently invested hundreds of millions of dollars building the capacity of a network of trusted messengers, to convince hard-to-reach populations to fill out the 2020 census. In California alone, state government and philanthropic partners worked together to fund hundreds of organizations that have close connections to groups like farmworkers, people with disabilities, and tribal communities—many of the same underrepresented communities that need information and support on vaccination.
One public-private partnership building on this model is Together Toward Health—a collaboration between the State of California, Public Health Institute, and a group of philanthropic funders led by The California Endowment. This $28 million fund is dedicated to funding organizations on the ground to do community education and outreach on COVID-19, including information on why and how to get vaccinated. The philanthropic funding is coordinated with a $30 million investment from the state to fund outreach and education, including through many of the same organizations that supported the state’s census efforts.
Investing in local grassroots organizations to support vaccine education isn’t just important to the success of vaccination efforts. By focusing on organizations led by people of color and other underrepresented leaders, who are well-positioned to reach vulnerable communities, we can also create more equity. Investment in these groups will help seed a new generation of leadership in the nonprofit sector and create an infrastructure for community-engagement that will last long after the COVID crisis.
2. Support Innovative Delivery of Vaccines
On the distribution of the vaccines, the state and the federal government will be playing the primary role. The Biden Administration has announced that the federal government will be setting up 100 vaccine mega-sites throughout the country, and states have been launching their own mass vaccination programs in sports arenas and other large venues. Hospitals, local health clinics, and health-care providers are acting as vaccine administrators, and community-based testing sites are converting some of their appointments to vaccine appointments.
But even these efforts aren’t enough; we need a wide range of innovative approaches. For example, one mobile vaccination site in Coachella Valley, California—led by the immigrant-support organization TODEC and several local agencies, and in partnership with Riverside County and Together Toward Health—vaccinated 250 agricultural workers in a single day. These workers received their vaccines during their shifts to avoid lost wages, and the site will return in three weeks to provide the second dose. Philanthropic funding supported staffing from eight local community-based organizations that helped lead the effort. Similar efforts are also taking a holistic approach to worker well-being by offering food distribution, COVID testing and education, as well as worker rights and tenant protection education.
We can also take learnings from distribution of the flu vaccine, where employers around the United States regularly provide easy ways for their employees to get vaccinated. We have also seen innovative pilots with schools. For example, an effective school-located influenza vaccination program called Shoo the Flu—fueled by a partnership between a county health department, a school district, and philanthropy—provided more than 55,000 vaccinations for preschools and elementary students and staff in 95 Northern Californian schools between 2014 and 2019. The impact of this city-wide program was significant, resulting in greater vaccination coverage, fewer school absences, and lower community-wide hospitalizations.
As vaccine supply becomes more available, philanthropy can support innovative pilots in partnership with schools, community health centers, collaboratives, and even companies (Uber, for example, has offered free and discounted rides to get people to vaccine sites). These efforts will help meet harder-to-reach communities where they are.
3. Support Job Training Programs for Community Health Workers
Philanthropy can also invest in training public health workers for immediate roles in contact tracing, community outreach, and education, as well as for longer-term careers in public health and health care. The United States has historically underinvested in its public health infrastructure, leaving an insufficient number of health care workers to address the pandemic. This, coupled with the fact that nearly 11 million Americans are currently unemployed, presents an ideal opportunity to both address COVID tracking and vaccination, and get people back to work.
The health care provider Kaiser Permanente is doing this through its partnership with the State of California. Through a grant to the Public Health Institute, it’s funding the hiring and training of 500 full-time workers—individuals who are linguistically and culturally competent, and who can support contact tracing work for the communities they serve. One example is John Franco. In 2020, Franco lost his job and then contracted COVID-19. A call from a contact tracer alerted him that he had been exposed to the disease, which stopped him from going to visit his mother the next day and spreading the virus to her. This experience inspired him to apply for the Kaiser Permanente program to become a contact tracer himself. He not only has served as a bilingual contact tracer for his community, but is now taking public health classes on the side and planning for a career in the field.
Similar efforts are sprouting up in other areas of the country too. In Chicago, for example, the Vaccine Corps Partnership is hiring community health workers to support the equitable distribution of vaccines, and Futuro Health is supporting online training for people interested in health-care careers. Innovations in workforce development to address COVID-19 and the economic crisis can move people from unemployment and despair to hope and new careers.
4. Invest in Coordination
Finally, we know that coordination at the national, state, and local levels will help bring more people to the table, and will ensure that we’re all leveraging each other’s strengths in this historic effort to vaccinate Americans.
One example is the COVID Collaborative—funded by the Skoll Foundation in partnership with the NAACP, UnidosUS, and Langer Research—which recently released results of a survey on vaccine hesitancy in Black and Latinx communities. Another is the Rockefeller Foundation’s State and Territory Alliance for Testing, which fosters collaboration among governors on testing and is helping develop best practices related to vaccines. At the local level, the Community Foundation in Monterey County is funding a weekly, facilitated conversation to ensure that local leaders are advancing a multi-sector, coordinated action plan to support public health and equity.
The reality is that we’re learning as we go when it comes to vaccine distribution. But while we still don’t fully know how our vaccination efforts will take shape, which interventions will reach the most people, or how we can be most efficient while still maintaining a focus on equity, philanthropy can act now to help government be more innovative in the process. This is the time to work together to get more vaccines in people’s arms and help bring this dark period of public health crisis to a close.
How governments can partner with philanthropy, nonprofits, and businesses to magnify their social impact over the next four years.
This article originally appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Last year, when Governor Gavin Newsom appointed me California’s first senior advisor on social innovation to lead public-private partnerships, he already knew it was a moment for collaboration like never before. Although California had experienced decades of prosperity, not all Californians had benefited from the state’s success, and we needed to rethink our approach to build a California for all.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, business, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations have partnered with government in unprecedented ways to support Californians. The state’s recently released Social Innovation Impact Report shows that under Governor Newsom’s leadership, our office has led public-partnerships totaling $3.9 billion in corporate and philanthropic funding, in coordination with $1.3 billion in public funding. We have created far more social impact than we would have by working alone. And while public-private partnerships are not new, California is the first state in the country to lead cross-sector collaborations at such a large scale.
When the public, private, and philanthropic sectors partner, everyone benefits. In California, our partnerships are addressing problems including the state’s homelessness crisis, supporting California’s undocumented immigrants, and ensuring California families don’t go hungry. These partnerships are on the cutting edge of innovation, bringing new solutions to previously intractable problems, and providing models for other states and for the country.
As President-Elect Joe Biden shapes his approach to governing—including how to provide both immediate and sustained public health and economic relief—there’s much to learn from California’s approach to partnerships. We’ve been bringing all hands on deck to address social challenges like supporting populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19, ending the pandemic, fighting for racial justice, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Here are four important takeaways from our work over the past two years that may help other government teams—federal, state, or municipal—looking to lead through partnerships:
1. Partnerships provide a more expansive way of governing. As the first US state to have a senior advisor on social innovation embedded in the governor’s office, whose primary role is to coordinate policy priorities with the private sector, California is taking a cross-sector approach to effectively meeting people’s needs. We are collaborating between public and private sectors to broaden the impact of our work and bring different capabilities to the table.
Our state’s COVID-19 Public Awareness Campaign provides a vivid example. In July, when public health experts were urging people to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus, yet mask-wearing was still not widely adopted in many parts of the state, we began shaping a hard-hitting, surround-sound campaign to shift public behavior. Philanthropic partners like CDC Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and Sierra Health Foundation provided funding in partnership with the California Department of Public Health, and together, we launched a statewide “Wear a Mask” campaign. Dozens of companies—including Facebook, Twitter, NBCUniversal, Comcast, and Ethnic Media Services—donated advertising space, and Google offered its behavioral health team to analyze data so that public health officials could better understand which messages were resonating. Sesame Workshop even pitched in by producing mask ads with Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, and Grover, aimed at kids going back to school.
The campaign ultimately developed hundreds of assets in 10 languages. These have seen 485 million digital impressions, 1.4 billion television impressions, and 750 million radio impressions. This campaign was stronger, because we were working together with the private sector to maximize and amplify the message, and today California has one of the highest rates of mask adoption in the United States.
2. Partnerships produce innovative solutions. Public-private partnerships also bring new ideas to government and test them out in ways that government could scale. Sometimes, it can be difficult for government bodies to innovate, because policy leaders don’t want to take risks with tax-payer dollars. At the same time, smaller investments by just one philanthropy can’t have wide-spread reach. Philanthropic and corporate capital is precisely the type of flexible money that can help de-risk government spending.
Take Project Homekey, an effort launched in June to convert hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other properties in need of rehabilitation into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We put out a request for proposals to local jurisdictions and dedicated more than $800 million to buying properties across the state. We also partnered with Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente, who collectively contributed $45 million to support wraparound services like substance abuse counselors and job training programs where needed, and with Enterprise Community Partners, a national expert in affordable housing financing, to support the long-term financing of the properties.
So far, the effort has created 6,055 units of permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness. But perhaps most important, the average per-unit cost is $138,512, including funding for services—a figure well below the average cost to build new housing units. This innovative approach to acquiring housing provides a model that government and the private sector alike could scale across the country.
3. Partnerships allow you to accelerate social change: While COVID-19 has revealed deep disparities in our society, such as communities of color being disproportionately affected, the gravity of the pandemic has also provided the opportunity to accelerate social change by taking bold risks through partnerships. Whether it’s supporting vulnerable Californians who have been left behind or providing housing or services to formerly incarcerated individuals, we are leveraging this moment of crisis as a catalyst for social change.
This summer, in response to rising COVID-19 cases among incarcerated individuals and prison staff, the State of California expedited the release of Californians who were already on track to go home from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Through our Returning Home Well initiative, which aims to break the cycle of recidivism, poverty, and homelessness in California, we worked to provide individuals with access to services proven to help formerly incarcerated people successfully reenter society. Alongside CDCR and the Department of Social Services, we partnered with Amity Foundation and Career Employment Opportunities to offer housing, health care, treatment, transportation, direct assistance, and employment support.
With $15 million in public funding, and $15 million in philanthropic funding led by Meadow Fund, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Rosenberg Foundation, and more than a dozen other foundations, the initiative is now working with more than 100 community partners. So far, 6,171 individuals have received treatment services upon exit from CDCR institutions, and 2,011 individuals have received reentry housing, representing a 78 percent increase over last year. If successful, the program could influence the way we support systems-involved individuals going forward.
4. Partnerships have a multiplier effect. Partnerships can also provide a model for policy change that can be replicated in other jurisdictions.
One example of a public-private partnership that’s providing a model for other cities and states is California’s Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants fund. When the federal government issued stimulus checks of up to $1,200 to each American in early 2020, it left out undocumented Americans—including immigrant Californians—who have been disproportionately performing essential jobs throughout the pandemic. In April, Governor Newsom announced an unprecedented $125 million disaster relief fund to fill this gap.
Funded with $75 million from the state and an additional $50 million from 70-plus philanthropic partners and more than 800 individual donors (led by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees), the fund has provided more than 230,000 undocumented Californians with one-time cash assistance of up to $1,000 per household to deal with specific needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty-two states and cities across the United States have already replicated the model so far.
A How-To Guide for Public-Private Partnerships
For any local, state or federal government seeking to adopt public-private partnerships as a new form of governance, or for philanthropic and private sector partners interested in thinking about how to best encourage such partnership, here are some lessons I’ve learned over the last year:
A lot of hard work lays ahead of us in California and across the country. As we have shown in California, we are stronger by working collectively. We hope these lessons from the last year of partnerships in our state can assist President-Elect Biden and leaders throughout the country in creating a world where all sectors work together to bring about change.
6/23/2020 0 Comments
This article originally appeared in CalMatters.
After months of being confined to our homes, thousands of people have been shouting in the streets, risking their lives in the midst of a pandemic to fight structural racism and to be heard. It’s time to listen.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed me the first ever senior advisor on Social Innovation for the state of California one year ago, it was clear that my job wasn’t about bringing partners to the same old table in Sacramento. It was about building a new table entirely, one with room for all Californians.
During my first eight months, I embarked on a border to border listening tour, visiting 80 organizations across 16 cities and convened with 750 nonprofit, philanthropic and business leaders.
As a seventh generation Californian, I thought I understood the challenges we face. It turns out I had a lot to learn.
What I discovered, and what we are all seeing unfold before our eyes, is that showing up matters. Listening matters. In California, equity isn’t just about demographics, it’s about geography. Innovation isn’t just about the tech titans of Silicon Valley or the entertainment moguls of Los Angeles, it exists in every community across this state. While each community is unique, every community is working creatively to address seemingly intractable problems, from homelessness to climate change.
Government doesn’t have all the answers. Community-led social innovation must inform statewide policy. In the wake of COVID-19, emergency cash assistance programs like California’s Disaster Relief Fund for undocumented immigrants didn’t germinate in the head of a policymaker in Sacramento, they come from grassroots leaders who know first-hand how cash assistance can stabilize families during a crisis.
Mayor Michael Tubbs’ universal basic income pilot, in partnership with the Economic Security Project, gave 125 Stockton residents $500 a month over the past year. They demonstrated that if you give low-income families an extra cushion, it can prevent the much more tragic – and expensive – problem of living on the streets. Armed with this evidence, Newsom is doubling down on the Earned Income Tax Credit to help California’s most vulnerable families get back on their feet.
If we want to offset the devastating economic downturn and budget cuts, California also needs innovation that actually saves money.
Last fall, I met Steve Wright, a surfer from Imperial Beach on the border between California and Mexico, where the Tijuana River dumps 60,000 cubic yards of sediment, 3,000 tires and thousands of empty plastic bottles into a California State Park. The state was spending $1.8 million annually to dispose of the garbage, so Wright started a cross-border job training program to clean up the trash and give people jobs at the same time. His organization, 4 Walls International, recently created a social impact bond that will save the state $7.5 million over six years, while paying back investors.
Newsom also wants to ensure those who have traditionally been left out of our state’s economic prosperity, help lead the way to recovery.
Judge Abby Abinanti, California’s first Native American female lawyer, is leading a model for justice reform by integrating Yurok cultural practices and healing into her Yurok Tribal Court, rehabilitating individuals who would be otherwise swept into the criminal-justice system.
The Blue Lake Rancheria, located in rural Humboldt County, built a low-carbon community microgrid to help power government offices, businesses and a local Red Cross safety shelter, which helped save lives during the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, a model we can scale as we face the threat of wildfire season this year.
The challenges we face as a state and nation are daunting. But even through the crisis, so many Californians are waking up every day committed to and calling for change.
Equity will not be achieved through projects and policies alone, it is a lens through which we must see all of our work, and it should be the lens through which we see innovation as well. If we truly want to build a California for all centered on the spirit of innovation, we need to keep listening to all Californians and meet them on the road to recovery.
This article originally appeared on Medium.
Ever since I started my role as Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to Governor Gavin Newsom, I’ve been saying this is a “moment for partnership like never before.” Never could I have imagined just how true that statement would become as it has in this moment.
As the State of California embarks on the massive undertaking of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in our State to save lives and help those already infected, we NEED our philanthropic partners like never before. Philanthropic capital is nimble capital. It can support innovation and outside- of-the-box community interventions alongside our statewide response.
To those philanthropists considering how to meet the growing need, a few critical reminders:
1. This is a quickly evolving situation. Flexibility is more important than it’s ever been before.
2. This is a marathon not a sprint. By all accounts COVID-19 will get worse before it gets better. As immediate needs continue to surge, we also need to be investing with a long-term focus in mind.
3. There are many ways to support our efforts, and we need all of them! My goal in presenting a buffet of opportunities for partnership is not to be prescriptive, but to open up new lines of communication and thinking about how to partner. Invest where you are uniquely positioned to do so, and bring all of your resources, regional understanding, and relationships to bear.
With that in mind, there are two primary categories of need that are emerging: first supporting the public health response and second supporting vulnerable communities.
SUPPORT THE PUBLIC HEALTH RESPONSE
A few areas where there are opportunities for partnership on the public health response include what I’m calling the 4 Ts — testing, tracking, treatment, and transparency:
1. Testing: We know that increasing testing capacity has been a challenge. With private lab testing starting in California this week, our capacity is much more significant, but we still need to ramp up to meet the growing need. Investing in testing innovation is an important role that philanthropy can play. Private researchers like Stanford and UCSF have developed in-house tests that they are using, and the Gates Foundation has developed home testing kits that they are processing through the University of Washington. And just today the California Governor’s Office announced a partnership with Verily to develop community testing sites using their Project Baseline technology. This kind of innovation is exactly what we need.
2. Technology + Tracking the Spread of the Disease: We have in-house predictive models at California’s Department of Health and Human Services that can show the spread of the virus across California, but we also know that we have the best technology in the world right here in our state. Governor Newsom is committed to leveraging external AI partners to try to predict the spread of the COVID-19 across California so we can be prepared with our response.
3. Treatment: There is currently no known vaccine for COVID-19. As a state, we will be relying on private research institutions to support vaccine testing and therapeutic treatment research, so investing in private research is another way to support the public health response, especially for the long-term.
4. Transparency through Active Communications: Finally, as we move from the containment phase to the mitigation phase, we will need strong messaging to ensure all Californians have the correct information to stay safe. We are working on a statewide PSA Campaign that will launch soon, and have already had so many private partners lend their support to that effort. But local communities — especially local departments of public health — are each going to need support to develop local messaging. Remember, we are a state with 58 counties, each of which will experience this outbreak in a different way, so supporting local jurisdictions will be key. Organizations like the CDC Foundation are playing a critical role in supporting local communications strategies.
SUPPORT VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
The second area where we’re seeing a huge need for philanthropic partnership is supporting California’s already vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Low wage workers, low-income families, homeless individuals, and other underserved populations are going to be disproportionately affected by this pandemic.
How can you help support those most vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19?
1. Use community foundations. As this virus is poised to spread throughout the state, community foundations are going to be in the best position to support hyper-local relief efforts in a way that the State cannot. Philanthropy California, a statewide coalition of grantmakers, is working closely with the League of California Community Foundations, United Ways and others to set up regional disaster funds throughout the state. This will be critical to help us get resources to communities that don’t have as much access to philanthropic funding (like inland California and tribal areas).
2. Support local nonprofits serving vulnerable populations — food banks (especially if kids can no longer get school lunches), meals on wheels, senior centers, homeless-serving organizations — are also relying on philanthropic support to get through this outbreak. Nonprofits themselves are going to be particularly vulnerable given the increase in demand, and the decrease in funding with canceled fundraisers and the stock market decline. And of course flexible, general operating support is critical during this uncertain time — both making new unrestricted grants and freeing up prior programmatic grants to convert to general operating support are desperately needed.
3. Support organizations that provide individual assistance. 57% of Americans don’t have $500 in their bank accounts to cover an emergency. The State has many benefits that will be available to individuals — paid family leave, unemployment insurance, etc. — but some of our most vulnerable Californians won’t be eligible for those (i.e. non-workers), and often flexible cash grants to cover rental payments or utility bills will be needed most. I encourage you to look for structures that are already in place like flexible rent subsidy pools or community foundations, that are set up for individual assistance. The Hilton Foundation, for example, just made a $250K grant to Brilliant Corners to support rental subsidies in Los Angeles County.
4. Finally, support small businesses. 90% of businesses fail within two years of being struck by disaster. SBA loans are available to business owners, and just last week San Francisco announced a million-dollar fund to support $10K grants to small businesses. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development is working to set up 0% loan funds through CDFI’s, which are a great place to invest. We are also working to set up a statewide philanthropic fund for small businesses — stay tuned for more information on that soon.
I’ll end just as I started: This is a moment for partnership like we’ve never experienced before.
First, it’s a moment for partnership with the state: we are executing on addressing an unprecedented pandemic here in California, and we need your partnership to support local communities who are going to experience this global pandemic in different, locally unique ways that have hyper-local needs.
It’s also a moment for collaboration with each other — scattershot grantmaking is not going to be as impactful as donors coming together to amplify their impact by working together. Use this as an opportunity to work through intermediaries, like the CDC Foundation or Philanthropy California, and for collaborative grantmaking. Together, our work will go so much farther — the sum is greater than its parts.
Governor Newsom is committed to working in partnership with the private and philanthropic sectors to address the COVID-19 virus head on, slowing the spread and saving lives! We hope you will join us as we meet this moment head-on.
STATE ECONOMY MAY BE THRIVING, BUT NOT ALL CALIFORNIANS ARE SHARING IN THAT PROSPERITY
This article by Mayor Michael D. Tubbs and Kathleen Kelly Janus originally appeared in The Mercury News.
California’s economy is thriving, but not all Californians are sharing in that prosperity. Inland California, which stretches from Sacramento to Stockton through Fresno, Bakersfield, and the Inland Empire, contributes 17 percent of California’s economic output – but faces more than its fair share of poverty, unemployment and opportunity gaps.
Philanthropic giving mirrors those trends. California’s Bay Area has 20% of the state’s population and receives 53% of its philanthropic dollars, while the San Joaquin Valley is home to 11% of the state’s population and receives just 3% of its nonprofit dollars. Similarly, the Inland Empire accounts for 11% of California’s population but receives just 1% of the state’s nonprofit dollars.
If you’re a philanthropist investing in housing for the 59,000 people on our Los Angeles streets or services for the homeless in San Francisco, you might be wondering what these problems have to do with you. The answer is, everything. The fates of our communities are intertwined. As people migrate inland in pursuit of more affordable living, philanthropy must recognize the opportunity to truly build a California for all.
Bay Area organizations like Hamilton Families, are rehousing homeless families as far away as Sacramento and Fresno to address the skyrocketing need. We must ensure that jobs, supportive services, and affordable housing follow. If we don’t, we are just busing people out and passing big problems down the road, instead of building communities of choice where people can thrive.
In this spirit, Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading a “Regions Rise Together” initiative to support economic development, land use, and transportation in communities that have been left behind. Some influential investors are already redefining the philanthropic landscape. Philanthropy California has guided grant-making organizations across the state toward funding opportunities in San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire. The James Irvine Foundation and The California Endowment are increasing nonprofit capacity throughout the Central Valley and Salinas.
Philanthropy is critical to catalyze government dollars. The city of Stockton leveraged The Spiegel Family Foundation’s $20 million donation to launch Stockton Scholars, double the number of counselors in Stockton Unified School District and align its graduation requirements with the CSU/UC system. This catalytic investment triggered a $2 million commitment in the state’s 2019 budget to produce a feasibility study for a Cal State University in Stockton, which would create more than 2,000 local jobs and generate more than $250 million to Stockton’s local economy.
Philanthropic investments also help test new ideas. With support from the Economic Security Project, Stockton launched SEED, the nation’s first mayor-led guaranteed income pilot. In February, SEED began giving 125 low-income residents $500 a month for 18 months. This partnership helped transform universal basic income from a fringe idea to a viable policy solution that could help lift people out of poverty throughout our state.
Environmentalists also need to look Inland. Forty percent of emissions in our state are from vehicles. With lack of affordable housing “super-commuters,” those traveling 90 minutes or more to work every day, are on the rise. We must marshal every available resource – from state climate resilience programs to directing social capital into new businesses, green infrastructure, and housing through Opportunity Zones — if we want to create local jobs and healthier outcomes.
Californians must start thinking beyond their own backyard. Philanthropy’s nimble capital, local government’s knowledge, and the nonprofit sector’s trust must be deployed together to empower those who have been left behind. If we continue to operate in silos, the gaps between us will continue to grow. If we work together, all Californians can rise.
6/22/2019 0 Comments
This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.
California is no stranger to crisis.
Nearly 20 years ago, when we were experiencing rolling blackouts across the state and the fallout after the dotcom bubble burst, the governor invited nonprofits and philanthropists to join him in solving the most pressing social problems of the day. But philanthropy was wary of getting too close to government, and government quickly became too distracted with the energy crisis to cultivate meaningful partnerships with philanthropy.
Today, skyrocketing housing costs are forcing Californians out of their communities and onto the streets, our education system ranks among the lowest in the nation and more than a million Californians don’t have clean drinking water.
We are in the middle of a mess in our state. But, today, the sector has changed. We are finally willing to admit that we need each other.
California is the land of innovation. But that innovation does not need to be confined to the tech giants of Silicon Valley, the biotech labs of San Diego or the entertainment masterminds of Los Angeles. We have the opportunity to marry California’s innovative spirit with state government and, in doing so, help solve many of our greatest and most pressing social issues.
In fact, many of our greatest innovators are hard at work in local communities solving the most pressing social problems we face.
In October of 2017, when the fires ravaged Sonoma County, leaving hundreds of people without homes, La Luz Center in Sonoma didn’t just rebuild housing. They saw it as an opportunity to train low-income workers in the construction trade. In the Bay Area, Doniece Sandoval, the founder of Lava Mae, developed a network of mobile showers for the homeless, using “radical hospitality” to give their guests dignity, a first step in rebuilding their lives. And in Stockton, Mayor Michel Tubbs guaranteed 100 low-income residents $500 a month to see if a system of universal basic income might alleviate some of the daily shocks of living in poverty.
People are coming together across sectors like never before to address long-standing problems. In a recent census convening in Sacramento coordinated by Philanthropy California – a statewide collaboration of grantmakers – every square inch of the room was packed with community leaders, philanthropists and government officials. It was so crowded that people were literally sitting on the floor, taking notes. Together, they are devising a shared strategy to count every Californian in the 2020 census and avoid the billions of dollars in lost federal funding as a result of undercounting in the past.
In Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation is pulling from its endowment and partnering with foundations, developers and lenders to help ensure LA County is successful in its commitment to more than triple the production of affordable housing and support services to keep low-income populations housed.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has once again invited philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and CEOs to be part of his agenda for change in California, and this time the response has been overwhelming. As I step into the first-ever role as senior adviser on social innovation for Newsom, I am committed to elevating stories of social change from every community and building strong multi-sector partnerships across our state.
Private philanthropy is nimble enough to invest in research and development, while government has the unique power to purchase and scale new solutions. And of course none of that matters without strong nonprofits on the ground who are implementing services, welcoming clients through their doors and being responsive to their lived experiences.
In order for us to move through the crisis we’re seeing in California, we have to ensure that we are not only investing in service to our communities but acting as a unified driver of growth, change and justice for all.
This article appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Over the past several months, philanthropy has faced rising criticism for its lack of transparency or accountability, perpetuation of wealth inequality, and preservation of a system of exploitation. As Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker reminds us, this critique is not new: Decades ago, Martin Luther King Jr. warned philanthropists not to “overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”
One way in which these injustices have played out is in philanthropy’s failure to hire or fund people of color. Less than 5 percent of foundation CEOs are diverse leaders, and just 4 percent of grants and contributions go to diverse-led organizations.
These bleak statistics have many leaders—including ourselves—trying to do better. To find our way forward, we’ve convened dozens of funders over the past year to discuss how to improve our efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Three guidelines have emerged:
1. Re-define Risk
“Grassroots doesn’t mean small, grassroots can be big and impactful.” –Solome Lemma, Thousand Currents
Funders often label funding applicants as risky because they lack data to show their impact or don't have a degree from certain universities. Such an assessment fails in a major way: It doesn't incorporate the value of a leader’s ties to the communities they serve and experience in the field. Philanthropy must acknowledge the extent to which bias and racism play a role in this risk calculation and create metrics that value experience and community connections. This has nothing to do with a so-called “lowering of the bar.” It's about valuing leaders from all backgrounds and their hard-won experience. For example, Segal Family Foundation launched its African Visionary Fellowship in 2017 to give weight to experiential capital in its portfolio and find ways to propel African leaders toward resources at the same rate as their Western peers. Similarly, Thousand Currents seeks to fund grassroots organizations in the countries where they work, combatting the trend that only 12 percent of international organizationsthat receive funding are actually operating in the developing world.
2. Emphasize Trust
“Philanthropists must shift from gatekeepers to allies.” –Katie Bunten-Wamaru, formerly of Segal Family Foundation
Trust is a key ingredient to building processes that favor diversity, equity and inclusion. Yet lengthy grant applications and extensive reporting requirements for nonprofits imply a lack of trust. They also disproportionately affect diverse leaders, who may lack connections or face a double standard due to implicit biases. Philanthropy must shift from the position of gatekeeper to the role of ally and partner. The Whitman Institute, for instance, employs “trust-based philanthropy,” a movement which seeks to address the power imbalance between funders and grantees by eliminating grant applications, reducing reporting requirements, and providing multi-year grants so that nonprofits don’t have to worry about losing funding if they are honest about both their successes and their failures. In another example, Heinz Endowments used grantmaking to get not just input from the community, but also engagement from community leaders to form strategic priorities for key areas of its philanthropy. Both organizations put those that they are serving—either grantee partners or the community—at the center of their approach, moving forward from a place of trust.
3. Reflect the Community
While there has been a push for nonprofits to be more transparent about their staff, philanthropy has remained mostly silent about the diversity of its teams and portfolios. According to D5 Coalition, 80 percent of foundation staff and 91 percent of foundation CEOs are white. Such uniformity goes a long way toward explaining inequitable funding outcomes; after all, staff, CEOs, and others with decision-making authority play a critical role in any changes to an organization. Foundations are already pushing themselves to reflect the communities they serve in a number of ways. The Rosenberg Foundation has an advisory committee of dozens of community-based leaders who help find underrepresented talent for the Leading Edge fellowship. And Tipping Point Community audited its staff and board, and surveyed its grantees, to discover ways that it could augment DEI in its work environment, staff, and grantmaking.
We have reached a moment when foundations must face the ways they may be reinforcing inequality. By re-defining risk, emphasizing trust, and reflecting the community, philanthropy can make great progress on diversity, equity and inclusion. Failing to do so may perpetuate the very inequities foundations seek to solve.
This article originally appeared in Fast Company.
Nearly 31% of all philanthropic giving happens in the month of December. Yet all too often, donors make decisions about their contributions based on their good intentions as opposed to rigorous research.
From increasing inequality to climate change, there is no shortage of social problems to solve right now, and the good news is there is no shortage of people who want to help solve them. But here’s the thing: Good intentions aren’t enough. If we want to be more impactful in our giving, we need to do a better job of teaching the best practices of social change–to students, to donors, and to nonprofit leaders themselves (you can hear more about this in my new TedX talk).
Here are three ways that you can be more effective in your end-of-year giving to maximize your impact.
1. Research an organization's performance
A recent study showed that while 85% of donors say a charity’s performance is important, only 35% conduct research on giving, and just 2% give based on a group’s performance. And yet, my research shows that one of the key indicators of whether an organization will be successful is whether the nonprofit tracks its performance. Taking a data-driven approach is important not only for nonprofits to prove that what they’re doing works, but to improve their programs as they grow. For example, New Door Ventures, a job-training organization in San Francisco, takes a rigorous approach to measuring how effective they are at providing a path for low-income young people into the workforce. When one of their technology training programs wasn’t demonstrating strong results, they closed that program and channeled their funding toward their T-shirt business, which was helping their youth get jobs faster. As a donor, one of the most important things you can do before giving is look at a nonprofit’s impact report to see if their programs are actually meeting their goals.
2. Make sure that you contribute unrestricted dollars
By some estimates, 80% of philanthropic contributions in the U.S. are restricted. What does this mean? It means the money is given on the condition that it’s only used for specific services. This would be like going into a restaurant and saying, “I’ll pay for the food, but I’m not paying for the time for the chef to prepare it, or the salary of the server to bring it to me.” The nonprofit sector is one of the only places where investors feel entitled to pick and choose what we pay for. Too often, we ask our nonprofit leaders–the people who have dedicated their entire lives to solving some of the most difficult challenges of our time–to fight these battles with one hand tied behind their backs. If you want to be effective as a donor, you have can’t just fund programming, you have to invest in the infrastructure required to make that programming successful.
3. Don't just give money, give time
Finally, one of the most effective ways that you can make an impact is by giving not just your money but your time. For example, 97% of millennials say they want to apply their work skills to volunteering. This is a huge opportunity for companies to harness their employees’ talents for good. Last year, Google committed $10 million to Goodwill, a job training organization, to help them teach technical skills to 1 million people. But they didn’t just give money, Google also gave the time of 1,000 employees to help with career coaching and digital skills training. Rather than just engaging employees in one-off volunteer days, companies should find ways to apply their talent and expertise to help the causes they care about.
This giving season, donors must ensure that they are putting in the time and effort to fund programs that work, invest in the critical infrastructure incredible leaders need to run effective programming, and give not just money, but time and skilled expertise to the causes they love. That’s how we turn good intentions into tangible results. That’s how we turn feel-good philanthropy into real-good philanthropy. The problems we face in this world are simply too big to wait.
This article originally appeared in San Francisco Chronicle.
With wildfires still ablaze in California, thousands of homes and dozens of lives lost, millions of Americans are asking how they can help. But, far too often in the wake of disaster, good intentions lead to misguided donations that do more harm than good.
Last fall, when the Wine Country fires ravaged my hometown of Napa, I visited Puertas Abiertas, a nonprofit that does outreach to the Latino community, to see how I could help. The executive director led me to their backyard to show me the mountain of dog food they had received from donors in the days after the fire. She said, “What can I do with this? Most of our clients don’t have dogs. They need money to buy groceries and deposits for new housing.”
She’s not alone.
In Newtown, Conn., when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the community had to rent a warehouse to fit 67,000 stuffed animals donated from across the country, most of which ultimately got sent away.
In China, after a major earthquake shook Sichuan Province, leaving millions homeless, volunteers clogged the tiny mountain roads trying to donate blood and bring in donated items, preventing emergency supplies from reaching the people and organizations who needed them most.
As someone who has worked with nonprofits, time and again I’ve seen people get so obsessed with the idea of “helping” that they often fail to stand back and consider whether what they’re doing is effective. Good intentions simply aren’t enough.
If you truly want to help victims in the aftermath of disaster, then take the time to educate yourself before you give.
Consider donating cash instead of goods. During the 2017 Wine Country wildfires, just 1 to 2 percent of the donated goods were used. In less than a week since the outbreak of the California fires in Butte and Ventura counties, the same scenario is playing out: Camp Fire evacuation centers are filling up with used and unusable items. While donors mean well, they don’t realize that this stuff is taking up valuable space and requiring desperately needed volunteer time to clear.
Instead, in the aftermath of disaster, cash donations that benefit victims can be one of the most powerful ways to make impact. As one victim of the 2017 fires described, “Some people think that $10 isn’t a lot, but when 10 people donate just $10, that fire survivor now has $100 to buy new clothes and underwear for their kids.”
You can find victims to support directly on GoFundMe by searching the name of the disaster. Or find an evacuation center in the area to deliver gift cards from Visa, large grocery store chains, gas stations and drugstores.
Donate to local nonprofit organizations that provide crucial social services to victims. Emergency relief isn’t just about getting through the immediate aftermath of a disaster, it’s also about addressing long-term needs like housing, employment and mental health — in the months and years to come. This is especially true for those who were living close to the poverty line before the disaster, who are likely to be most adversely affected when tragedy strikes. Local poverty-fighting organizations are in the best position to support poor populations because they have close relationships and trust with the communities they serve.
If you aren’t familiar with nonprofits in the area, you can donate to community foundations — like the North Valley Community Foundation, based in Chico — that work directly with local nonprofits to serve the greatest needs.
Give collectively with your friends, colleagues and your own community to enlarge your contribution. Last year when fires struck, the Petaluma Mothers’ Club put out a call on Facebook that it was raising funds for $25 gift cards to distribute at local shelters, and money poured in from mothers around the country. The group raised nearly $45,000 for families that had lost everything.
Companies can play a role. In 2017, big tech companies including Salesforce and Twilio teamed up with a leading foundation — Tipping Point Community — to present a benefit concert and raise $33 million for nonprofits that were providing crucial support for those affected by the Northern California fires. The companies encouraged their employees to contribute by matching their donations.
If you do feel compelled to give goods instead of cash, make sure you are in direct communication with organizations distributing donations, and donate new as opposed to used items, to avoid sending useless items and creating costly cleanup. By taking the time to educate ourselves before we give, we can turn good intentions into desperately needed disaster relief for the most vulnerable among us.
9/14/2018 1 Comment
This article originally appeared in Lean Startup Co.
Failure, and knowing when to admit failure, are critical to the innovation process. Thomas Edison once famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” Thomas Watson, the CEO of IBM for over forty years, once said, “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” But embracing failure is easier said than done.
In recent years, in the world of Silicon Valley innovation, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to the importance of teams having leeway to take more risks, and to fail more often. This is a critical step in the lean startup methodology, namely that companies must pivot or course correct when a product isn’t showing business results. But in the social sector – where there’s much more incentive to talk about your successes as opposed to your failures in order to continue to receive philanthropic funding – failing to produce the outcome a nonprofit has promised is still very taboo and puts organizations at risk of losing their funding.
In my extensive interviews with hundreds of the most successful nonprofit leaders for my new book, Social Startup Success, many breakthrough social entrepreneurs revealed that they embrace this failure ethos, and truly believe that failure has often been a critical element of their success. They realize that failure is a necessary corollary to innovation and that failures should be reframed as productive learning experiences. Adopting this ethic instills a culture of innovation that ultimately fuels faster growth.
Just as the most successful lean startup companies realize that continuous course correction is what leads to radically successful products, nonprofits must do the same. Organizations that want to do a better job of embracing failure, and using it as a strength that helps them pivot as opposed to a weakness, should be asking themselves the following questions:
Does your organization provide spaces in staff meetings, reports, blogs and/or funder meetings to have open conversations about failure?
You can’t expect your team to embrace failure if you don’t start by creating safe spaces to talk both about programs that are working as well as the ones that aren’t. For example, the Hewlett Foundation started a tradition of the “biggest failure competition.” where staff share and celebrate failures to reframe them as learning opportunities. Many organizations, such as D-Rev, a nonprofit medical device company focused on delivering quality care globally, also speak publicly about failures. When, after testing their “Brilliance” newborn phototherapy product in rural markets, they realized that there were challenges in these markets that made it impossible to continue the program, they wrote a public blog about the pilot emphasizing that was not a failure. As they wrote, “in design, everything is information for the next iteration.” This mentality of reframing failure as learning and willingness to be to publicly transparent about the innovation process is what has made D-Rev so successful as they regularly course correct and pivot toward what’s working and away from what’s not.
Does your organization regularly assess its programmatic priorities to ensure it is focusing on areas where it can have the most impact?
You can’t be in a position to assess programmatic priorities unless you have a strong system for measuring the impact of your work. Take the case of Last Mile Health, a Liberia-based organization focused on reducing mortality rates. When Raj Panjabi first started the program, he launched several projects including teaching better farming methods and opening a women’s center, all while simultaneously trying to support hospitals and rural clinics. Fortunately, Panjabi did something critical to the organization’s success from the start: he made sure it had a good system for gathering data about the effectiveness of the projects. After a year of operations, the data clearly showed what the organization was really good at was supporting HIV patients through community health workers. As Panjabi says, “None of those were necessarily bad projects.” But he perceived that the organization could have the most impact by focusing exclusively on the training of more community workers, and he was willing to take the dramatic step of transitioning ownership of all the other programs. By embracing this and turning its attention to the work having the most impact and gaining significant financial support, Last Mile Health became a major force in averting a global disaster in 2014, when the Ebola outbreak hit Liberia. The organization’s network of community health workers was critical to stopping the spread of the disease, something that might not have happened had Last Mile Health not had the courage to pivot away from their other projects and persevere with the community health worker trainings.
Does your organization have a process for discontinuing programs when they are not having the expected impact?
One of the hardest parts about honestly assessing whether your programs are having an impact is risking that you may have to shut them down. When Kiva – a crowdfunding platform to support microfinance projects globally – decided to test a new form of lending under the Kiva Zip program to allow small businesses to raise money directly from individual lenders online, they were excited about the prospect of cutting out the middleman. Their U.S.-based program showed early promise, but there were challenges such as internet connectivity and fundraising difficulties with their Kenya pilot. In a blog post about the closure, Kiva shared that “for the Kiva direct model to be sustainable, borrowers themselves must be digitally included at a level that is currently not common for low-income borrowers in developing countries.” Having the courage to discontinue programs – or pivot away from them – when they are not having the expected impact is a critical component of the path to success.
Ultimately, for nonprofits to truly embrace failure, funders are going to have to embrace the lean startup methodology too. Research shows that only 52 percent of nonprofits feel comfortable discussing problems that occur mid-grant with a funder. While it is important for organizations to establish a rigorous approach to learning from setbacks and take action to improve results, the process can only be effective if funders create space for nonprofits to talk openly about their challenges alongside multi-year grants so that nonprofits don’t have to worry they might lose funding if they are transparent.