Today BALLE introduces 17 new Local Economy Fellows, but I already know these leaders. I know, for instance, that they can’t help but to do what they do. They see something wrong and can’t help but innovate to fix it. “Why not?” they say. They are, each of them, creators and conveners and the midwives of what’s next. They all love something – someone(s) – someplace. They imagine things that others can’t yet see. They see the very best in others and invite people to be their very best selves. And every time I visit one of them and see their communities through their eyes, I fall in love too. I believe in these people – all the way.
I’m not the only one. In fact most of these people lead thousands of community entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate for health and equity. Many of them have been asked to run for mayor (or will be soon), are the ‘community choice’ winner for the nonprofit best-of awards, and are selected as one of their city’s 40 under 40 (or 50 over 50). And sometimes they get asked to advise the governor on a whole new strategy for a ‘sustainable and equitable economy,’ and then… they need help.
They may feel unsure – because they have been making it up as they went; building a path by walking on it. It can be hard, seeing the way forward before others do. And whether they lead by pushing boulders up hills, or playing a pied piper’s flute, there are times when they feel all alone. And tired.
There are times when they can see a world where we’re all okay, but sometimes no one else can see or even sense it with them. There are times when whole communities dare to dream alongside them, but call this leader to stand at the front as soon as those dreams are attacked. Change can be hard and inertia is strong. Resources flow where they are used to flowing. And even bright lights can feel dim when they feel alone.
I know all of this – who they are and how they struggle. And because of that, nothing could make me happier than to take them in and nourish them for a while through this fellowship. To connect them to a group of their peers who know just what it’s like, too. I know because we’ve done this a few times now. I know that community gives you courage. That being nourished helps you to continue to nourish others. That bringing a team of innovators together means that ideas are much more rapidly advanced.
Programs and initiatives that work leapfrog across communities. New resources come in. Putting a ring around a field makes it visible – to the White House, to Harvard, to Forbes. Einstein said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” So, supporting leaders to become more vulnerable or bolder – to feel more deeply and to become more whole – brings new insights. And when leaders – from Oakland to Minneapolis to Appalachia – who dream of an economy that serves us rather than us serving it, join together, great power arises.
Through this Fellowship program we are supporting and strengthening leaders who act from a place of love for the wellbeing of all. And we are weaving this collection of bright individual lights into a luminous tapestry of coordinated national action. What could be more important than that?
I have deep appreciation for these leaders for caring so much, for using their sharp minds and creativity and courage for real prosperity for all, and for saying yes to this fellowship.
Infinite gratitude to Jennifer and Peter Buffett and team at the NoVo Foundation, to Shawn Escoffery and team at the Surdna Foundation, to Barbara and Tom Sargent and team at the Kalliopeia Foundation, to Sallie Calhoun of the Globetrotter Foundation, to Kimberly Ostroski and team at the Prudential Foundation, to Grant Abert and team at the Kailo Fund, and to some other very important friends and visionaries, including our program partners at Ventana – thank you.
And with all my love for every other one of you who reads this, and cares, and does something with that caring, I am so delighted we are on this earth together right now.
Michelle Long is Executive Director of BALLE
Leveraging arts and culture as a driver of community revitalization.
The Kresge Foundation and The Surdna Foundation are issuing a joint Request For Proposals to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) working in disinvested communities. The philanthropies will provide support to CDFIs with promising programs for supporting community-based activities that fully integrate arts, culture and creativity as part of a comprehensive revitalization strategy.
As experienced community lenders and partners, CDFIs have direct expertise with lending practices as well as knowledge of equitable redevelopment projects designed to improve the fundamental conditions of low-income people. These organizations may, however, have varying degrees of experience in lending to projects that include or are driven by artists, arts, culture and creative enterprises.
Kresge and Surdna seek to strengthen these activities by advancing CDFIs’ knowledge about the ways arts and culture enhance redevelopment projects.
As many as five CDFIs will be awarded grants of up to $200,000 over two years. The Request for Proposals is on the Surdna Foundation website.
The deadline for submitting a proposal is Friday, October 17, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Grants will be announced by November 28, 2014.
Proposals will be judged in part on the quality of the strategy to expand finance opportunities for projects that fully integrate arts, culture and creativity in comprehensive community revitalization. The expansion strategy must have financing as an ultimate goal, and must be on track to fully design and implement activities related to this goal within the time period of the award.
This one-time pilot will inform Kresge and Surdna Foundations’ understanding of the marketplace and inform the future investment practices of both foundations.
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About The Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundationis a $3 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development efforts in Detroit.
Its Arts and Culture Program seeks to build strong, healthy cities by promoting the integration of arts and culture in community revitalization. The Arts and Culture Program works across sectors with organizations committed to creating opportunity for low-income and underrepresented people and tapping the power of arts and culture to re-energize communities. More information at kresge.org.
About The Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States -- communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.
Surdna’s Thriving Cultures program believes that communities with robust arts and culture are more cohesive, prosperous and benefit from the rich cultural diversity of their residents. The program support efforts to encourage teens to explore the arts, involve artists in community development projects and foster the growth and success of local artists as economic engines and agents for social change. More information at surdna.org.
The Surdna Foundation is issuing a request for proposals to individual artists, culture bearers and nonprofit arts organizations. These funds are designed to support projects developed in response to communities’ specific challenges and to support artists and organizations whose long-term, deeply-rooted work has increased social engagement without necessarily being explicitly “activist.” The foundation will consider all artistic disciplines, including cross-disciplinary work.
Successful applicants will receive grants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 over one or two year periods, with a maximum total award of $150,000. The Request for Proposals is on the Surdna Foundation website: www.surdna.org/rfp
The deadline for submitting a proposal is November 12, 2014 at 11:59 pm EST. Grants will be announced in April 2015.
Surdna’s Artists Engaging in Social Change program works to promote the potential of artists to be catalysts for social change and to promote the cultural traditions of their communities. The foundation values artists and culture bearers who nurture, sustain, and grow our communities’ cultural traditions. We therefore support projects that help artists and culture bearers deepen our cultural understanding or help communities achieve social change.
Proposals will be judged on the quality of the project concept in relation to social change; on each project’s aesthetic rigor and artistic excellence; the artist’s (or organization’s) commitment to a particular community and; and the artist’s (or organization’s) ability to complete the project and use the financial support effectively.
The Surdna Foundation will offer two webinars to answer questions. The first of these calls will take place on Tuesday, September 23 at 4:00 p.m. (EDT). The second will take place on October 21 at 1:00 p.m. (EDT). For more information go to: www.surdna.org/rfp
About the Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States -- communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.
Beth Sawin, Co-Director of Climate Interactive, speaks with George Soule, Director of Communications, about the Green Infrastructure Decision Support Tool, a computer-simulation for community, business and municipal engagement on green infrastructure. The tool, which is being developed in Milwaukee, allows community residents to understand the implications of investments in both green and grey infrastructure and the impact of those investments on water quality, air quality, jobs, and community wellbeing.
What does the Green Infrastructure Decision Support Tool reveal to community residents?
People learn fast by discovering for themselves what works. That means helping people see which actions by the private sector, by local government, and by residents could add up to a real solution. The general approach is helping people see what works and then helping them talk with each other about the elements of the solution.
What’s it like when users see the trade-offs from the various scenarios for the first time?
It can be an antidote to a feeling of powerlessness. In complex systems, no single organization can effect change by itself. And no single actor can make a city work better. But seeing what's possible if the work is divided can be a source of hope. It can also reveal questions about equity, fairness and burden-sharing. At the city or neighborhood scale, one constituency might be concerned about water quality and beach closures, and another concerned about cost. So we don't say, "Well, you should make your decision based on the budget, or based on the beaches." Instead we say, "Let's show you the full picture and help you understand the constraints that other players in the system are feeling.”
How do you contend with these trade-offs?
There’s a real potential for discovering win/win situations. Groups may identify where the interests of the budget, water quality, the beach, air quality and energy savings all line up. You can get quite close to a situation in which you can “have it all.”
Does the notion of an integrated infrastructure resonate with the various groups you’re working with?
We aren’t quite at the point where integrated infrastructure is resonating with ordinary residents and Milwaukee city officials. That's an important part of what has defined the need for this tool. All too often people see only a very narrow slice of a vast and complex system. Ordinarily you’ll see that part of the bigger picture that’s important to you and your job. If you’re in charge of the sewer system, you’ll look for and see information related to that. It's difficult for people to take that step back and examine the possibilities of an integrated approach. In many ways, our simulations are a pretext for bringing people together in a way where they can step back and see a more integrated picture.
Where do you hope the tool will get us?
What we have now is a well-vetted tool and an enormous amount of community input representing many different perspectives. It has the potential to show the benefits of integrated infrastructure. But the real task is to change things on-the-ground. To invest in new projects based on these new perspectives.
How do the local partnership work?
The nature of the local partnerships that will take the work to the next level are very exciting. For example, the 16th Street Community Health Centers which provides the primary health care for many of the people in the watershed, has a strong environmental health program and believes that their patients’ health is connected to the health of the neighborhood. They've been a strong advocate for green infrastructure and really understand what we're trying to accomplish with the tool and how we're trying to demonstrate multiple benefits. They will convene interesting cross sections of the watershed.
How big is the community you’re working with in Milwaukee? And how are they interacting with the tool?
There're six different municipalities, each of which has jurisdiction over a section of the 26 square mile watershed. There're neighborhood associations, businesses, a hospital, and an airport, for example. We'll offer technical expertise about the tool and will build their capacity to use the tool for themselves. But the conversations that the tool helps to generate are the most important outcome. The municipalities will create a variety of scenarios: What if we invest $100 million this way, or that way? The tool will reveal benefits to air quality, energy savings, water quality benefit, the reduction and combines to our overflows, and so on. We're hoping that there will be implementation funds from various groups interested in green infrastructure in Milwaukee.
Where are you getting your various data from?
A tool is only as good and as trustworthy as the data that it's based upon. One of our many partners is the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District –they’ve been financial supporters and also very generous with their time, expertise and data. For instance, we want to be able to show how many jobs might be generated via different investments, either in gray infrastructure or green infrastructure. So, MMSD was able to supply data about the hours of labor for different types of constructions and for different types of maintenance. We're able to use this data to construct a scenario about what different types of investment might mean for jobs. And, what the costs are to maintain a certain number of linear feet of pipe or a certain number of square feet of green infrastructure.
How would you transfer the tool to a completely different community?
We hope to partner with a few other cities to build on the expertise in Milwaukee and to add new parameters to the tool to represent different places. We're going to identify cross-sectoral teams within several cities including people from city offices, the environmental community, and citizen groups. The goal will be to assemble a group that has a sense of the data, knows how the system work, and understands residents’ goals. In some cases the updating the data for a new city will be fairly easy: There's X percent impervious surface in Milwaukee and Y percent impervious surface in the new city. In other cases, the system will be quite different when the climate is different. In Milwaukee, people are concerned about frozen soils. That wouldn't be an issue in Atlanta. The simulation will also have to accommodate for cities with a gray infrastructure that may not be as strong as Milwaukee’s.
Is there any thought given to a simulation that's oriented more toward the public, so they can understand trade-offs in the way that they would through SimCity or Zoo Tycoon?
For both our global planet model and our global energy model, we have interactive role playing-games where people take on a certain decision making role. The simulation uses players’ decisions to create outcomes. To transfer that idea to the context of storm water and green infrastructure investment, you could picture that you'd might have some players taking on the role of Public Works Department, others playing the Sewage District or neighborhood advocates. The Sewage District and the Public Works Department might have a budget to invest, and citizens might be lobbying them about how they would invest that budget. Everyone would make their choices, we'd do a round of simulation, and they might see for example, that a big storm caused neighborhood flooding and beach closures. And they might then allocate their budgets differently in a second simulation.
By Jose Garcia | Program Officer
Hardly a week goes by without a comment by the President, the Federal Reserve or economists about the importance of small business to our economy and job creation.
In a recent Harvard Business School working paper, former Administrator of the US Small Business Administration Karen Mills calls small businesses the core of the U.S. economy. “Not only do they employ half of the nation’s private sector workforce—about 120 million people—but since 1995 they have created approximately two-thirds of the net new jobs in our country.”
While we may all be familiar with why small businesses are so important to our economy and society, it bears some repeating: Small businesses, for many Americans, are a ladder to a better, more prosperous lifestyle. As engines for innovation, they foster competitiveness and job growth. They’re an important piece of the American dream that is still within reach for many.
Despite all the pronouncements, we as a country have very limited up-to-date data on small businesses, particularly around lending. How many small businesses are applying for loans? How much are they applying for, and at what interest rates? What are the acceptance rates? Who are the loan applicants?
We do know that the failure rate for small businesses is in the 20 percent range. And that minority firms, which are often newer and whose owners have less personal wealth and weaker credit histories, fail at even higher rates. But still we do not have the data we need to fully understand the dynamics they and other small business owners face. And without data, it’s difficult to make the right fixes.
There’s hope, though, that we can get this data. The Dodd Frank legislation includes a provision that mandates improving the publicly available data on small business loans. Dodd-Frank was enacted to reform Wall Street and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to oversee many of those reforms and to ensure markets for consumer financial products and services actually work for Americans. A recent report by the nonprofit National Community Reinvestment Coalition argues that data on small business lending should also include the race and gender of the small business owners applying for loans and other details such as revenue size of the small business and the action taken on the loan.
Small business lending has a particularly powerful effect on businesses owned by people of color and women. These businesses experienced significant growth between 2002 and 2007, during a period of economic expansion. Their rate of growth outpaced white-owned small businesses. Yet during the downturn they also failed at a far higher rate than their white counterparts.
Transparency is important because it directly influences how financial institutions provide lending to small businesses, particularly those businesses owned by women and people of color. And as lending becomes more transparent, we will be better positioned to assess each lender’s practices. One analogy is the Community Reinvestment Act, which, while not perfect, sought greater transparency in home lending which in turn resulted in significant changes in lending to underserved communities.
A similar push for transparency is necessary to further grow small businesses and help them to create jobs. Access to capital is crucial for businesses to grow and expand. Many small business owners claim that despite their good credit and sound operations, banks do not seem willing to lend to them. Yet the banks suggest that there’s not enough demand for loans and qualified borrowers are scarce. We simply do not know the real story because we don’t have the data.
When it comes to understanding local businesses, limited information is available on growth patterns, job creation or lending patterns; a critical component of understanding business growth and job creation in the US. But the devil is in the details. The Dodd-Frank mandate on collecting and making lending data publicly available should be implemented with a laser-like focus on data pertaining to businesses owned by women and people of color. While smaller and with less revenue than their white counterparts, these businesses are growing rapidly. As the demographic shift toward a majority-minority society continues, women and minority-owned small businesses will—and must—become an increasingly important engine of our economy. For this to happen we need to better understand the barriers to credit by improving data availability.
The NCRC report has the broad support of Community Development Financial Institutions, consumer advocates and Civil Rights leaders. They’re all calling for the disclosure of race, ethnicity, revenues, action taken on the loan application, and type of loan. There’s an imperative to really understand lending patterns, pricing data and creditworthiness of the small business owner.
This is an initial first step for a comprehensive approach to ensuring that small businesses really maximize their potential as economic engines in this country.
If we’re serious about creating and growing good jobs, especially in low-income communities, our focus must be on ensuring that small businesses get the resources they need. And the most important resource, besides a small business owner’s hard work, is capital. We need to know how, to whom, and even if capital is lent so that we can ensure that the process is fair and equitable.
A new paper published by The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) presents recommendations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on the collection and public availability of small business loan data from financial institutions. The paper was supported through a grant from the Surdna Foundation.
The paper Recommendations to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for Implementing Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 urges the CFPB to implement section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank law which requires that data from lenders be made publicly available. And, that the data is enhanced to include the race and gender of the small business owner applying for the loan and other details such as the revenue size of the small business and whether the loan application was approved or rejected.
“The collection and public reporting of small business lending data was mandated by Dodd-Frank to shine a light on lending activity and inactivity when it comes to serving women-owned, minority-owned and small businesses,” said NCRC’s President and CEO John Taylor. “It is absolutely critical that the CFPB move forward with requiring the reporting of robust small business loan data. It is also important that they make the data easily accessible. Better data will help to motivate responsible lending to underserved communities and improve access to credit. Congress put this data collection into law and it’s time for the CFPB to put it into action.”
NCRC provides recommendations on the types of data that should be collected, the institutions that should be required to report the data, and how the data should be collected and made accessible:
About the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC):
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition is an association of more than 600 community-based organizations that promote access to basic banking services, including credit and savings, to create and sustain affordable housing, job development and vibrant communities for America’s working families.
The Surdna Foundation is seeking a Program Associate for its Strong Local Economies Program. The position combines program and administrative responsibilities with active engagement in grant making, relationship management, and internal/external communications.
By Amy Morris | Program Officer, Strong Local Economies
The organizations we’ve funded to wage job quality campaigns are like a sports car stuck in overdrive—they’re focused on the road ahead, with no time to take in the landscape as they nail the accelerator to the floor.
In the work that they do, long stretches can pass—at full speed—without a hint of the checkered flag of victory. It can feel isolating and exhausting. But still they push ahead, undaunted. July 2014 has been a whole different story. It seems nearly every week, and then almost every day, there has been more good news. And hope that perhaps all this progress is starting to add up to something truly meaningful for working people, their communities and local economies.
On July 2, after years of tireless work by Surdna grantee National Domestic Workers Alliance, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice and their allies, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Domestic Worker Bill of Rights into law. The state is now the fourth in the country to sign legislation that guarantees the Bay State's more than 60,000 in-home workers basic labor protections including defined working hours and freedom from sexual harassment, trafficking and retaliation for complaining about wage violations.
On July 22, the White House honored three of our grantees – Restaurant Opportunities Center, National Employment Law Project, and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage – as “Champions of Change,” highlighting their important work to raise the minimum wage and elevating their work to a high national profile.
The following day, Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Schedules that Work Act, to address unpredictable and unstable work schedules that force many employees into a position of being perpetually “on call.” Constant uncertainty and instability is exhausting for workers, who must often try to fit childcare, school, medical appointments or second jobs around unpredictable schedules. They never have anything resembling a routine. And their paychecks are inconsistent. The Schedules that Work Act would mandate that employees in some industries receive schedules in advance, be paid for at least four hours on a shift, and protect workers from retaliation if they request more flexible, predictable or stable schedule from their employer.
And Carrie Gleason of the Center for Popular Democracy, another Surdna Foundation grantee, was featured in the New York Times Room for Debate on the same day.
As is often the case, on the predictable scheduling issue, San Francisco led the way as a coalition of groups, led by a local affiliate of Surdna grantee Jobs with Justice, succeeded in getting the Board of Supervisors to take up a Retail Workers Bill of Rights to address the unstable schedules that make it difficult for retail workers to earn a living and plan for basic needs like child care.
On July 28, San Diego and Eugene, OR passed earned sick time laws, expanding access to a crtical employee benefit. Surdna-funded Family Values @Work has played an important leadership role in these campaigns and the nationwide earned sick days movement. And Economic Policy Institute has also contributed key research to the efforts.
July 29 delivered a very important legal victory when the National Labor Relations Board found that McDonald’s is a ‘joint employer’of workers at its franchised restaurants. The ruling recognizes that the McDonald's Corporation so closely controls and oversees its franchisees that they, together with the franchisees, can be held accountable for practices that violate employees’ rights. This ruling is a major bump for minimum wage campaigns around the country. They need this kind of legal framework to ensure franchises and contractors can also be held accountable for compliance with laws such as minimum wage and earned sick time.
On the next to last day of the month, workers in New York City were permitted to start using sick days they have earned under a new law that extends the city’s sick leave to an estimated 1.2 million working people who previously had no access to paid time off to recover from illness or injury. Several grantees were central to this policy win and expansion – Make the Road New York among them.
And finally, on July 31 President Obama signed an Executive Order that discourages federal agencies from contracting with companies that violate labor laws. And it requires federal contractors to disclose any record of wage, labor and anti-discrimination law violations. A recent paper by grantee Demos foreshadowed this lever for change when it asserted that by using the “over 1.3 trillion dollars in federal purchasing, the President of the United States can place over twenty million Americans on a pathway to the middle class.”
And of course in July, Mary Poppins made headlines when she declared, to a startled Jane and Michael Banks at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, that “the pay’s too low. I can’t live on this dough!” Before fetching her umbrella and quitting, the world’s most famous nanny suggested to her employer’s children that “Just a $3 dollar increase can make a living wage, it makes a living wage. It makes a living wage."
Recognizing and rewarding innovation and growth in small business lending.
The Small Business Leader Award for Mission-Driven Lenders, the first-ever award to recognize innovation and growth in mission-driven small business lenders, launches this summer. This national award rewards excellence, builds broad-based recognition, and creates momentum among CDFIs and other mission-driven lenders.
The winner of the 2014 Small Business Leader Award will receive a cash award of $75,000, recognition at the OFN Annual Conference in Denver, October 2014, and other marketing and PR opportunities.
Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.