Making Philanthropy Work for Everyone

AFF board member C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser reflects on how white supremacy shows up in philanthropy and the resiliency of communities of color during our Education Anew: Shifting Justice convening.

Out Of The Margins: Together We Will Remember Who We Are

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Out Of The Margins: Speaking Truth to Power with Youth Radio

If culture is the pursuit of truth, then young people need a platform to speak their truth.

In this episode we speak with Jabari Gray, Executive Director of YR Media, formerly Youth Radio. YR offers young people in Oakland a chance to amplify their own narratives with powerful multi-media storytelling.

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Questions We Need to Ask in Philanthropy

A couple of months ago, while the weather was still cold, I jumped on an Amtrak train headed to an even colder Boston for the Center for Effective Philanthropy conference. One of the highlights of those few days was listening to one of my intellectual crushes—Bryan Stevenson. For anyone who doesn’t know his name, Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy. In my mind, he is a friend.

Stevenson told us stories about the injustice of young people who are incarcerated in this country. At the end of his talk, my eyes were watery and my heart was full. I was hopeful and filled with love. Stevenson’s message was one about drastic reality. As the great James Baldwin reminds us:

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

The question is: How do we face the things that need to be changed when they can be so very painful?

My friend-in-my-head, Bryan Stevenson, left me with important questions to think about this summer and to challenge myself and those around me as we engage in our day-to-day work. 

What does it mean to “get close” to the communities we serve? How do we do this in the philanthropic industry?

Expanding on those questions, how does “getting close” translate to who we fund, how we fund, who we provide capacity to and how we provide the capacity in order for organizations to be well? How do we help the people of those organizations take care of themselves and their families?

Stevenson’s message of proximity—how to get close in this work that we do—is important for philanthropy to deeply explore. I don’t know the answers, but the questions are worth contemplating for all of us. I hope that some of you will join me in exploring these questions further.

Out Of The Margins Podcast, Episode 2: Education Justice is Racial Justice

Today’s podcast features Allison Brown, “peaceful warrior” and Executive Director of the Communities for Just Schools Fund.

Listen as she unpacks the injustices that disproportionately impact children of color in our schools and what CJSF is doing to bring about education justice so that all kids have the opportunity to succeed. To hear the podcast, click the play button below.

Healing, Hope and Care: Models for Transforming the Lives of Vulnerable Youth, Part III

Andrus Family Fund recognizes that in order to really transform vulnerable youth, healing, hope and care must be intrinsic to an organization’s model. We know that this can also be applied to the economic engine that fuels these types of programs and services. Research from the Vera Institute of Justice cites that young men of color who have been victims of crime and violence often do not get the help they need. The traditional victim services model has not yet developed the capacity to address the needs of young men of color in this way. It is critical to devote the financial resources and identify the programmatic practices that best support the healing of our most vulnerable youth.

We’ve seen how this approach can be effective in the work that Common Justice does to shift the paradigm of traditional victim’s services model. We’ve also experienced how programs such as exalt and RYSE have positive youth development at their core when working with older youth. Now, in the third part of the series we will explore what happens when an alternative-to-incarceration program incorporates healing, hope and care into their sustainable model with grantee partner The Reset Foundation.

It is so costly to send someone to prison…What if we repurpose those same dollars and help spend them in a better way?

Jane Mitchell, CEO and Co-founder of The Reset Foundation

The state of California spends about $60,000 per year to incarcerate one person. The Reset Foundation offers young people impacted by the justice system an alternative to incarceration—for the same cost to the state as sending them to prison—with much better outcomes. What was once an idea on a post-it in co-founder Jane Mitchell’s dorm room is developing into an innovative solution to transform the lives of vulnerable young men.

Reset sees itself as an institution that has the power to break the intergenerational poverty-to-prison cycle for hundreds of families. By tackling the root causes of this cycle—which include educational gaps, unemployment and trauma—they believe that their impact will lower recidivism rates for its participants.

“For many of our guys, it’s not like they went through just a single traumatic event in their lives; they have faced ongoing trauma. Creating a space where that trauma is acknowledged and they feel comfortable discussing with staff who is trained to support them is key to their healing process.”

Jane Mitchell, CEO and Co-founder of The Reset Foundation

The Reset Foundation’s approach is fully immersive. Residents will participate in a tiered, structured curriculum while living on campus for up to 2.5 years. While the young men are granted more off-campus time as they near the end of their stay, Reset believes the 24/7 aspect of its program is one of the reasons that it can be so effective.

A typical day for residents starts with exercise, meditation and “morning circle”, which incorporates restorative practices that facilitate an honest and open dialogue among residents and staff. Then, residents engage in academic curriculum that differs from the traditional public school model. Reset’s classes are focused on improving literacy with hands-on, project-based assignments in a variety of subjects that are responsive to needs. Afternoons are dedicated to professional development—which may include developing residents’ computer skills, learning about career opportunities and participating in on- and off-campus jobs. In addition to a structured learning environment, Reset provides participants with social-emotional support through one-on-one and group counseling, therapeutic art classes and encouraging family visitations. Social activities—such as field trips and movie nights—further build a sense of community that encourages positive outcomes.

During the final months of the program, Reset’s priority is enabling a smooth transition for its participants back into their communities. They do this by helping their young men obtain housing, jobs, insurance and bank accounts through partnerships with other organizations. Reset also offers academic classes, job coaching and other support services for its graduates. Additionally, Reset is building its network of mentors so that all participants continue to have the support a role model and friend provides.

By offering an alternative to what we believe is an unjust system, Reset residents are empowered to unlock the potential within them and literally “reset” their lives. Reset has the potential to be a catalyst in transforming not only the young people they serve but also the vitality of entire communities.

By showing courts that the cost of an alternative to incarceration has a much bigger return on the state’s investments opens opportunities for Reset to change the way juvenile justice dollars are redistributed. Once the program is operating at capacity, Reset’s economically sustainable model will be fully supported by government funding.

Reset recently completed its non-residential pilot program with very good results: In just 8 months, participants advanced an average of two reading grade levels. They will commence their fully operational residential program by early 2016 in the East Bay Area of California and will eventually be establishing another campus in New York.

The Reset Foundation’s innovative program has received some well-deserved recognition recently. They were one of six Bay Area organizations to win a $500,00 grant in the Google Impact Challenge. We are excited to partner with Reset and look forward to seeing their impact flourish from coast to coast.

Katrina is an experienced and respected leader with more than 15 years of experience working on a national and regional level. She has worked in the non-profit and philanthropic sector, including serving as AFF’s Program Officer. Currently, Katrina is testing how partnerships between philanthropy and government can work on behalf of our most vulnerable youth and their families as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Connect with Katrina on Linkedin.

Healing, Hope and Care: Models for Transforming the Lives of Vulnerable Youth, Part II

The Andrus Family Fund recognizes the role that healing, hope and care play in developing young people as well as fostering strong, vibrant communities. exalt and RYSE are good models of how this approach is being used to transform the lives of vulnerable youth.

“Because of past trauma, some of these young people are on survival mode. We emphasize the need to build students’ self confidence, focusing on their strengths. All young people have the right to thrive and explore their passions. That’s why we focus on helping them build their best possible self, healing along the way.”
Danielle Brown Fuller,
exalt Executive Director

exalt is based in Brooklyn, New York and works directly with court-involved youth. By reaching youth at a critical crossroads, exalt inspires lasting behavioral change by teaching youth to believe in their self-worth. exalt empowers their youth by developing life skills—such as how to communicate in the workplace—needed to avoid recidivism and reach their personal and professional goals. exalt’s program is responsive to the needs of young people, supports those who are motivated to change and acknowledges the barriers they face—all within a nurturing environment.

Unlike other programs, participation in exalt is completely voluntary. They believe the non-compulsory nature of their program is the reason why it is so well received by youth. Even before students are accepted into the program, exalt staff will meet with them to gauge their commitment to the program and themselves. This screening process is meant to put students at ease and motivated to change their behavior even before they set foot in a classroom.

While classes meet after school, the lessons taught at exalt cannot be found inside a traditional classroom. exalt’s core curriculum is designed to help students develop four core skills: critical thinking, creative problem solving, communication and resource management. These lessons resonate with students because they are taught within real-life situations they can relate to and connect to their lived experience. Additionally, exalt tackles the injustices stacked against their students head-on—educating them on the school-to-prison pipeline and the systemic injustices that feed it. By helping students understand these connections and realize their potential, exalt is actually counteracting the pipeline for its students.

“exalt brings out the confidence in you; it gets you to try to better yourself so that you can grow to be who you want to be in life.”
Imanii, exalt youth

Putting students on a path to employment is another important aspect of the program. Through partnerships with employers across a variety of industries, students obtain paid internships. Some students have completed internships at organizations—such as the Innocence Project and Criminal Justice Initiative—that are reforming the very criminal justice system they are a part of. Many times, this is the first job a student has had. For some, these internships have led to additional internships and permanent jobs.

Even after youth graduate from the program, exalt continues to work with students through its open door policy and alumni networking events (i.e. educational support, career exploration, college enrollment, alumni internship, etc.) that support their continuous well-being.

We are excited to be working in collaboration and supporting exalt as they raise awareness about their innovative approach to youth development, build their capacity to share promising practices and expand internship opportunities for students and alumni.

On the West Coast, another grantee partner is using its own integrated approach to transform vulnerable youth.

“At this center, youth are actually telling us what they need and we’re making it happen.”
Kimberly Aceves, RYSE Executive Director

RYSE is a youth center in Richmond, California built on the principles of social justice, youth organizing and community transformation. The center’s current response to this trifecta is a burgeoning Youth Justice program called the Restorative Options and Reentry Project (ROAR). They take a trauma-informed approach to youth development that aims to curtail involvement in the juvenile system, provide reentry supports, increase educational and employment opportunities. This model incorporates four core initiatives:

Intervention – Youth touched by the justice system can participate in an integrated 8-week program. Upon completion of the program, youth may have their arrest charges dropped and record removed.

Reentry Programming – For young people that have spent time within a facility, ROAR provides holistic reentry support, which includes individualized plans to fit the needs of each young person.

Hospital-linked Violence Intervention – In order to interrupt cycles of community violence RYSE engages young people that have been harmed by crime at their bedside. More than just a hospital visit this includes assistance with medical follow up, victims of crime compensation application, navigation with and between legal, medical, educational, and other systems, and aid in securing material and well being needs.

Career Development – With a focus on helping young people dream their own futures ROAR focuses on the booming technology industry in the Bay Area. They arm participants with skills they needed to become part of the technology sector.

By providing stabilization, recovery and healing, ROAR believes that it can transform the lives of young people and the communities they come from. We are proud to partner and learn from their model.

In the final installment of our first Healing, Hope and Care blog series, we will see how grantee partner The Reset Foundation is using trauma informed interventions as an alternative to incarceration.

Katrina is an experienced and respected leader with more than 15 years of experience working on a national and regional level. She has worked in the non-profit and philanthropic sector, including serving as AFF’s Program Officer. Currently, Katrina is testing how partnerships between philanthropy and government can work on behalf of our most vulnerable youth and their families as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Connect with Katrina on Linkedin.