Will the new SAT improve access to college?

EDUCATION
- In effort to break the correlation between SAT scores and family income, the College Board is once again revising the exam. It will also begin offering free test prep courses online through a partnership with Khan Academy. (WaPo, 3/6)

Whether the College Board can break the link between test scores and economic class is the subject of much debate.

“There’s no reason to think that fiddling with the test is in any way going to increase its fairness,” said Joseph A. Soares, a Wake Forest University sociologist. He said high school grades are a far better measure of college potential. Tests, he argued, needlessly screen out disadvantaged students.

Argelia Rodriguez, president and chief executive of the D.C. College Access Program, which provides college counseling in public high schools, said the College Board was taking a “step in the right direction” by promoting a test that might be less intimidating. But she said financial aid and other issues are far more important to low-income families. “There’s a lot more to access than just test-taking,” she said.

- Loudoun moves to open N. Virginia’s first charter school (WaPo, 3/6)

HEALTH/AGING | A new study suggests that the number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s has been significantly underestimated and ranks it as the third leading cause of death (WaPo, 3/6):

More than 5 million people in the United States are estimated to have Alzheimer’s. With the aging of the baby-boom generation, this number is expected to nearly triple by 2050 if there are no significant medical breakthroughs, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The disease cost the nation $210 billion last year; that rate is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

COMMUNITY | On the foundation’s blog, Yanique Redwood of the Consumer Health Foundation (and a WRAG board member) writes about an encounter on an airplane that highlighted the short cuts that the “unconscious brain” sometimes takes that lead people toward biased ideas. (CHF, 3/4)

Related: Back in December, Dr. Gail Christopher from the Kellogg Foundation spoke to WRAG members about the societal impacts of unconscious bias. (Daily, 12/20)

WRAG | Sara Gallagher, a graduate student at UMD, writes about what she learned serving as a Philanthropy Fellow at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Calvert Foundation. (Daily, 3/6)

Related: The Philanthropy Fellows Program is a service to WRAG members that connects them with talented fellows studying philanthropy and nonprofit management at UMD. We’re accepting fellowship position descriptions from WRAG members now. More information is available here.

TRANSIT | The cost of building the Purple Line has nearly doubled to $2.37 billion since the initial estimate. (WaPo, 3/6)

HOUSING | DC’s mayoral candidates voice ideas for affordable housing (GGW, 3/5)

WORKFORCE | After Lively Debate, Maryland House Approves Minimum Wage Hike To $10.10 (WAMU, 3/6)

PHILANTHROPY | The Social Innovation Fund has announced a fourth funding competition, this time prioritizing applications targeting opportunity youth, vulnerable populations, and collective impact approaches. More information is available here.

NONPROFITS | IRS hit from all political stripes on nonprofit rules (Politico, 3/3)

DISTRICT | On March 21, there will be a mayoral candidate forum on sustainability, clean water, and environmental health. More information is available here.


Who knew people in D.C. were so happy…and so into dancing in public!

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back on Monday. Have a great weekend!

-Rebekah

Will a new medical center reduce health disparities in Prince George’s County?

HEALTH/EQUITY | Prince George’s County officials are reaching out to community members to determine how best to position the proposed regional medical center at Largo Town Center in a way that will address the significant health disparities in the county (WaPo, 3/2)

At a community meeting Saturday, residents said they want a medical center that will provide specialty care to people with disabilities, greater access for medical research and will fill the existing gap in health care in the county.

“There are not enough facilities in the county. There are not enough doctors for the general population and even fewer for those with special needs,” said Grace Williams, 56, a Bowie resident with autistic twin daughters. “I have to drive to Baltimore or the District to get the care I need.”

WRAG | This week is Foundations on the Hill, an annual event that brings foundation leaders from across the country to meet with their representatives in Congress to educate them about the critical role that tax incentives play in facilitating philanthropy back home in their districts. Today, Tamara sent an open letter to our region’s elected officials echoing that sentiment. (Daily, 3/4)

HOUSING | Despite the 70,000 person-long (now suspended) waiting list for public housing subsidies, despite the fact that for every 100 extremely low-income households in D.C. there are only 45 affordable rental units available, despite the fact that affordable housing is generally seen to be a crisis issue in this region… we’re actually doing pretty well compared to other metropolitan areas. (CP, 3/3)

MENTAL HEALTH | Advocates say that Virginia’s failure to expand Medicaid is limiting access to mental health services for many residents. (WAMU, 3/3)

EDUCATION
- There are two different exams that states will begin implementing next year to measure students’ progress against the Common Core State Standards. DCPS is committed to one of those exams, but a number of advocates and school officials are urging the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education to switch to the other exam, saying that it will give a more “precise reading” of students’ abilities. (WaPo, 3/2)

- D.C. Sees Another Bump In Public School Enrollment (WAMU, 2/27)

- Prince George’s County is undertaking an effort to recruit male teachers, who currently only make up about 21 percent of the teaching staff for the entire county. The organizers of the effort believe increasing the number of male teachers will help improve student achievement. (WaPo, 3/1)

- Alternative education gets a remake in Montgomery schools (WaPo, 2/26)

POVERTY | President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget, released today, includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the benefit to childless workers. (WaPo, 3/3)

NONPROFITS | As the nonprofit sector continues to embrace private sector practices, a few large organizations, such as GuideStar, have started holding “earnings calls,” focused on highlighting the organizations’ impact for donors. (WaPo, 3/2)

DISTRICT | D.C. set to loosen marijuana laws (WaPo, 3/3)

ARTS | The Post profiles the women leaders of 13 high profile cultural organizations in the region. (WaPo, 2/28)


I’ve always felt bad for the unlucky folks whose birthdays fall on February 29. In honor of those who sadly did not get to have a real birthday on Saturday, here is something (sort of) related – the leap second. Unfortunately, there seems to be no immediate explanation for the unusual item sitting in front of the scientist in this video.

- Rebekah

Impact investing and the future of housing in our region

By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager

Our region is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. And, the current situation will only be exacerbated by the wind down of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s giving. In order to begin to change the housing landscape across the region, philanthropy will need to step up and increase giving toward housing – and to make a real impact, it is going to need to move beyond traditional grantmaking. One way that foundations and other grantmakers can begin to move additional resources toward housing is through impact investing – making below market-rate loans and equity investments in entities that build or preserve affordable housing.

At a recent panel discussion, funders with extensive experience in supporting affordable housing through impact investing shared some of their lessons learned. Panelists included

  • Allison Clark of the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation, which has been making program-related investments (PRIs) for the past 30 years;
  • Warren Hanson, head of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund created by Minnesota foundations;
  • Lori Chatman of the Enterprise Community Loan Fund, which helps raise funds for affordable housing through “Impact Notes”; and
  • Maicie Jones from the AARP Foundation, which began impact investing in the last year.

Each speaker’s organization engages in impact investing in different ways, but there were some common themes that came through their remarks:

Start small: Foundations can move a small amount of money into the impact investing space – and still have a big social impact – by making small investments through intermediaries like community development financial institutions.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: There are a number of organizations out there that have a wealth of knowledge and information to help foundations get started impact investing, such as Mission Investors Exchange.

Collaboration is key: By collaborating with other funders, you can share lessons learned and spread risk. Which leads to the last lesson…

Don’t overly stress the risk: PRIs are actually very low risk investments. According to Warren Hanson, financing affordable housing projects, particularly ones financed through low income housing tax credits, are especially low risk. These multifamily developments have the lowest rates of foreclosure among others in their asset class.

As moderator Michael Bodaken of the National Housing Trust put it, investing in housing isn’t impossible – and it doesn’t even have to be that difficult. We have the tools to solve the affordable housing crisis in our region. We just need, in his words, the determination, will, and thoughtfulness to make it happen.


For those who were unable to join us for the event, the video of the panelists’ remarks can be found here.

2014 was supposed to be the year that homelessness ended in the District

AFFORDABLE HOUSING
- Opinion: In her latest column, Petula Devorak writes that affordable housing has to be the answer to rising homelessness. She also points out that back in 2004, then-Mayor Williams issued a 10-year plan that was supposed to end homelessness in the District. (WaPo, 2/11)

- Elevation DC looks at how residents in affordable apartment buildings have successfully organized to form co-ops to prevent their apartments from being sold out from under them. (Elevation DC, 2/11)

- The Park Morton housing development in northwest DC, part of the New Communities initiative, is so delayed that the city is firing the developers. (WaPo, 2/11)

Event: We’re really excited for tomorrow’s event focusing on how foundations can use impact investing to support affordable housing – even if housing isn’t part of their portfolio. There’s still space available for funders. More information here.

VETERANS/HOMELESSNESS | As D.C. Struggles To House Homeless, Veterans Program Is Bright Spot (WAMU, 2/11)

RACE/BIAS | A fascinating study found that the perception of a person’s race changes based on their life circumstances, suggesting that the perception of race is driven by racial stereotypes. (NPR, 2/11)

Related: Back in December, Dr. Gail Christopher from the Kellogg Foundation spoke to WRAG members about the societal impacts of unconscious bias. (Daily, 12/20)

HEALTHCARE
- White House delays health insurance mandate for medium-sized employers until 2016 (WaPo, 2/11)

- With deadlines approaching, D.C. health exchange reports jump in sign-ups (WBJ, 2/10)

- Maryland state officials are considering switching systems to run their health insurance exchange. Theirs is one of the state-run exchanges with the worst performance since the October 1 launch. (WaPo, 2/11)

EDUCATION | Students at Prince George’s school learn in single-gender classrooms (WaPo, 2/11)

PHILANTHROPY | Some large nonprofit institutions are concerned about the popularity of crowdfunding among young donors, as people increasingly donate directly to individuals in need or to new projects, thereby avoiding what some perceive to be the excessive bureaucracy of large organizations. (NY Times, 2/7)

“A very simplistic project can be great, but if it becomes the sole means people give, we’re going to end up addressing a much narrower set of social problems,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, which monitors nonprofits. “Take homelessness. It’s not a simple story. We can’t only focus on one aspect like job training or affordable housing.”
[...]
The question will be if…most donors are willing to give to both traditional charities and crowdfunding. “We need traditional charities such as museums and universities because they are essential to our society,” she said, “but we also need to support people outside the mainstream.”

FUNDERS | The Foundation Center is collecting data on philanthropic relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. If your foundation supported relief efforts, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey and return it to the Foundation Center via drw@foundationcenter.org by 2/28.

TRANSIT | Despite The Streetcar, D.C. Plans To Replace H Street Bridge (WAMU, 2/11) Sigh.


The biggest news story on every single local news outlet that I checked this morning was that 50 years ago today some band with a dumb name played a concert in D.C. They had funny haircuts, but I guess some of their songs were kind of catchy.

-Rebekah

Family homelessness in D.C. doubles, marking it the biggest increase in the nation

Homelessness in the District has become the hot button campaign topic for the mayoral race. It’s annoying to see it politicized. But it is good that such a critical issue is being brought into the spotlight.

The Post has crunched the numbers to quantify the recent surge in homelessness. Over the last year, family homelessness has increased an incredible 100 percent. An accompanying article looks at Mayor Gray’s policies (WaPo, 2/10):

New York, Los Angeles and many cities in between have struggled with double-digit growth in homelessness in the wake of a deep recession, stagnating wages and escalating housing costs. But no other major U.S. city is on pace this year for its overall numbers of homeless families in emergency shelters to double.

Some applaud Gray’s efforts to streamline a variety of social services for the poor and to prod families from generational poverty toward self-sufficiency. But many of the same people say that he has failed to put together a realistic plan to do so and that the District’s rise in homelessness is the tip of the iceberg of a broader decline in economic security.

Related: On Friday, Gray held an interview with the Post to discuss the spike in homelessness and his policies. (WaPo, 2/10)

PHILANTHROPY
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy has released its annual Philanthropy 50 list, ranking America’s largest donors. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife top the list, and the combined giving of the top 50 donors is $7.7 billion – up 4 percent from last year. (Chronicle, 2/10)

Related
The Chronicle has a lot of articles about this list. One of them focuses on the Zuckerburg’s gift to the Silicon Valley Community foundation, which is headed by WRAG’s 2013 annual meeting keynote speaker, Emmett Carson. (Chronicle, 2/10)

- Also, check out the rationale behind the list. One name obviously missing from the list is Gates. Bill and Melinda Gates did give a lot of money last year – about $181 million – but it went toward paying off a pledge they had made in 2004. (Chronicle, 2/10)

- The New Yorker has a thought-provoking reaction to the Philanthropy 50 list. Their general question is whether large scale giving from the world’s wealthiest works to justify the equity gap. More specifically, does this giving do enough to relieve poverty? (NY, 2/10)

WORKFORCE | As the debate grows about the merits of raising the minimum wage, quite a bit of new research is emerging from places like the Employment Policies Institute. According to the New York Times, that organization is effectively a front for an interest group – and these sorts of fake organizations are influencing policies (NYT, 2/10):

The campaign illustrates how groups — conservative and liberal — are again working in opaque ways to shape hot-button political debates, like the one surrounding minimum wage, through organizations with benign-sounding names that can mask the intentions of their deep-pocketed patrons.

Ugh, soon somebody will discover the fact that my Institute for Galactic Education (IGE) is just a front to get Star Wars education added to the Common Core standards.

TRANSIT
- Metro might finally be able to take over the Silver Line from contractors. Maybe. (WaPo, 2/10) I wonder whether the Silver Line or H St. streetcar will be running first. We should know by 2030.

- And Metro chief Richard Sarles directly responded to some riders’ questions about the system. For example, why do train operators close the doors on passengers trying to enter? Because riders should have gotten out of the way when they heard the chimes, he says. No mention of how that’s fair to deaf people though. (WaPo, 2/10)


I have two hilarious things for you on this tenth day of February. First – and you might have already seen it – the Russian Police Choir singing Daft Punk’s Get Lucky at the Olympics. It’s truly absurd and I half-expected Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd to shuffle in. Watch the whole thing, because it gets better and better.

And here’s a classic example of eating your words on live television. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Senior villages throughout the region help older adults age in place

AGING
- The Greater Washington region is leading the country in the formation of senior villages – neighborhood-based grassroot networks that help older adults live at home by mobilizing volunteers to help with things like shopping, transportation, house repairs, and by connecting them with social and cultural activities. (WaPo, 2/7)

The Washington area may be particularly receptive to villages because it is a more transient place than many metropolitan areas, with close relatives often living far away, said Barbara Sullivan, Mount Vernon at Home’s executive director… But the concept also works particularly well here because the area attracts so many career government and nonprofit workers, said Andy Mollison, vice president of the Washington Area Villages Exchange and founder and former president of Palisades Village in the District.

“Washington has always been a hotbed of volunteer activity,” he said. “People who’ve been running things all their lives, whether it’s PTAs or local food drives.”

- The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia digs into some of the data and findings of their latest report, A Portrait of our Aging Population in Northern Virginia. (CFNoVA, 2/7)

WORKFORCE | On their blog, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation features a great infographic highlighting the significant wage disparity between traditional and nontraditional jobs for women. (WAWF, 2/6)

ARTS | In advance of their 40th anniversary celebration on March 17, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region featured a special blog post from Dana Tai Soon Burgess about how important the foundation and its donors’ support for local arts organizations has been over the years. (CFNCR, 2/6)

HOUSING | Fairfax County officials are looking at ways to assess fees on developers to create affordable housing close to transit stations. (Fairfax Times, 2/5)

HOMELESSNESS | Editorial: D.C. needs a plan to deal with homelessness (WaPo, 2/7)

EDUCATION | A Greater Greater Education contributor looks at how instituting “controlled choice zones” could lead to more socioeconomically diverse schools in D.C. (GGE, 2/5)


Here’s something cool for music and/or data lovers: Google created a fascinating interactive timeline showing the rise and fall of various musical genres, sub-genres, and individual artists since the 1950s.

- Rebekah

District’s homelessness problem is ‘worse than it sounds’

HOMELESSNESS | The Post has a follow up to yesterday’s City Paper article about the roundtable hearing on homelessness in the District. At the hearing, David Berns, director of the D.C. Department of Human Services, said of the current level of homelessness (WaPo, 2/4):

“It sounds bad, and it’s worse than it sounds,” Berns said.

Berns intimated that, without additional funding, he may in the spring need to close shelters for homeless singles that typically stay open all year, and he told city leaders that he wouldn’t want to have to resort to “equally horrid” measures such as no longer paying for hotel rooms. But, he said, the homeless family crisis has quickly become a long-term fiscal crisis.

EDUCATION/COMMUNITY | Donald Graham, former owner of The Washington Post and a trustee of the Philip L. Graham Fund, announced the launch of a new fund called TheDream.Us. The $25 million fund will pay the full college tuition for 1,000 students who came to the United States illegally as children. As Graham explains, his motivations are rooted in a strong sense of social justice and fairness (WaPo, 2/4):

It seemed terribly unfair that literally everyone else in the [high school] class could get access to federal loans and, if low-income, could get Pell grants, and the dreamers couldn’t get a cent.

EVENT | The Consumer Health Foundation has opened registration for their annual meeting, titled Health and Racial Equity in Turbulent Times: Implicit Bias Examined. The event will be held an March 20th and will feature john a. powell (Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), Carlee Beth Hawkins (Project Implicit), and Brian Smedley (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies). [More info.]

WORKFORCE/GENDER | As The Atlantic points out, the male/female wage gap tends to be over-exaggerated. But the gap between working mothers and women without children is quite significant. This disparity is chalked up to a perception that working mothers can’t be as productive because they are distracted by their children. So, is that true? (Atlantic, 2/4)

PHILANTHROPY
- Nonprofits and Those Who Fund Them Should Talk Openly About Finances (Chronicle, 1/3)

- Opinion - Impact Investing: It’s Time by Harvard University’s David Wood (IFRI, 1/9)

Related: On Feb. 12, WRAG is co-hosting an event with The Aspen Institute on how impact investing can support affordable housing efforts. [More info.]

- New Website Offers Inside Look at Grant Makers, Including Anonymous Reviews (Chronicle, 2/4)

HEALTH
- In a completely pointless but fun exercise, The Atlantic uses life expectancy in each state to comparable countries. The District is omitted, but Maryland and Virginia are most similar to Brunei. (Atlantic, 2/4) I guess Martin O’Malley and Terry McAuliffe should swap their governor titles for sultan.

- And if we want our country to be more like Cyprus than Syria (easy choice), we better cut back on sugar. A major new study finds that consuming too much sugar  can triple the likelihood of premature death from heart problems. (WTOP, 2/4)

LOCAL | The Smithsonian? The Lincoln Memorial? The National Zoo? Forget ‘em! Well, actually don’t, but do check out the District’s newest awesome attraction, St. Elizabeths ice slide! It’s perhaps the greatest idea that the District has seen in a long time, except for my idea of having a zipline from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. (GGW, 2/4)


It is a true shame to have lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, especially to an avoidable death. He was a rare actor who could take any material, no matter its quality, and elevate an entire movie. Two of my favorite characters were Sandy Lyle from the otherwise mediocre comedy Along Came Polly and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos from Charlie Wilson’s War.

Here are two great clips. Fair warning: The first contains a mildly colorful phrase and the second contains a ton of profanity. Maybe save the latter for home, or even watch the whole movie. His performance is excellent.

- Christian

Using educational technologies to reshape workforce development

WORKFORCE | Workforce development was one of the big themes in the State of the Union address. President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with reforming training programs to fit the needs of the current American workforce.

Sarah Oldmixon, director of workforce initiatives, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, reflects on this priority and says that educational technologies are essential tools for the task (1776, 1/30):

Educational technologies have been powerful engines of creative disruption in the K-12 and higher-education arenas, but their influence on the field of workforce development has been less pronounced—particularly among those programs that target lower-income, lower-skilled workers. To successfully meet the needs of the long-term unemployed and address America’s income inequality challenges, adult education and training programs must also innovate.

Related: As Unemployment Rate Falls In Ward 8, A Call For More Job Training (DCist, 1/30)

COMMUNITY/ENVIRONMENT | Last fall the Summit Fund of Washington supported the Federal City Council in developing a new project to address critical restoration needs, including remediation of the toxic sediments, in the Anacostia River.

The resulting, recently-launched initiative, United for a Healthy Anacostia River, brings together advocacy groups, community stakeholders, businesses, and concerned citizens to help raise awareness around the many issues facing the Anacostia. You can learn more about United for a Healthy Anacostia, and find out how to get involved, on their website.

PHILANTHROPY | 17 Foundations Join Forces to Divest Fossil-Fuel Stocks (Chronicle, 1/30)

HEALTH/YOUTH
- Robert McCartney’s latest column in the Post focuses on teen pregnancy, a problem that still has a “stubbornly high” rate in the District’s lower-income wards. (WaPo, 1/30)

- A new report finds that kids who are obese at age five are four times as likely to be obese a decade later than their healthy weight peers. (Time, 1/30)

EDUCATION
- A bill in Virginia’s General Assembly would allow teachers to encourage “differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes.” As one education advocate points out, the terms “science” and “opinion” don’t gel very well. (WaPo, 1/30) The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan might have had something to say here.

- As the District’s Petworth neighborhood rapidly gentrifies, can its troubled Roosevelt High School recover at the same time? (CP, 1/30)

HOUSING | How to Tell If We’re Really Entering Another Housing Bubble (Atlantic, 1/30)

TRANSIT | As Metro considers more fare hikes, opponents charge that the new plan would be unfair to the region’s low-income and disabled residents. (WTOP, 1/30)

Also, the hikes are unfair to everyone else since they help pay for silly mistakes like this one. (WaPo, 1/30)


When New Englanders call us snow wimps (and we call Southerners the same), they might have a point – even though their sports teams stink. Here’s a map that shows how much snow it takes to close schools across the country.

Via the same awesome website (io9), here’s a fascinating look at 10 failed uptopian cities in the real world that ended up influencing science fiction. Neat stuff.

Rebekah has the Daily tomorrow and Monday, and I’ll see you on Tuesday!

State of the Union opens the door for increased collaboration

President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address covered many familiar priorities and re-emphasized messages that have been central to his administration. But this year’s address also contained something new. WRAG President Tamara Copeland explains:

I heard something last night in the State of the Union address that I hadn’t heard in President Obama’s previous addresses – a direct reference to philanthropy. In fact, the President mentioned it not once, but twice. He called for “a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high quality pre-K that they need.” Then, a few minutes later, my ears perked up again when he said, “And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.”

As President Obama envisions a country in which opportunity flourishes, he sees philanthropy as playing a major role. WRAG is eager to work with foundations and corporations to strengthen their work on the president’s priorities. Let’s get started.

Related
- You can read the full transcript of the address via the Washington Post. (WaPo, 1/29)

- The Post fact-checked the SOTU address and rebuttal. Of note for our community, they pushed back a bit on points about inequality, healthcare, and the workforce. (WaPo, 1/29)

- Check out Vice President Biden’s reaction to…well, who knows, but the reaction is hilarious. I think it’s safe to assume that the veep finally found Waldo hiding in the House gallery.

HOMELESSNESS | D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells held a press conference at a Maryland motel that is being used to shelter some of the District’s homeless population. Wells called out the Gray administration for not having enough capacity in the city. Gray’s camp responded by claiming that the press conference was a stunt.

And I responded by saying that both leaders should have the integrity to actually address the severe problem that is directly and immediately affecting real people. As far as facts go (WaPo, 1/29):

Wells provided figures compiled by the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the city contractor that manages homeless family placements, showing 436 families with a combined 849 children staying in hotels Monday. Two of the hotels, he said, are located outside the District.

FOOD | For the first time ever, working-age Americans represent the majority of SNAP recipients. In the past, children and older-adults fit that category. This significant shift is attributed to the bad economy, low wages, and the increasing opportunity gap. (WTOP, 1/29)

Related: Food Stamp Cuts, Cold Weather Put Extra Strain On Food Pantries (NPR, 1/28)

GIVING | And the award for worst charity goes to… (Chronicle, 1/29)

WORKFORCE | Perhaps not surprisingly, “hot dog vendor” does not top the list of fastest-growing jobs this decade. That distinction belongs to a number of positions in the healthcare industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Atlantic, 1/29)

EVENT | Funders and community stakeholders are invited to join The Community Foundation for Prince George’s County for its Connecting Youth to Opportunity tours. The next tour, on February 5th, focuses on early childhood. [More info.]


We can expect some great commercials during the Super Bowl. In the meantime – and I know this will sound weird – check out Delta’s new flight safety video. The theme is the 1980s and it’s hilariously nostalgic. I cheered when Teddy Ruxpin made an appearance, and the cameo at the very end is just amazing.

A peek into The Institute for Corporate Responsibility

Late last week, WRAG welcomed the first class of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR leaders from our region and far beyond gathered for the first two-day session of the year-long program – and we’re excited to say that things couldn’t have gone better.

In today’s Daily, The Advisory Board Company’s Graham McLaughlin reflects on the first session and how he already feels better equipped as a CSR practitioner (Daily, 1/28):

Rarely do we as CSR leaders get to engage in nuanced, thoughtful discussions on how to build a vision and execution strategy that will yield the greatest social and business impact. Due to lead faculty member Tim McClimon’s brilliant facilitation, high quality speakers who were told to be provocative in order to push our thinking in different areas, and the expertise of fellow participants, we were able to have these types of discussions from basically 9-5 each day, leading me to have some immediate ideas for improving our “Community Impact” program as well as ways I need to alter my thinking to position us to drive greater impact in the medium-long term as well.

Related: Coinciding with the Institute’s kickoff, the Washington Business Journal interviewed WRAG’s Katy Moore about the history and vision for the project. It’s behind a paywall, but worth a read if you have access. (WBJ, 1/24)

Photos: Check out WRAG’s Facebook album of the Institute’s first session.

EDUCATION | The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new Kids Count snapshot, and the data is discouraging – particularly for our region. The report looks at reading proficiency by income level and finds that D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have some of the largest gaps in the entire nation between income levels (WaPo, 1/28):

In Virginia, only 21 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were considered proficient in reading, compared to 56 percent of fourth graders from higher-income families. And in Maryland, 24 percent of fourth graders from low-income families were proficient, compared to 58 percent from higher income families.

The District, an entirely urban jurisdiction, had the nation’s largest gap with only a 13 percent proficiency rate for children from low-income families compared to 61 percent for those from wealthier families.

Related: Read the Casey Foundation’s full briefing here. (AECF, 1/28)

COMMUNITY | Cartoonist Herbert Block, the namesake and founder of The Herb Block Foundation, is the subject of a new documentary airing on HBO. Time reviews the documentary and discusses Block’s life and influence on American politics. (Time, 1/27)

HOMELESSNESS | The Urban Institute is drawing attention to an especially unfortunate trend in homelessness. As organizations like Urban try to collect data on the homeless population, homeless LGBTQ youth are frequently missed in counts because they actively try to avoid detection. (Atlantic, 1/28)

WORKFORCE | The Workers Who Will Benefit from Raising DC’s Minimum Wage (DCFPI, 1/27)

TRANSIT | When Mayor Gray said that the H Street streetcars would start public operation “in January, not later than early February,” he forgot to mention a year. Smart man, because the opening date is still a ways off. (WJLA, 1/28)


It would be hard to overstate the impact that Pete Seeger had on both American music and the culture of democratic participation. It’s sad to lose him, but he lived a long and full life. Here’s a track he recorded two years ago, at the ripe young age of 92, for an Amnesty International benefit album – a cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.

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