THIS WEEK IN THE DISTRICT/THIS WEEK IN YOUTH
– DC Trust interim Executive Director Angela Jones Hackley and board chair Marie Johns shared a message to friends and colleagues, regarding news that broke in The Washington Post about the organization. (WaPo, 4/26)
– The District has one of the highest rates of asthma in the U.S. and many of those sufferers are lower-income children. Despite this fact, a planned homeless shelter in ward 5 is slated to open right near a bus garage. (WaPo, 4/23)
THIS WEEK IN MASS INCARCERATION
– Following a recent Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company and returning citizen and business owner Anthony Pleasant discussed their personal insights into the justice system and the many challenges facing returning citizens. (Daily, 4/25)
– A newly-released report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the impact of having an incarcerated parent on families. According to the study, nearly 10,000 children in D.C. have a parent who has been jailed. (WCP, 4/26)
– When Parents Are in Prison, Children Suffer (NYT, 4/26)
THIS WEEK IN POVERTY
– Ahead of WRAG’s upcoming Brightest Minds event featuring author and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Eldar Shafir on May 18, WRAG Philanthropy Fellow Hannah Davis broke down the idea of the “scarcity trap,”and why having too little is a such a big deal. (Daily, 4/26)
THIS WEEK IN HEALTH
– Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Health Problems And No Coverage (NPR, 4/24)
– Heroin epidemic worsens in Virginia (WTOP, 4/25)
WRAG’S COMMUNITY CALENDAR
Click the image below to access WRAG’S Community Calendar. To have your event included, please send basic information including event title, date/time, location, a brief description of the event, and a link for further details to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calendar won’t display? Click here.
When you hug a dog, they probably want you to stop doing that…according to psychology.
A new study from the Center for American Progress finds dramatic disparities in African American and Latino workers’ access to flexible work schedules, paid leave, and vacation in comparison to their white counterparts. (HuffPo, 4/27)
[…] when you compare a Latino worker with a white worker who is otherwise identical when it comes to educational attainment, type of job and earnings, the Latino worker is still less likely to have access to paid leave.
“This, to me, indicates that it’s not about trying harder, working harder, or going back to school to get a better job,” [report co-author, Sarah Jane] Glynn said. “This is someone’s ethnicity: They can’t work harder to get better access, it appears to be stacked against them.”
– A report from the Downtown Business Improvement District on the state of downtown D.C.’s real estate and economic activity finds that, while the area added jobs, office vacancy rates rose, downtown residency declined, and the number of people experiencing homelessness increased citywide (WCP, 4/27)
– More Funding Needed to End Chronic Homelessness (DCFPI, 4/27)
– The Crimsonbridge Foundation and the Georgetown Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL) have launched a new scholarship fund aimed at developing the leadership of Greater Washington region social profit organizations. The Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund will provide scholarships to CPNL’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program for leaders at locally-based and locally-serving organizations. Applications are due by May 2. More information can be found here. Contact the Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership with any questions at email@example.com or (202) 687-5541.
– The DC Trust has announced their FY16 Summer Strong DC grant competition. High-performing, social profit youth development organizations in D.C. that serve youth between the ages of 5 and 24 with programming that addresses key developmental outcomes can apply for summer program funding.
– Brian Castrucci, Chief Program and Strategy Officer of the de Beaumont Foundation, candidly shares his personal health challenges and progression in order to shed light on the privileges that afford some people the opportunity to improve their circumstances, while others have very limited options. (HuffPo, 4/26)
– Whitman-Walker releases details on 14th Street project (WBJ, 4/27)
MASS INCARCERATION | When Parents Are in Prison, Children Suffer (NYT, 4/26)
ARTS | A global art movement is headed to D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood, featuring murals by local and international artists. (Washingtonian, 4/27)
– Center for Effective Philanthropy president Phil Buchanan writes about the five most pressing issues he sees facing U.S. foundation leaders and their boards. (CECP, 4/28)
– A New Website Serves Up 500 Years of Philanthropic History (Chronicle, 4/26) Subscription required.
Yesterday, news broke in The Washington Post about the DC Trust, an organization aimed at “grantmaking, capacity building, and coordination of youth programs and services.” While all the details have not been revealed as of yet, changes at the DC Trust will reverberate across many youth-serving organizations in the District. (WaPo, 4/26)
Related: DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) has released a statement regarding the DC Trust with updated information and their recommendations for a path forward.
The WRAG community is monitoring this situation carefully and looks forward to more information to know how best to respond.
– A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at the impact of having an incarcerated parent on families. According to the study, nearly 10,000 children in D.C. have a parent who has been jailed. (WCP, 4/26)
– A new study conducted by the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University explores the links between bad housing, lead exposure, and intellectual performance in school. The study finds that “children with both disadvantages (bad housing and lead) performed the worst, scoring 15 percent lower than their peers in better housing with no history of lead poisoning.” (NPQ, 4/21)
– Unconscious bias can creep into every aspect of life – even the sharing economy. A recent experiment on AirBnB (a website for people to rent lodging) in five major cities, including D.C., revealed that hosts were 16 percent less likely to rent to guests with African American-sounding names than they were to rent to guests they presumed to be white. (NPR, 4/26)
Related: In this blog post, WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland shared a similar personal experience. When renting a house she owns, she was advised by a friend reviewing her website to remove the image of a person of color. Why? The friend thought that it would limit interest in the property. (Daily, 3/15)
– Following Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s move to restore voting rights to 200,000 people with felony convictions, The Atlantic looks at a history of felon disenfranchisement in the state, often restraining African American political power. (Atlantic, 4/27)
HEALTH | Healthcare Initiative Foundation has announced an award of $45,000 for a planning grant to Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER), the convener of Healthy Long Branch, a consortia of health care providers, social service providers and community groups in Takoma Park and Long Branch. Find out more here.
Anyone interested in chipping in on this tiny town?
A new Urban Institute report explores the relationship between the economic health of cities and the financial health of its residents. While it’s no surprise that having wealthier families leads to wealthier cities, the study looks at how families experiencing hardships with even a small amount of savings can avoid spiraling into instability and creating greater costs for municipalities. (City Lab, 4/26):
Hardship outcomes matter to cities. Eviction is a leading cause of homelessness, especially for families with children. Eviction also leads some families to seek out substandard living conditions. Residential instability limits opportunities for children and youths. Missed utility payments, another form of hardship, is a cost for municipalities. So are public benefits.
Financial insecurity is a problem for families that can take the form of food insecurity, poor health outcomes, and homelessness. The Urban Institute’s research shows that a family’s financial insecurity is also a city’s problem. When families without savings suffer income disruptions (which are common), they may turn to public benefits. Or they may turn to more expensive forms of support. Or they may suffer. All of these outcomes at the family level detract from a city’s overall financial health.
– Ahead of WRAG’s upcoming Brightest Minds event featuring author and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University Eldar Shafir on May 18, WRAG’s Philanthropy Fellow Hannah Davis explains the notion of the “scarcity trap,” and why having too little is a big deal. (Daily, 4/26)
– Opinion: Natalie Wexler, education blogger/editor of Greater Greater Education and DC Eduphile, and trustee of the Omega Foundation, explores why it’s so important for decision makers to stop viewing reading as the “broccoli” that low-income students must eat before getting to the “dessert”- art, history, music and more. (DC Eduphile, 4/18)
– The Growing College-Degree Wealth Gap (Atlantic, 4/25)
– Heroin epidemic worsens in Virginia (WTOP, 4/25)
– Suicide rates are on the rise for every age group under 75, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 experiencing the highest percent increase. Economic stagnation, drug use, lack of health coverage, and even earlier puberty ages are counted as possible reasons for depression that leads to more suicides. (WAMU, 4/21)
– Do Local Governments Have a Role to Play in Mental Health? (City Lab, 4/19)
– Americans for the Arts delivers their sixth and final publication of the National Arts Index, an annual report on the health and vitality of arts and culture in the U.S.
– With a number of recent transitions in the District’s dance scene, here’s a look at what’s on the horizon in the near future. (Dance Magazine, 4/15)
– Audio: Is Jazz Sustainable In Washington, D.C.? (WAMU, 4/21)
Have you read any of these remarkable book titles?
By Hannah Davis
Philanthropy Fellow at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Hannah is a Master of Public Management student at University of Maryland focusing on social justice and nonprofit leadership. She is currently serving as a Philanthropy Fellow with the Institute for corporate social responsibility.
I sat in amazement as everyone pulled out their calculators and got to work on a budget equation my professor put on the board. It was the first day of class. I had no idea where to start and math is certainly not one of my strengths. I had felt overwhelmed before I even entered the classroom. With three other graduate school classes, a fellowship, and launching my own venture, I just couldn’t even think about where to begin.
A few days later I emailed my professor telling him I had to drop the course. “I would like to be in a space where I can fully take the time to understand what’s being taught,” I said to him. I’m sure he laughed when he saw the email, but I was serious. My mental bandwidth was at its max.
In their book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir –the next speaker in WRAG’s Brightest Minds series – explain that scarcity captures our attention and “impedes our ability to focus on other things.” This idea of “less mind” is captured by Mullainathan and Shafir with the umbrella term “bandwidth,” which they define as our capacity and ability to pay attention, make good decisions, stick with our plans, and resist temptations. Bandwidth isn’t about intelligence; it’s about scarcity.
Scarcity is having less than you feel you need. Whether it’s time, money, or even the willpower to resist that piece of cake, scarcity directly impacts your mental bandwidth. By focusing on one thing, what is it you’re not focusing on?
Being poor is hard. As a social worker, I have seen firsthand parents juggling two or three jobs and struggling to make ends meet every month. We sign people up for GED classes and job training programs thinking if we just give them the educational skills they’re missing we’ll be able to decrease our TANF and SNAP rolls. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The authors explain that education comes with a price tag for the poor. For example, spending 8 hours in class causes a person to miss out on a day’s worth of pay, making it that much harder to pay rent. Imagine trying to focus in class if you’re wondering how you’re going to make up those work hours. Your attendance in that class is in vain and the cycle – what the authors call the “scarcity trap” — begins again.
These mini-fires happen every day for families in poverty and much of their mental bandwidth goes to constantly putting out these fires. I’m looking forward to Eldar Shafir’s Brightest Minds talk on May 18 and hearing how we can look at poverty through a scarcity lens. All aspects of a person’s life, behavior, and actions are linked and we need to begin connecting them to create policies and programs that truly make a difference for those we serve.
For me, Scarcity has been life-changing. It led me to my second Master’s in Public Management and has re-shaped my social work practice. Incorporating the psychology of scarcity into our work will only lead to better solutions for everyone.
Join us to hear from Scarcity co-author Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, on May 18 at the Meyer Foundation. This event is open to the public. Click here for more details.
According to a new report, high rates of food insecurity in the U.S. following the recession have yet to come back down, in spite of rising employment rates. (City Lab, 4/22)
Food insecurity in America is an issue that can be hard to see. It is not synonymous with poverty: two-thirds of food-insecure households have incomes above the national poverty level, according to new data from The Hamilton Project. The same report also demonstrates that the way food insecurity is measured often masks the extent of the problem. Instances of food insecurity often arise suddenly and temporarily, and as a result are difficult to track from year to year.
– Following the recent Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company and returning citizen and business owner Anthony Pleasant discuss their personal insights into the justice system and the many challenges facing returning citizens. (Daily, 4/25)
– While many residents living in neighborhoods with very limited access to quality, well-stocked stores would be glad to have the ability to order from fast online delivery retailers à la Amazon Prime, if they happen to live in a predominately black neighborhood, most will find that such services rarely extend to their neck of the woods. The pattern plays out in many metropolitan areas, including the Greater Washington region. (Bloomberg, 4/21)
HEALTH | Thousands Leave Maryland Prisons With Health Problems And No Coverage (NPR, 4/24)
ENVIRONMENT | D.C. Public Housing Buildings Will Get Solar Panels as Part of Sustainability Project (WCP, 4/25)
– Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently signed an executive order restoring voting rights to around 200,000 convicted felons. (DCist, 4/22)
– Audio: The Kojo Nnamdi Show explores the economic impact of changing demographics in Fairfax County and across the Washington region. (WAMU, 4/25)
– The District has one of the highest rates of asthma in the U.S., counting many of its sufferers as lower-income children. Despite this fact, a planned homeless shelter in ward 5 is slated to open right near a bus garage, to the dismay of critics. (WaPo, 4/23)
PHILANTHROPY | In the movement toward creating more equitable communities, is philanthropy largely overlooking one potential solution – worker ownership? (Chronicle, 4/20)
It’s always a good day for a sandwich. Which of these have you tried?
by Graham McLaughlin, Managing Director, The Advisory Board Company (a WRAG member), and Anthony Pleasant, Owner, Pleasant Assembly
Putting Racism on the Table is a six-part learning series for WRAG member philanthropic CEOs and their trustees to explore key elements of racism together. Last week, participants looked at a case study on mass incarceration with speaker James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of The W. Haywood Burns Institute. Today, Graham McLaughlin, a managing director for The Advisory Board Company and supporter of Clean Decisions (a local business helping returning citizens transition from prison to outside life), and business owner and former Clean Decisions employee Anthony Pleasant, candidly share their respective experiences with navigating the justice system and discuss the challenges still facing returning citizens once they have served their time.
I used to think socioeconomic class drove many bias issues and race was just a correlated factor. Then, I began living and spending the majority of my time with formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic men. In our first month together, I had more direct encounters with police and was treated with more suspicion (by everyone) than I had experienced in my entire life.
It is a world of continual negative feedback. It is a world, in words and actions, that calls you a monster every day. Some of the guys have tattoos, dreadlocks, and could be considered physically imposing. Others are clean cut and dress conservatively. They all face the same daily negative feedback.
Why does this happen? Why do three in four of our city’s black men serve time in prison – a larger percentage than in South Africa during apartheid? One explanation is that the power structure at all levels has extraordinary powers of discretion, and black (and Hispanic if they don’t just keep their head down) men are feared due to biases drilled into us from birth.
Studies show, police target minorities in warrantless searches, preschool teachers suspend black children at three times the rate of whites, prosecutors try black children as adults at a rate 18 times greater than that of white children, judges sentence blacks to 10 percent longer sentences than whites for the exact same crime, and put black children in prison six times as often for the exact same crime. Thurgood Marshall summed up why we have a perpetuating cycle of discrimination when he noted “the basis of the decision to single out [racial minorities for searches] is less likely to be inarticulable than unspeakable.”
And it doesn’t stop once you’ve served your time. When released, you are discriminated against in various areas, from employment, to housing, to civil rights, and live with the shame and stigma of being known for some of the worst things you’ve ever done (or potentially branded for something you didn’t even do). It’s hard to come back from all of this, and not be angry or give up and give in to substances that numb the cold, unfair realities of our society. Some are able to overcome these challenges but, as you will read below, even then the impediments of discrimination are never ending.
I went to prison as a teenager. When most young people are learning what it means to be an adult, I was learning to survive in prison. Coming out of prison, I was therefore completely unprepared for the world, and if not for Will Avila and Clean Decisions, I would be back in prison, a drug addict, or dead on the streets. Instead, I lived with Graham and Will, a support system almost no returning citizen gets.
Graham mentioned his surprise at police interference. My surprise was at the interactions between Graham and the police. Graham could talk back and reason with police officers – stuff I’d literally be locked up for – and they always believed him!
I know many of you know Graham as a good choir boy now, but he and I were both wild in our younger days. He always smooth talked the police, partly because of his silver tongue, but mostly because of his white face. He has no record. I went to jail for a murder I didn’t commit.
The justice system took ten years of my life. At the time, I was doing many other negative things in my life that deserved punishment, so ultimately, I accepted my sentence. But last weekend, the “justice” system took even more from me, and this time I was doing all positive things.
Two weeks ago, after spending a year learning the trade, I finally launched my own furniture assembly business. Last weekend, I was scheduled for one of my first jobs, living out what should have been one of the happiest, proudest days of my life. Instead, I ended the day penniless, hopeless, and in a jail cell after police pulled up behind my parked car saying they had received a call about a car on fire. Mine was not. They told me to get on the ground, ran my registration (that had an issue I was unaware of), found a “weapon” (the knife in my toolbox), and took me away in handcuffs after leaving my three power drills and toolbox sitting on the side of the road and sending my car to the impound, robbing me of my life savings and the equipment I need to make a living.
My public defender – usually overworked and, therefore, advising to plea out regardless of the case – actually fought for me, and I’m confident I’ll beat the weapon and forged registration charges. However, I don’t go back to court until May 12, can’t get my car out until then, no longer have the tools I need to make a living, and after investing everything in starting the business, not only do I not have any money to my name, but I also owe a donor from Changing Perceptions (the non-profit Will started to support guys coming home) a $1,000 loan repayment, and have no way to earn the money to pay him back.
I was making positive decisions and building a company in the model of Clean Decisions that would hire and help other returning citizens. Now, I have nothing, and if I was like most returning citizens with a limited network, rather than being blessed to have the support and resources of Will, Graham, and Changing Perceptions, I’d go back to drugs and just give up. I will make it. Most wouldn’t.
This is what justice looks like in America.
James Bell, speaking on mass incarceration at WRAG’s most recent Putting Racism on the Table session, advocated for listening sessions with the community to better understand one another. If you’re interested in following that advice, every weekend about 10-12 Clean Decisions/Changing Perceptions members (all formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic males) get together for a “Pancake Saturday” breakfast and discussion. Feel free to email them to participate and hear perspectives and suggestions for leveraging your power and resources to improve our area’s justice system.
by Tamara Lucas Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
In January, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) started an intensive exploration of racism called Putting Racism on the Table. Each month, for three hours, grantmakers have been immersed in a topic. Structural racism in January, white privilege in February, implicit bias in March, and this month the focus was on mass incarceration as a case study on how all three factors are operationalized in one system of government, the criminal justice system.
I think that several factors are remarkable about this work. First, eleven major funders in the Greater Washington region came together and said, “We aren’t ready to act. We want to learn.” This was powerful. It has seemed like a societal taboo to talk about the 800-pound gorilla of racism that sits in the middle of the room when discussing housing needs, educational needs, health care, or any of the multitude of community needs that philanthropy seeks to address. But these grantmakers were ready for the talk. Eighty percent of the attendees have come to two or more of the sessions. They have recognized that racism cannot be explored in sound bites. There is a depth and breadth to the topic that requires that you listen, reflect, talk with others, and then sit with the information for a while to make it your own. They are doing the hard work of truly understanding racism. After the sessions, many have been candid in revealing, despite their education and commitment to social justice, just how lacking their knowledge truly was about how pervasive and entrenched racism is in our society. Here’s an illustrative sampling of comments:
“After the session on structural racism, I realized how little I know about racism.”
“The systemic nature of racism is more pervasive than I had previously understood.”
“I think there are situations where white privilege is so ingrained that I am not even aware of the impact I am having just by being present or in casual conversation.”
“Having been through the session on implicit bias, I better understand the very strong and powerful way our subconscious influences our thinking and actions. What can we do?”
I am proud of the commitment that philanthropy has made to this learning journey. People who felt that they were sensitive to and understood racism have learned that it is far more nuanced, unconscious, and institutionalized than many would think. We have achieved the goal of knowledge gain. But, this isn’t learning just for the sake of learning.
Philanthropy has been referred to as society’s passing gear. Its position provides a platform for societal change that goes well beyond dollars. Consider the impact of the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on smoking reduction or that of the local Summit Fund on teenage pregnancy prevention. They both felt that they could make a difference and with a laser focus that commitment has led to deep and lasting improvements.
I have heard foundation CEOs talk about how this work is already translating into changes at their foundations. I have heard trustees who are business leaders share the impact that it is having on their thinking and on their actions. And, I have heard colleagues in other states discuss how WRAG’s work has opened the door for a discussion that they didn’t think they could have with funders. The needle is moving – slowly perhaps – but moving, and the momentum is building. Stay tuned.