The end of an era – and start of a new one – for WRAG’s Healthy Communities Working Group

By Rebekah Seder
Senior Program Manager, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last Friday, the Healthy Communities Working Group held its annual retreat. The day-long program marked a bittersweet transition: Phyllis Kaye’s final day as the senior program consultant to the working group.

Phyllis has been a leader in the local health funding community for many years. Since 2001, she has been the backbone of the Healthy Communities Working Group (until 2014 known as the Health Working Group). Her thoughtful leadership helped the group evolve from an informal lunch group to a cohesive and coordinated group dedicated to addressing the social determinants of health. Through Phyllis’s leadership, the working group has sparked new collaborations within and outside the group, and found new ways to leverage their individual efforts to improve the health of the region’s residents and communities. As many retreat participants noted, Phyllis will be deeply missed.

Phyllis’s retirement from WRAG was the “bitter” part of the transition. Jenny Schitter’s taking over the consultancy has put a bit of “sweet” into this transition. Jenny has been a member of the HCWG for several years in her role as the principal health planner at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a WRAG member organization. She is deeply familiar with both the public health landscape as well as local philanthropy.

WRAG is thrilled to have Jenny take the helm of this working group. And, we are pleased that, thanks to WRAG’s long-standing and strong relationship with MWCOG, we are able to partner with them by “sharing” a staffer. HCWG is in excellent hands with Jenny at the helm.

Survey looks at perceptions of public safety in the District

DISTRICT 
A newly-released survey of District residents aims to provide a baseline idea of perceptions of public safety throughout the city and encourage greater collaboration with neighborhood police. The report (by the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), the Council for Court Excellence, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation) finds that residents in Ward 8 feel the least safe compared to residents in other areas of the city. (PR Web, 6/28)

District of Columbia residents who live in Ward 8 feel the least safe of any in the city, are more likely to have observed or experienced a violent crime, and are least likely to trust police than others who live here.

[…]

The survey findings come amid heightened concern about rising rates of homicides in major cities nationally. While data from the DC Metropolitan Police Department show that property crime is down and violent crime is level in the District as compared to a year ago, there has been a troubling spike in homicides. According to a recent report for the Department, between 2014 and 2015, there was a 54% increase in the number of homicides across DC with the increase mostly concentrated in the Northeast and Southeast quadrants. Between January and May of 2016, the number of homicides in Ward 7 tripled from the rate during the same period a year ago.

The full report, Perceptions of Public Safety, can be found here.

HEALTH/COMMUNITY | Jennifer Schitter, principal health planner at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, shares the partnership between their Region Forward Committee and WRAG’s Healthy Communities Working Group on a collective, cross-sector approach to shed light on how social, economic, and environmental factors influence health at the zip code level. (Daily, 6/28)

Related: The Healthy Communities Working Group has also just released their Theory of Change, illustrating a vision toward a better region “where communities across all jurisdictions are thriving, and all people are living their lives to their fullest potential.”

PHILANTHROPY | On Exponent Philanthropy‘s blog, Katherine B. Wright, executive director of the Wright Family Foundation, shares how her family’s organization stepped into the policy arena and witnessed the power of the collective voice of philanthropy. (Philanthrofiles, 6/24)

AGING
– According to a Freddie Mac survey of the housing plans and perceptions of people born before 1961, over five million in this age group anticipate moving to rental units by 2020, further placing pressure on low-income rental inventories. (Freddie Mac, 6/28)

– So you’re thinking about retirement? Find out which areas in the region were recently named among the best cities to do so. (ARLNow, 6/27)

– Nonprofit Work After Retirement? Maybe You Can Make It Pay (NYT, 6/24)


It is with a mix of sadness and excitement that I must share that today will be my last day at WRAG and writing The Daily WRAG :(  Rebekah Seder will be taking over once again – on a modified schedule – as I will be making my transition to another organization in the WRAG family. Sincere thanks to anyone who has ever responded to any of the weird things that I’ve posted down here, or has sent a kind note to let us know they are reading. I will certainly miss my colleagues I’ve had the great privilege of working with over the past couple years and am so happy to say that I won’t be going far. 

– Ciara

Does your zip code determine how long you will live? WRAG and COG join forces to explore

By Jennifer Schitter
Principal Health Planner
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

What does housing, economy, education, transportation, public safety, environment, and land use have in common? They all have an impact on our health.

Inequalities in community health by location reflect the interplay of social, economic, and environmental factors that differentiate the quality and duration of life for residents from one Metro stop to another.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Region Forward Committee is partnering with the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) and its Healthy Communities Working Group (HCWG) to use a cross-sector approach to illuminate such disparities at the neighborhood level (Region Forward Sectors below). Once uncovered, both targeted policy and resource decisions by community stakeholders can have an impact on the lives of our communities. This collective approach to incorporate health considerations into decision-making is commonly referred to as Health in All Policies (HiAP).

In June, local health officials and health funders from across the region joined together to discuss the HiAP opportunities and challenges seen within their own efforts. A few of the comments are listed below:

 HiAP Opportunities:

“It offers the opportunity for people outside of the public health field to share a common objective and interest in health and well-being.”

“An equitable society where all citizens have an opportunity to reach their full potential.”

  HiAP Challenges:

 “Implementing HiAP often involves gaining buy-in and support from other sectors and definitely involves a multi-sector effort, all of which take time and rarely is there funding to do so.”

 “Probably the biggest barrier is the name itself – those outside of the health space are too easily confused. Too often they think HiAP is about clinical care because of the name – and reactions like ‘why should we care about healthcare in transportation polices’ become the norm.”

By COG and WRAG partnering to break down barriers by using cross-sector data, it will show just how where we live impacts the lives we live. This will ultimately assist policy makers in deciding where to invest their time, money, and resources for the greatest community benefit. Although there are some challenges, health officials, funders, and elected officials are optimistic in making health a priority across the metropolitan Washington region.

In search of funding certainty for Metro system

TRANSIT/REGION
Acknowledging the Metro transit system as “the lifeblood of the region,” the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments look to other regional transit systems’ funding sources for inspiration, and continue to rally for greater support behind a dedicated funding source for our own region’s transit system. (WBJ, 6/14)

After saying in May they would have a funding proposal crafted by September, officials with the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments [COG] now say they will slow down the process. They now expect to have a plan by the end of the year but will spend a year garnering support before taking it to the Virginia and Maryland general assemblies in early 2018.

The groups said COG will help determine a metric to measure Metro’s progress to boost the argument for more money.

POVERTY/HOUSING/EQUITY | Using some adorable cartoons to drive home the point, Vox explores the effects that living in certain environments can have on a person’s life – particularly for African Americans. Montgomery County, Maryland is used as one example of what can happen when children from low-income families move to wealthier neighborhoods. (Vox, 6/6)

ARTS/EQUITY | Who Can Afford To Be A Starving Artist? (Createquity, 6/14)

EDUCATION/WORKFORCE | While quality early-childhood education often receives widespread support, wages for childcare workers remain low, despite increasing demands to deliver good outcomes. (Atlantic, 6/14)

HEALTH/POVERTY | What Happens When You Can’t Afford Self-Care? (Talk Poverty, 6/13)


What does your dog wear on special occasions? These canines are redefining glamour. 

– Ciara

Homelessness rises unevenly across the region

HOMELESSNESS/REGION
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently shared the results of the Annual Point-in-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness. Overall in the region, the homeless population rose by five percent from 2015 to 2016, though not spread evenly across the area. The report urges more aggressive action to bring affordable housing to families in Greater Washington. (WAMU, 5/11)

According to the Annual Point-in-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness […] there were 12,215 people who were homeless across the nine local jurisdictions that participate in the yearly census, which took place on Jan. 28.

That’s up from the 11,623 homeless people in the region at the same time last year.

[…]

In D.C., the number of homeless people increased by 14 percent, while it went up by 12 percent in Frederick County. Things went in the opposite direction for the rest of the region, though. In Arlington County, Loudoun County and the City of Alexandria, the number of homeless people decreased by 27, 20 and 16 percent, respectively.

The full report can be accessed here.

– The number of homeless families in D.C. has risen by more than 30 percent in comparison with a year ago. Further, the District’s homeless children and their parents outnumbered homeless single adults for the first time since the annual census began in 2001. (WaPo, 5/11)

RACISM/COMMUNITY
–  In a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, WRAG president Tamara Copeland calls on organizations to talk about racism, and reflects on how the topic of diversity is sometimes used to deflect deeper conversations about race and racism in society. (Chronicle, 5/12).

– In his most recent blog post adapted from a panel presentation at last week’s GEO conference, Rick Moyers, vice president for programs and communications at the Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, summarizes Meyer’s experience with the 28 organizations they’ve supported in implementing the Benevon Model for increasing individual giving. His take away? “I wish we’d known at the outset that the goal was to change organizational culture.” (Meyer, 5/11)

Related: Rick is the first speaker in WRAG’s Nonprofit Summer Learning Series. Catch him on June 23 addressing The Dos & Don’ts of Working with Grantmakers!

ECONOMY/REGION | Region’s innovation economy needs boost or risks being ‘laggards’ (WBJ, 5/12)

MARYLAND | Study: Gaithersburg Is The Most Diverse City In America (DCist, 5/11)

HEALTH | A new study finds a 44 percent increase in hospitalizations for ischemic (the most common type) strokes among people ages 25 to 44, despite a 20 percent overall drop among all Americans. (WaPo, 5/11)


Conference calls, you’re the worst! Well…maybe not the worst, but honestly, does anyone actually enjoy them?

– Ciara

Protecting the future of arts spaces

ARTS 
Washington City Paper examines the controversial conversion of 411 New York Ave NE, the home of Union Arts and a long-time DIY arts venue in D.C. that provides affordable space for organizations, visual artists, and underground musicians, into a luxury hotel that, as currently planned, will have a limited supply of studio space available to artists. The organized pushback against the development highlights the severe shortage of affordable space for artists and musicians to live, practice, perform, and work in D.C. (and elsewhere in the region) – and the irony that robust arts and culture scenes contribute to the rising real estate values that push artists out (WCP, 4/1):

[The] hotel project might fit into Mayor Muriel Bowser’s stated goal of “support[ing] and expand[ing] the District’s creative economy,” but for many of the artist tenants of 411 New York Ave. NE and members of the broader arts community, it dissolves a cherished, vibrant, and important arts space. To them, it’s cultural displacement.

To them, this isn’t a struggle to save a building, but a fight to save the future of D.C.’s underground arts communities.

When few question the value of the creative economy to the overall vibrancy of our region, this situation raises important questions about how government, businesses and developers, artists, and funders can preserve and create spaces for artists.

COMMUNICATIONS | On the heels of Twitter’s recent 10th birthday, I ask the question, “What’s the fuss about Twitter?” and explain why you (or the leader of your organization) should start tweeting now. (Daily 4/4)

HOUSING | In their Matters@Hand thought leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND explores the realities of mixed-income housing in the region and the benefits these strategies have actually had for the area’s low-income residents. (Helping Hands Blog, 4/1)

REGION/WORKFORCE | As National Harbor in Prince George’s County continues to grow into an employment core and regional destination, a transit line linking the hub to Alexandria remains absent. The adjacent communities have yet to compromise on a specific route or funding for a transit project, further underscoring the need for regional cooperation in order to avoid hindering the economic potential of the area and service workers’ ability to commute. (WaPo, 4/1)

COMMUNITY 
– The CareFirst open grant application deadline for 2016 is June 13 at 11:59 PM. 501(c)(3) organizations can submit their online applications in support of health-related services or innovative programs. Find out more here.

– The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is one of 10 organizations from across the U.S. selected administer a three-year USDA initiative called FoodLINC (Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination) to strengthen the region’s local food business sector, while expanding consumer access to healthy, local food. Agua Fund and Prince Charitable Trusts are philanthropic partners. Read more here.

EQUITY | Lately, due to a number of incidents in the news, many voices are calling for more police officers to be required to wear body cameras. But even with camera footage, there is often debate as to what the videos actually portray. The New York Times presents an exercise in a phenomenon known as “camera perspective bias.” (NYT, 4/1)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Now or Forever: Rethinking Foundation Life Spans (Chronicle, 3/30)

JOBS | Arabella Advisors seeks a qualified candidate for the position of Associate Director, Consulting Services for their Good Food team.


Are you ready for some baseball? Test your knowledge of the sport with this quiz.

– Ciara

A shrinking middle class in the District

DISTRICT
D.C. residents have experienced a growing income divide with a declining middle class since 2000, which begs the question – “What happens to a city when its middle class disappears?” (GGW, 3/17)

DC has become a textbook example of a place with a missing middle class.

The number of households making between $25,000 and $74,999 has gone down, and there are far less of them than both high-income ($150,000+) and low-income (less than $25,000) households. There has also been a big uptick in households making $100,000 or more.

Who Pays The Price When Child Care Subsidies Are Too Low? (DCFPI, 3/21)

HEALTH | Brian Castrucci, Chief Program and Strategy Officer of the de Beaumont Foundation discusses the need for better collaboration between health care and public health in a recent blog post. (HuffPo, 3/10)

HOMELESSNESS | Take another look at last year’s figures on homelessness in the region based on statistics compiled by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. (Washington Times, 3/17)

EDUCATION/VIRGINIASeparate but equal? Wealthy county’s plan would concentrate low-income, Hispanic students (WaPo, 3/20)

ARTS | S&R Foundation has announced the launch of their new pilot Studios Program at the Fillmore School. The program offers six months of free studio space to local D.C.-based artists working in a variety of disciplines, who will have the opportunity take part in a public exhibition if accepted into the program. The deadline for applications is April 6.


Today is one busy day! If you haven’t planted a tree by now, you’re already behind!

– Ciara