We're sharing the latest updates, best practices and learning opportunities emerging from Michigan philanthropy.
Bridging the Digital Divide in Education for Detroit Students
Detroit foundations and businesses announced a joint effort last week to provide computer tablets and high-speed internet access to all 51,000 students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD).
The group, known as Connected Futures, consists of DTE Energy, Quicken Loans, The Skillman Foundation, DPSCD and the city of Detroit, with additional support from General Motors, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Detroit Branch NAACP. Funds will provide all DPSCD students with a tablet and free internet access for six months, transitioning to low-cost options for families in the future.
“When our executive team began prioritizing COVID-19 relief efforts, the issue of digital inequity for Detroit students rose to the top,” Jerry Norcia, president and CEO, DTE Energy and board member, The Skillman Foundation said in a press release. “We recognized that we needed to take action urgently to close the digital divide for these students and provide them with the tools necessary to thrive in the 21st century.”
DPSCD estimates that 90% of its students lack access to a device and/or the internet, which hinders remote learning. With school closures due to COVID-19, bridging the digital divide is crucial to ensure all children can learn during this time and beyond.
“This is not just a short-term response to keep kids engaged in learning for the next few months. It is the first step to fast-tracking the integration of technology into our education system, for every student,” Tonya Allen, president and CEO, The Skillman Foundation said. “We’re also thinking about how it can be used to expand opportunities for young people beyond school, such as connection to extended learning and afterschool programming, tutoring, social-emotional therapy, and career preparation. It provides a platform for the future.”
Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent, DPSCD, echoed Allen’s sentiments, adding that access to technology can curb learning loss when students are out of school.
“The ability for our students to access the educational platforms that they use during the school day from home will elevate their learning year-round, not just during this crisis,” Vitti said. “We know that our children perform exponentially better during the school year, but when they return in September, they’ve lost much of their progress from the prior school year.”
Due to the urgency of the situation and quick action by the partners involved in the initiative the entire program, from conception to funding, came together in less than three weeks.
“This is the power of our community when we’re faced with a big challenge. I believe this is a program that will be a catalyst for generations,” Bill Emerson, vice chairman, Quicken Loans and Rock Holdings, Inc. and board chair, The Skillman Foundation said.
Funders will provide additional support for the effort. DPSCD and DTE have committed to providing a project manager and DPSCD, the city of Detroit, DTE, Quicken Loans and The Skillman Foundation have created an oversight committee to ensure program success.
DPSCD hopes to open schools in the fall; this program could provide supplemental learning opportunities for students outside of school hours.
“When we look back to this time in 10 years, we will see that this moment changed the trajectory of education in our city,” Mayor Mike Duggan, city of Detroit said. “We have risen to the challenge of this pandemic and found a way to forge something positive for our children. This will be a defining moment of pride in Detroit for many, many years.”
Efforts are underway to provide technology to non-DPSCD students in Detroit.
“We’re already planning an expansion of this program to reach more than 36,000 children who attend other K-12 schools in the city,” Allen said. “Digital access has evolved from a nicety to a necessity – and we cannot afford to let our children down.”
Connected Futures hopes that this effort will inspire other cities to come together to support their students’ continued learning.
“We’re using a muscle Detroit has built up,” Allen said. “Our determination, resilience, and Detroit love enable us to pull us together and solve problems. We’re creating a model for other cities to marvel at and mimic.”
This Friday, May 1, join CMF's P-20 Education Affinity Group and education leaders for a discussion as we explore the COVID-19 response, needs around Michigan education and how CMF members are supporting Michigan students.
Register for Friday’s event, “Exploring Michigan Education’s COVID-19 Response and Needs” hosted by CMF’s P-20 Education Affinity Group.
Visit the Connected Futures webpage.
Watch the Connected Futures press conference.
CMF Member Appointed to Serve on the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities
Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed an executive order creating the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The governor has appointed Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols, program officer at The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to serve on the task force along with other leaders from the health sector, academia, government and nonprofits.
The state shared in a press release that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color throughout our state. While African Americans represent 13.6% of Michigan’s population, they represent a staggering 40% of the deaths from COVID-19. The task force will act in an advisory capacity to the governor, study the causes of racial disparities in the impact of COVID-19 and recommend actions to immediately address such disparities and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie them.
“It is with a great sense of responsibility that I serve on this task force – responsibility to advocate for the children, families and communities we serve, and to represent the strong commitment of philanthropy to work in partnership with public and private partners to address seemingly intractable challenges," Daniel-Echols said. "As the task force takes on the responsibility of meeting the immediate needs of our communities in this crisis and considers systemic changes that are needed to ensure all of us have a fair and just opportunity to be healthy, philanthropy plays an important role to support creative solutions and innovation.”
Learn more about the task force.
Arts and Culture Sector: COVID-19 Challenges and Reimaging Community Engagement in a Digital World
The arts and culture sector fuels community engagement, economic development, our workforce and much more but now individuals and organizations that rely on filling seats and hosting crowds are thinking differently about how they can remain operational now and in the future.
We are seeing new funding announcements and supports leveraged for arts and culture organizations across the state to mitigate the short-term and potential long-term effects of the pandemic.
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) is accepting emergency relief grant applications from Michigan arts and cultural organizations impacted by COVID-19 through this Friday, May 1. MCACA said the grants are made possible due to federal funding through the CARES Act and will provide up to $5,000 in grants to organizations for salary support, fees for artists and facility costs.
Michigan Humanities is also providing emergency CARES Act funding to museums, libraries, archives, historic sites and other humanities-focused nonprofits for general operating support with an emphasis on maintaining personnel.
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) partnered with CultureSource, a member association for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Southeast Michigan in launching the COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund, a regional fund supported by a dozen CMF members to assist the cultural sector during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We see a growing need for arts and culture organizations to receive flexible capital that allows them to continue paying freelance artists and culture workers who keep the sector going.” Kamilah Henderson, senior program officer, CFSEM said.
The fund is intended to provide relief money to keep organizations afloat.
“At CultureSource, we're seeing even the most fiscally responsible organizations being challenged financially given the uncertainty about when they can both reopen their doors and when audiences will feel comfortable returning,” Omari Rush, executive director, CultureSource told CMF.
Henderson said the fund will also address longer-term strategies as the sector must now reimagine its work to align with a virtual world, among other challenges.
“We see a growing need for resources that will help organizations redesign the way they reach communities,” Henderson said. “Physically gathering is impossible right now, but artists and organizations are finding ways to connect to communities through digital innovation.”
Henderson shared that individuals and organizations are already leveraging creative solutions such as moving music lessons to digital formats and working with national peers on innovative ways that specific art forms can be as impactful through digital platforms as they may be in person.
Rush said we will likely see a rippling effect when it comes to what this crisis means for organizations.
“In the long-term view we see organizations implementing stricter, more costly sanitation standards to prioritize community health,” Rush said. “Overall, organizations will be in a continual mode of rebuilding and reforming their work, whether that is flipping their service model or merging or strategically collaborating with other initiatives. In some cases, attempts to rebuild may ultimately lead to dissolution—all hard things to talk about, but like so many of the dreadful impacts of COVID-19 on human life, a reality we must all face.”
CultureSource has implemented a three-part approach to responding to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which includes research, relief and resiliency and innovation to address the short-term and long-term needs.
In addition to its partnership with foundations through the Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund, CultureSource participates in a weekly roundtable dialogue of philanthropists as they monitor and insights about activity in the cultural sector and impacts of COVID-19 on the landscape.
Learn more about CultureSource’s response to COVID-19.
Connect with the COVID-19 Arts and Creative Community Assistance Fund.
Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s New Equity & Inclusion Committee to Focus on Supporting Small Businesses
The Community Foundation of St. Clair County has launched an Equity & Inclusion Committee that will support underserved populations through grantmaking and community engagement. The community foundation announced that the committee’s first focus area will be supporting small businesses owned by people of color and women.
Through this effort, the committee utilized dollars from the foundation’s Thumbcoast COVID Response Fund to hire two small business consultants to advise and prepare businesses to apply for local, state and federal COVID-19 supports.
“The community foundation is going to continue down our path of growth through diversity and inclusion,” Randa Jundi-Samman, board chair, Community Foundation of St. Clair County said in a press release. “Over the years, we have been sensitive to gender, age and geographic diversity but we know there’s room for improvement for racial equity as well.”
The 14-member committee is led by Jazmyn Thomas, an associate planner at the Community Action Agency in Macomb and former Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) member at the community foundation.
“Our committee members’ various backgrounds, professions and community ties will improve connections to our local underserved populations and will provide an opportunity for our committee to work with these groups in the Thumb coast region in new and impactful ways,” Thomas said.
Consultants will work with business owners to apply for COVID-19 relief loans and funding and to build relationships with the St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) and Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce for continued support.
“Building relationships with the EDA and chamber will expand the opportunities and support available to these businesses in the long run,” Thomas said.
After its initial work focused on support for business owners who are women and people of color, the committee then hopes to expand its reach to people who have disabilities and military veterans.
Read the community foundation’s press release.
New Economy Initiative Champions Small Businesses Through COVID-19 and Beyond
An advocate and supporter of small businesses in southeastern Michigan, the New Economy Initiative (NEI)—housed within the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan—is working to help business owners navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
A collaborative of 13 foundations (12 of which are CMF members), NEI reinvigorates entrepreneurship in metro Detroit through funds and resources for small businesses and start-ups. With the COVID-19 outbreak, its mission has not changed but tactics and methods have shifted.
“Philanthropy has been an unsung hero in this entrepreneurial development space,” Pamela Lewis, director, NEI said. “While the state has done a lot of work, NEI funders have stepped up to expand entrepreneurship opportunities for small businesses and those who are typically disconnected from resources.”
That disconnect became more prominent with the outbreak of COVID-19, putting many small businesses at risk of closure. NEI stepped in to provide valuable resources and funds to sustain businesses now and in the future.
NEI’s Small Business COVID-19 Loan Relief Program provides six months of loans for 300 borrowers to help preserve their businesses during the crisis. The funds, which total $1.3 million, will go to small business owners in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.
The collaborative also contributed $600,000 to the TechTown Stabilization Fund which administers $5,000 working capital grants to business owners and entrepreneurs most affected by COVID-19.
Lewis said NEI’s support goes beyond dollars.
“We also want to inform and inspire current and prospective entrepreneurs,” Lewis said.
NEI created a COVID-19 resources page on its Startup Space platform with over 250 regional resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The page connects entrepreneurs with programs and funds to sustain their businesses during the pandemic, as well as assistance to apply for additional support programs. Additionally, NEI hosts a small business COVID-19 FAQ page on their website.
With support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NEI launched In Good Co. Detroit, a storytelling platform for business owners and prospective entrepreneurs to inspire others to start and grow their businesses. Stories in recent weeks have focused on the effect COVID-19 has had on small businesses and the resilience of Detroit’s entrepreneurs.
Lewis says there are many opportunities for philanthropy to support small businesses now and long-term as it relates to this crisis.
“This goes beyond COVID-19,” Lewis said. “We’re looking at small businesses’ impact on the economy and, most importantly, in low-income communities. They serve as employers and providers of critical spaces in those communities. Philanthropy can lead in creating and sustaining these spaces.”