Clean water for everyone. It’s a basic human need, but many challenges remain for us to achieve it. While we have seen the great philanthropic efforts around the globe to fight for clean water in developing countries, what has happened in Flint has brought some of those same fears close to home.
Within the past few days, 10 foundations joined forces to address the issue, resulting in a collective $125 million dollars for programs in Flint. The money will go toward independent water testing, support job training to restart the city’s deflated economy, make sure there’s space for the early childhood programs needed and fund other crucial steps. While Flint begins its intensive recovery, experts warn that what happened in Flint could happen again.
“The tragedy of Flint, Michigan reflects the confluence of these economic and physical factors. Yet, threats to water supply and quality violations may be set to repeat in different ways across the nation,” a report issued by Columbia University’s Earth Institute/Columbia Water Center states.
The group has highlighted a road map of problems our country may face when it comes to water security. The report shows how aging infrastructure and major gaps in funding threaten our future.
With looming needs for maintenance and replacement efforts, communities are also facing growing debt and higher water rates. The EPA estimates that the expense to repair and replace the water and wastewater infrastructure will be between $745 billion and $1 trillion over the next 20 years.
In Flint, philanthropists have stepped in to try and remediate the devastating effects of the water crisis for children and families. But how can we take proactive steps within our own communities to make sure Flint doesn’t happen again? A closer look at governance and our water systems combined with boosting the economy in many of our communities needs to happen.
Columbia Water Center recommendations include:
- Increasing transparency through standardized and collective data collection, reporting, and implementation of sensors and emerging technologies and measures for risk management
- Integrating national and state water agencies into an office of water, allowing more transparency and overall shared responsibility
- Making the move to innovative reuse systems
While ideas are being floated to improve our systems, the price tag of fixing our deteriorating infrastructure and possible reform will not be fixed overnight. Flint has fueled the conversation, prompting organizations to wonder what they can do in their own communities. The Water Funder Initiative shared a blueprint for philanthropy in water sustainability, showing that no organization can do this alone. Water philanthropy must be a collaborative effort whether it is through advocacy, impact investing, funding action plans or other proactive means.
Take a look at some of the issues philanthropy is tackling with our water needs and review a step by step process on how to make a difference.
Philanthropy’s work with water is far from complete. Here’s a further look at how many philanthropists believe the Flint crisis is only the beginning:
- Extremes are Becoming the Norm
- Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Disaster Philanthropy
- Developing a Road Map for the Future of our Nation's Infrastructure
- Learn more from Waterfunder.org
My Brother’s Keeper Turns Two
In 2014, Michigan had the highest state unemployment rate for African Americans, which was a staggering 16.3 percent. In a state where we continue to push for diversity, equity and inclusion, the current rate of 12.3 percent still positions Michigan on the higher end of the spectrum for unemployed African Americans.
While the jobless number remains in the double digits, the focus of connecting people of color with opportunities has changed since 2014 with the creation of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative. Nationally, MBK has helped to garner $600 million in private and philanthropic grants and nearly 250 communities have signed on to create local teams that identify opportunity gaps for males of color and create plans. Detroit is one of those communities.
In Detroit, city leaders recently outlined a five-year plan to secure 5,000 new mentors, employ 5,000 additional men of color in high growth industries and make significant strides in education.
What else can we do? The Skillman Foundation and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (born from MBK Detroit), is taking that question to the public. Recently, a crowdsourcing campaign has been engaging the community in the conversation, asking for ideas to help connect boys and young men of color to Detroit’s new economy.
Teams are moving through the competition right now, testing their ideas. By the end of the year, the selected ideas will be shared with community and business leaders, along with funders. Community driven ideas, plans and solutions are under development all over the country for MBK. As the MBK initiative marked its two-year anniversary in late February, the White House shared what is working and where philanthropy and the government should continue to focus their efforts.
- MBK School Success Mentors Initiative, which will connect 250,000 students with school-linked mentors by 2018
- Second Chance Pell, a pilot program allowing incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants to finance education and training
- Summer Opportunity Project grant competition for communities to find innovative ways to connect our youth with jobs
While foundations and task forces continue to find ways to close the gaps in early childhood learning, it continues to be an area of great need.
The progress report indicates that “Unfortunately, too many young children, especially young children of color, do not have access to high-quality early education and other enriching experiences that promote their development.”
On the state level, the focus continues on education and job training. Here are some of the recommendations from MBK Detroit:
- All boys of color enter school cognitively, physically, socially and emotionally ready
- All boys of color are present, participating and progressing in school
- All young men of color are prepared for career success
- Men of color are present, participating and progressing in the new economy
- Boys and men of color are supported in a community that is rapidly building capacity
Jobs initiatives, helping kids at an early age, and involving our communities in the search for solutions is happening across our country and in our state right now. The hope remains that these efforts will result in better opportunities and changes in our neighborhoods and communities.
Want more on MBK?
- Learn more about MBK Detroit
- Hear what others are saying about MBK's two year anniversary
- Learn more about black unemployment rate recovery
Giving Around the Globe
Michigan grantmakers are playing a significant philanthropic leadership role around the world, whether digging furrows to plant seeds in the hardened soil of South Africa, to building makeshift schools out of bamboo in the Philippines, or even protecting endangered sea turtles in Thailand. Their dedication to helping others is building a solid base of international peace and security across geographies.
Peace and security grantmaking focuses on efforts that help end conflict and rebuild societies. Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG) and the Foundation Center recently released “Peace and Security Funding Index: An Analysis of Global Foundation Grantmaking.” The report provides insight into what is happening around the world and how many funders are answering the call to action. It chronicles how 288 foundations are supporting more than 1,200 organizations internationally with grants totaling $283 million.
We see many of our Michigan foundations making generous global gifts. Alexandria Toma, executive director of PSFG, states that “Our Michigan grantmakers, along with their counterparts, are dedicated to helping make a difference in the lives of countless individuals in nations throughout the world through the funding of educational, health and a host of other strategies.” Toma stresses that Michigan foundations are “not only talking the talk, but walking the walk” when it comes to funding and supporting various worldwide peace and security projects.
Notable contributions include:
• The Ford Motor Company Fund provides not only financial grants, but the power of more than 27,000 Ford employees and retirees volunteering in 41 countries on myriad social projects and programs. The projects touch many continents and ways of life: protecting the natural habitats of Thailand’s Sea Turtles; working with village residents in Australia in creating and nurturing community vegetable gardens; helping convert old shipping containers into soup kitchens in South Africa; and providing orphan care and renovating schools in China.
• The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has a long history of funding educational, food and housing projects around the globe. The foundation has awarded grants to Food for the Poor, Inc., to improve the health and security of vulnerable families in Fond des Blonc, Haiti, by constructing permanent housing and sanitation systems and providing community health and hygiene training, among many other initiatives.
• The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation awards global development-related grants to organizations promoting civil society, sustainable energy and environmental practices, and fostering social development. One of the foundation’s most recent grants was awarded to strengthen active citizen engagement in local community development in Ukraine, which will develop and utilize information and communication technology as a tool for citizen mobilization.
• The Dow Chemical Company Foundation is a leader in providing grants to organizations in underserved markets in such areas as energy efficiency, affordable housing, increased food productivity and preventing waste and water access and reuse. In 2015 Dow volunteers began testing water for a project that connects farming communities in China with clean drinking water.
The international philanthropy of Michigan foundations – along with foundations across the U.S. – “is moving the needle forward in helping bring peace and security to our world,” Toma explains.
Learn about global issues grantmakers are tackling and how you can get involved.
Leveraging the Power of Differences in the Board Room
Different voices and perspectives in an organization is important, especially in the board room. Utilizing those differences helps generate and execute ideas while maximizing your potential for impact in the community you serve. This month, we are sharing Leveraging the Power of Differences in the Board Room, a discussion guide and assessment tool to utilize in board rooms, designed to ignite conversations around leveraging the power of differences. Research shows that embracing differences and breaking down barriers that keep people from bringing their unique perspectives, talents and skills to their work can stimulate innovative strategies, strengthen relationships, and improve outcomes. This simple resource guide demonstrates how many view and approach differences as a board. The guide shares stories from your colleagues, giving you insight about the practice and questions you can ask your own governance to get results.