Back in the spring of 2013, when plans for the first enrollment period for ACA were underway, funders were skittish about the public knowing of their support for enrollment efforts, fearing negative backlash from conservative critics. Now, with the White House’s recent announcement that 11.4 million Americans have successfully signed up for Obamacare, funders are more openly acknowledging their support for enrollment efforts.
Criminal justice is one of those areas where funders have been banging their head against a wall for years—working against harsh practices that defy social science research, not to mention common sense.
Now, that blood-stained wall is finally starting to crack, as policy leaders and the public alike wake up to the negative consequences of embroiling so many Americans in the criminal justice system. With the wind finally blowing in the right direction, some foundations are stepping up efforts to make change.
Recently, we caught up with Kollin Min, senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the Pacific Northwest region. We wanted to find out how his division, and the Gates Foundation as a whole, is working on housing, and how better linking this issue to education could raise student achievement, both in the Pacific Northwest, and possibly, across the nation.
Where did we get the idea that the Gates Foundation is growing more interested in housing nationally? There have been a several signs, including a grant to the DC Council on Large Public Housing Authorities for $150,000 in 2013 and another $50,000 in 2014 for “a national convening on the topic of how housing authorities and public school districts can more effectively partner to improve the educational outcomes for children residing in public housing or receiving federal housing subsidies.”
When you are one, you have only just learned to speak. You move about clumsily and knock things down a lot. You don’t yet know what is possible, but you are burgeoning with life.
I am thankful for Bill and Melinda Gates and all they have done for so many poor people in the world. But I don’t think philanthropy really has the teeth to address inequality in our country. It’s like in Medeival times when the Queen would give out gold coins to the poor. It’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems. Unless philanthropy can change the tax structure and income distribution problems we have, it will remain a token effort to address inequality.
It’s an exciting time to be in the feedback loop business, and no one knows this better than Feedback Labs, a new nonprofit consortium selected as one of the 14 organizations to receive a grant from the Fund for Shared Insight, the collaborative of funders helping nonprofits to collect and incorporate feedback to improve their performance—and how philanthropic dollars are spent. (Yup, this post is about a collaborative giving money to a consortium, one more sign that lone wolf outfits are decidedly passé.)
Feedback loops are being heralded as a way to ensure that the people served by nonprofits, the so-called “end users” of philanthropy, can give input to how organizations operate. Better listening promises to teach nonprofits what the client wants and does not want, and how, in providing services, it can best communicate with clients and also act to meet their needs. Some of the benefits? Feedback loops can help expand on successes and give quick attention to problems as they emerge.
As the New Year gets underway, we could conjure up a list of “top trends” in philanthropy for 2015 or make a bunch of predictions that we would probably regret twelve months from now, along with all the junk we ate over the holidays.
But we’re going to skip such exercises and instead offer up a quick tour of the obsessions, favorite causes, and pet peeves that we’ll be indulging this year. If you’re still wondering what the agenda is at Inside Philanthropy, you’ve clicked on the right post.