Around Town: October 16-17

Have a great weekend, folks. And always feel free to send us an email or leave a comment if you’d like to report back on an event. We’d like to hear all about it!

Saturday, October 16: 8:00 AM — Macy’s Shop for a Cause (Carpenter’s Shelter): buy a $5 ticket to enjoy some cool all-day sales at Macy’s and 100% of ticket sales will benefit Carpenter’s Shelter.

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7 Questions – Jill Strachan (Capitol Hill Arts Workshop)

Today on “7 Questions,” we have with us … Jill Strachan, Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), which provides educational, exhibition, and performance opportunities to all ages. And which also happens to be just a few hops from my home. Continue reading

In The News … (Comments!)

So. I posed some questions in this morning’s blog post … and failed to activate the comments field. Which tends to make it difficult to answer. Said field is now up and running, so do jump in if you have any thoughts or questions about WOW’s financial security study and Michelle Rhee’s resignation — and what comes next for education reform in DC.

Have a great evening and see you tomorrow!

In The News …

Welcome to Wednesday, Greater Washington! The Blue & Orange lines are up and running again and we’re back to doing mid-week news & notes in the middle of the week. Let’s focus on two major items today:

First, Catalogue charity Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) recently completed an in-depth cost of living analysis for the Greater Washington area, calculating how much income was necessary for an area resident to feel “financially safe.” The report’s tables break down necessary expenses and income based on family size and home area and account for everything from child care costs to “rainy day funds.” The findings were featured in Monday’s Washington Post — which points out that, while the DC metro area is the most affluent region of the county, “it is also among the costliest.” So according to WOW Executive Director Joan Kuriansky, “even the highest estimates of how much a family needs to earn are conservative.” Here’s my question: are there specific expense categories on which local governments and non-profits should focus? Could defraying one particular cost make the difference? Or should we focus on the larger issue? Namely, that the cost of living is high — and the cost of living securely is both high and often unconsidered.

Also, as you likely heard last night, Michelle Rhee will resign as DC schools chancellor. Says the Post, Chancellor Rhee “survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement … but Rhee will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest.” TBD.com, which tracked the probability of her resignation in mid-September, quotes several DC councilmembers who expressed both profound disappointment in her decision and faith in her interim replacement, deputy chancellor Kaya Henderson. I’m clearly writing this before Wednesday’s 10:30 AM press conference, but long after Mayor Fenty’s defeat in the mayoral primary. So it’s fair to say that this outcome is not surprising, yet it still feels incomplete. Or uncertain. What do you think? What comes next? Moreover, who is your pick for the next chancellor and why?

(Speaking of education reform: we posted this link several weeks back and countless opinions are appearing daily about the documentary Waiting for Superman and how we can answer its call. Check out “Tapping our Collective Superhero” over at Deep Social Impact and a post from this evening at Business Insider.)

7 Questions – Sarah Stankorb (National Park Trust)

Following a great 3-day weekend … we bring you an even greater 7 Questions with Sarah Stankorb, Education and Communications Director of the National Park Trust, which develops and safeguards critical parklands for generations to come. Check out her thoughts on bison, blogs, and being both a thinker and a doer:

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

Launching the Where’s Buddy Bison Been? program year has been wonderful. As we helped prepare for another year with the program, we heard again and again that the program allowed teachers find ways to bring their curriculum to life and make it more relevant to their students. Teachers are making environmental videos with their students, having kids learn writing and perspective — some by, looking at the environment from a bison’s perspective. One teacher taught younger students about the earth’s climates and ecosystems by “adapting” their Buddy Bison for survival in a variety of habitats. We provide the tools and our Buddy Bison teachers are thrilled to have a fun way to prompt creative lessons and, in turn, the kids feel deeply connected to what has turned into a growing grassroots movement.

2. What else are you up to?

In October we have SIX outdoor experiences planned for our Buddy Bison students. For what might be called a small but mighty staff, this is a huge undertaking, but also the sort of thing that motivated many of us to join the nonprofit community in the first place. We’ll be outdoors (with Buddy Bison, our education mascot), working with park staff and teachers to get kids exploring the environment, learning and, we hope, growing into tomorrow’s land stewards. This means a mounted parks police officer (and her horse Steely Dan!) at two schools, “sister” Buddy Bison schools meeting to hike a Maryland state park, third and fourth graders at the amazing Patxuent Research Refuge, bringing on a new school in the Lake Tahoe area for a trip to the Lake and service learning, and right in the middle of it all, our nation’s first Fossil Day on the National Mall.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

Toward the middle of my senior year in college, I was weighing grad school vs. taking an AmeriCorps position. I sat down with one of my favorite professors and he asked me a simple question, “Are you a thinker or are you a doer?” For years I battled with my answer, never quite satisfied that it had to be one or the other. I feel that working in education through a nonprofit organization like National Park Trust allows me to roll up my sleeves and work toward my very carefully considered positions about the environment and everyone’s right to public goods like clean, open park land. I get to be a thoughtful doer.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

Tanya Simpson. While keeping busy in a VP role at a national nonprofit, she also maintains a blog to lift up younger nonprofit professionals and keep all of us thinking about what goals should be motivating us in this work. Then, she launched MAJOR Impact on her own to make workforce development all of our business. Between Resume Rescue month and similar initiatives, she’s been helping those who are out of work gain confidence and get back on their feet. On the flip side, for volunteers, she’s been reminding us that we can’t just wait for the government to heal the economy. We all have a stake and all have the ability, as she says, to make a major impact. Often in the nonprofit world, I’ve run into people bubbling over with ideas, but it’s rare to know someone with the drive to carefully plan and implement them, and do it all so well professionally and all on her own.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

Powering down. In the nonprofit community there is always so much to do and the field is full of Jill- and Jack-of-all-Trades who wear so many different hats to get the job done. In that environment, it is easy to stay in zoom mode, and bounce from one project to the next. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to hit the pause button and stop for a moment to look at everything you’ve accomplished; but it’s such an important thing to do.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in education?

Teach. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to hop right into your own classroom. I started out as a classroom assistant at a public charter school on Chicago’s Southside and absorbed quite a bit about the juggle to keep kids on grade level (or get them to grade level), maintain classroom decorum and help kids navigate all of the baggage that follows them to school. Education is not something that only happens in a traditional classroom, and some of my most meaningful experiences teaching occurred as an instructor for adult community college students or counseling at summer camps.

7. What’s next? (Interpret however you see fit)

It?s an exciting time for me. Between juggling the wonderful work we do at NPT, I am also a freelance writer. I’m in the rare position where my work fulfills and gives me the energy to continue pursuing my own creative endeavors.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Iris Murdoch, Jack Black, and David Sedaris.

Around Town: October 9-10

Looking for an adventure over the long weekend? How about several adventures? Check out these great volunteer opportunities, as well as fall-themed festivals (hay rides!), with our non-profits:

Saturday, October 9

9:00-11:30 AM – Fun Run (Latin American Montessori Bilingual Charter School): take your pick from a 10K, 5K, or 1 mile and run, walk, or push a stroller through Rock Creek Park; all proceeds will go to a new wing at the school.

9:30-4:30 PM – Volunteer Training (ASHA for Women): learn about current laws and social services affecting victims of domestic violence and find out how you can become an advocate.

Noon-12:30 PM – Sea Revels @ Magical Montgomery (Washington Revels): swing by this busy festival in downtown Silver Spring and catch a nautical song and dance performance, commemorating men and women of the sea.

1:00-6:00 PM – Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm (Alice Ferguson Foundation): celebrate the season and support the Foundation’s education programs all at once; the afternoon will feature Barvarian dance, German cuisine, hay rides, and a silent auction.

2:00-3:30 PM – Volunteer Orientation (For Love of Children): both new and retuning volunteers are invited to learn more about tutoring programs and helping children succeed in school.

8:00 PM – Velocity DC Dance Festival (CityDance Ensemble): take a dancing tour around the world with The Washington Ballet, CityDance Ensemble, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Furia Flamenca, Urban Artistry, a DJ, and many more (really!).

Sunday, October 10

Noon-3:00 PM – BSF 38th Annual School Fair (Black Student Fund): stop by the largest independent school fair in the region and meet representatives from over fifty schools, all ready to answer questions about testing, admissions, and financial aid.

Enjoy the three-day weekend and catch you on Tuesday!

In the News (More) …

Greetings! I wanted to focus on this post from Greater Greater Washington yesterday, so I moved the other news items-of-interest to today. Besides, why have a blogging pattern in place if you don’t break from it more or less immediately?

Game Changer? Gates Foundation Funds ABC News: an interesting one! The New York Times reported yesterday that, for the first time, the ABC network has accepted a cash grant from a foundation. The Gates Foundation will supply $1.5 million, which ABC News will supplement with $4.5 million of its own funds, “to back a yearlong project investigating global health problems and their potential solutions.” Any thoughts on this? Would you call it a “game changer?” (Two words that I have been hearing quite a lot recently …)

DC sheltering many homeless people from outside city: Washington Post reported last night that “about 10% of families receiving emergency shelter in the District live elsewhere” and questioned what effect this may have on the District’s human services budget.

Dancing With the Board – Against the Grain: Rick Moyers had a great piece over at the Chronicle for Philanthropy on Tuesday, regarding the Executive/Board relationship; he writes, “It’s complicated. It requires negotiation, practice, and constant attention. And when it works, the results can be beautiful.”

New Tools Available to Grant Seekers: the Foundation Center in New York has started GrantSpace, an online resource and “one-stop shop for grant seekers worldwide to get information they need.”

keeping the conversation going: check out Philanthropy 2173 for a very cool post about “attending” the SOCAP 10 conference from afar via Twitter, archived video, blogs, texts, and so on — “another great example of how this works when it works.”

Did we miss anything? Post more news items right here!

In the News …

I wanted to highlight this post from Greater Greater Washington; the piece was written yesterday morning, the City Paper picked it up yesterday afternoon, and the comments thread debate is still going now. Bryan Weaver, executive director of Hoops Sagrado, recounts his twelve-year connection to Jamal Coates, who was killed in the 13th & U funeral shooting. He concludes:

“I don’t profess to have the answers. If I did, Jamal would not be dead. But I do have some ideas about how we as a community — the entire community — can begin to frame the conversation that will hopefully bring about real change and possibly save some lives [...] We need real action. We need people who are really willing to look at our system and fix it [...] The best way to stop a bullet is an education and a job.”

The debate has focused, at least in part, on whether small and localized changed can make the difference or whether a national paradigm shift is necessary. For a simple answer, I’d say that the former is of course critical while we are waiting on the latter. But I’d also posit that education and outreach programs created for a single neighborhood, a single street, or a single block can have an impact (and an intimacy) that no national program could ever duplicate.

Do check out the post in full and TBD also has an interesting perspective. Moreover, take a look at some of the amazing work that our non-profits are doing in Education and Human Services. The changes may be local and specific, but that translates to deep and undeniable.

If you do this right … (Continued)

Good morning, folks! I’m still thinking about the TIME magazine article and all the buzz surrounding the Facebook CEO’s $100 million donation to the Newark schools. First, the buzz is impossible to escape — just type “mark zuckerberg newark” into Google News. Second, no matter how you consider the issue, this is a serious gift with the potential to be a serious game-changer — not just in Newark, but on the whole. So I thought that I’d add a couple more voices to the mix. Definitely jump into the comment thread with your thoughts. (If you’re reading this on the Catalogue homepage, click BLOG to comment.)

NPR – CEO’S Gift: Philanthropy of Image Control? “Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on Friday to announce a $100 million donation to public schools in Newark, N.J. But the timing of the gift has raised questions about the social networking wunderkind’s motivation…”

The Star Ledger/NJ.com (blog) – Newark schools by the numbers: “Grousing seems like checking the teeth of a gift horse. A hundred million is not chump change, even for a wealthy entrepreneur. But let’s look at the bigger picture [...] if Newark schools cannot produce quality education at $23,500 per student, it seems hard to believe that that they will do much better with an additional $2500 per pupil.”

What do you think?

If you do this right …

“In order to be successful, any philanthropist must cause a lot of disruption and consequently upset plenty of people.”

Hmm. That’s a pretty bold statement.

I did just take that quotation completely out of context though. So for some quick background: Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, announced on September 22 that he would donate $100 million to the Newark Public Schools. Zuckerburg also has a growing friendship with City Mayor Cory Booker who, as part of the terms of the gift, will take on “some control of the long-troubled state-run operation” from Governor Chris Christie.

In response, TIME magazine published a list of “5 Philanthropy Lessons” for the 26-year-old Zuckerburg, suggesting that he “study up on all the education grantmaking” that has come before his own if he wants his gift to have a serious effect.

The above quotation actually comes from the final suggestion and TIME goes on to note: “If you just want to be liked, education reform is not for you … if you do this right, not everyone will be rushing to friend you on Facebook.”

I am honestly not sure how to respond to this. Both the gift itself and his desire to catalyze change are pretty remarkable. But does his ability to make a difference mean that he must also outline how that difference is made? Is he not “serious” without that extra step? Without shaking things up? To put it another way, what if Zuckerburg truly believes that Booker has the right ideas and the right team in place and simply wants to give him the means to move forward? Or does a gift of that size demand some clear and personal ideas for its use? Maybe he needs to jump into the fray (and make some enemies) to ensure that this gift truly puts ideas into action?

Again, I don’t have a clear answer. What do you think? Overall, do disruption and reform often go hand-in-hand? Sure. But I’m not certain that the article has nailed the philanthropist’s role in that process. Or rather, I’m not sure that that role has such a vigorous, clear-cut definition.

That said, this point (plus the others in the article, including “Go big or go home”) are all good and vital food for thought, particularly for a donor like Zuckerburg who has the means and opportunity to spark systemic change in a very large system, very quickly. But I’m not crazy about the general tone of the article, which focuses so intently on big gifts and big change. Do we want to “go big?” Definitely. But impact on a small and personal scale is just as “real” — and for the kids in school right now, just as big.