Services to Systems RFP: NOW OPENdarionTue, 07/09/2019 - 09:49
Meyer seeks to change systems that protect the status quo and create barriers to equity.
We recognize that change does not happen in isolation and that we cannot expect long-term transformative change if we focus only on narrowly defined issues. Earlier this year, I spoke during an interview and Q&A discussion about changes in Meyer’s Building Community portfolio — an interim year of focused grantmaking without an open funding call — to refine our focus, approach and support for nonprofits and organizations working toward “systems-level change” while serving communities throughout Oregon.
For Building Community, systems-level change focuses on meaningful shifts in policies, processes, relationships and power structures as well as deeply held values and norms. Our particular interest is in systems change that alleviates current and historical barriers impacting marginalized and underserved communities, specifically communities of color and Indigenous communities.
Today, our portfolio’s commitment to supporting diverse organizations and leaders serving Oregon communities has never felt stronger. Building Community is now accepting applications for the Services to Systems RFP, a new funding opportunity for nonprofit organizations that provide direct services and are interested in strengthening their connection to systems-level change work in Oregon.
The Services to Systems RFP will provide up to $80,000 in new grant funding, disbursed in two phases. Phase I funding will support involvement in a peer-focused Services to Systems learning circle, comprised of 10-12 organizations. A participation stipend of $5,000 will be provided for each organization, with a maximum of two staff members per organization. Phase II funding will be available only for participating organizations and range between $25,000 and $75,000 to implement work that deepens an organization’s connection to systems-level change. Meyer anticipates that all organizations that choose to submit plans will receive Phase II funding and will offer individualized coaching as organizations approach the plan development stage.
To be clear: The Services to Systems RFP is designed for direct service providers that have already started considering or may be taking early steps toward supporting systems change but are not yet deeply engaged in that work. Organizations that have not yet started this work or are already deeply engaged in systems change will be less competitive. We recommend reviewing Meyer’s Direct Services to Systems Change Continuum to get a better sense of what early or advanced systems change work might look like.
Organizations that have an active grant with Meyer are still eligible to apply for the Services to Systems RFP and this RFP does not stop organizations from submitting proposals for other Meyer funding opportunities. Those awarded grants under this RFP will be invited to participate in one or more convenings and will have a chance to network with and learn from other grantees in the learning circle.
An information session took place on Tuesday, July 16 to explain the learning circle style RFP in detail and answer questions. A recap of the questions and answers that arose during that info session can be found on the Services to Systems RFP Q&A page.
The Services to Systems RFP supports organizations that are primarily focused on providing direct services and not deeply engaged in systems change work but want to deepen their connection to the work. Up to $80,000 in new grant funding will be available.
Applicants will be notified of their award status in late September, with Phase I funding available in early to mid-October.
This RFP will provide up to $80,000 in grant funding, disbursed in two phases:
Phase I funding will support involvement in a peer-focused Services to Systems learning circle, comprised of 10-12 organizations. (A participation stipend of $5,000 will be provided for each organization, with a maximum of two staff members per organization).
Phase II funding will only be available for participating organizations and ranges between $25,000-$75,000 to implement work that deepens an organization’s connection to systems-level change.
Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and answer questions during an online information session on Tuesday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to noon.
It’s been four years since Meyer redesigned its grantmaking to focus on equity. The organization has learned so much over that time, and we’re grateful to support organizations all over the state whose work makes Oregon better for every Oregonian. Looking forward, we want to ensure that our processes and practices make sense for our partners: to balance the weight of a grant with the process of applying for it, to solve for what has become an onerous application process, to time our grantmaking to better serve our grantees.
So we are making some changes in this year’s AFO process:
First, in the spirit of learning from our grantees, we have streamlined Meyer’s application process from two steps to one step. A simpler, single-step process allows for a more personalized, individualized conversation with applicants to inform our grantmaking. If required, additional information will be requested in a follow-up conversation and site visit.
Second, listening to our grantees led us to look at the timing of our education grantmaking. Beginning this year, the Equitable Education portfolio grants that are dependent on the academic school year will be awarded in July; the remaining Annual Funding Opportunity education awards will be announced in December with the bulk of our AFO awards.
Finally, our attempt to remain responsive resulted in the Building Community portfolio becoming a catch-all for applications that fell outside the other three portfolio areas. Over the past three years, it received more than 1,000 applications, with only 20 percent of applicants receiving grants. As a result we learned that we needed to better define and refine the portfolio. This year Building Community will invite key groups working explicitly on systems-level change to apply for about $2.5 million in funding.
Those are the changes. What we won’t change is our commitment to centering those who have been under-represented and historically disinvested, including Native communities and those often unseen or undercounted in rural areas.
We know that the challenges we face can’t be addressed within silos so we will continue to invest in cross-portfolio work that moves the needle on the work of diversity, equity and inclusion and ensures we are tapping the complexity of the strategic areas where we focus.
Beyond our strategic portfolios, Meyer remains committed to responding to relevant and urgent issues, supporting efforts that touch upon the lives of Oregonians. We believe in the importance of the Census Equity Funder Committee of Oregon, working with Portland’s Office of Community & Civic Life and 10 other foundations to ensure an accurate counting in the 2020 U.S. Census. Meyer continues to collaborate with the Health & Education Fund partners to invest in assessing and supporting parent, child, family and community resilience across all sectors. Finally, we remain active supporters of the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative designed to address crucial and time-sensitive issues facing immigrants and refugees.
Meyer will invest approximately $3.55 million to advance our vision of eliminating predictable gaps and increasing opportunity for priority students in Oregon’s public schools.
This is the third round of annual funding for the Equitable Education portfolio. At the end of 2018, we awarded 40 grants out of 99 competitive applications. These grants reflected a mix of rural and urban organizations offering both a vision and approach to directly address educational disparities. Of primary importance was their collective belief that for Oregon to flourish, each student — regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, geography, disability, sexuality, gender identity or language — must have the opportunity to succeed in school. We are excited to see how this work flourishes over the next few years!
The Equitable Education portfolio will begin accepting applications on April 15, with a deadline of 5 p.m., on May 15, to accomplish one of the following Equitable Education funding goals:
Advance education equity through systems- and policy-level change
Improve priority student achievement and college and career readiness
Meyer has identified several intended outcomes under each of these two goals, and we invite you to take a deeper look at our funding goals and intended outcomes as you consider how your work aligns with the vision for this portfolio.
What did we learn from last year’s Annual Funding Opportunity?
The 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity represents a refinement of our framework based on current data as well as feedback we received from nonprofit and education partners. It's also designed to create what we believe to be the greatest opportunity to leverage Meyer's investments in education.
Although there might be modest adjustments to the Equitable Education goals and outcomes, equity remains central to all portfolio grantmaking. In 2019, successful applicants will continue to demonstrate a clear commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Through this lens, organizations will propose a vision and approach to analyzing and directly addressing education disparities experienced by our priority populations across Oregon. These students include:
English Language Learners (ELL)
First-generation college students
Students of color
Students with disabilities
Students in or aging out of foster care
Students living on low-incomes
After our experience last year, we decided to re-release a visual guide to clarify what fits within the scope of our portfolio. The "fit flowchart" gives a broad overview to see if your work would generally fit within the scope of the portfolio; a companion piece to this is a one-page "insights" document that answers some common questions addressing application competitiveness. You can view that resource here.
What doesn't fit within the Equitable Education portfolio
The Equitable Education portfolio team values the essential work occurring every day across the education continuum and we recognize that preparing an application requires a considerable investment of time and resources by an organization. Insights from last year have provided us with a clear perspective on what doesn't fit within the Equitable Education portfolio:
Education programs with universal, one-size-fits-all strategies not specifically designed for priority students, regardless of school, district or regional demographics.
Direct early education services; we will, however, support students during the transition between early education programs and kindergarten as well as preparing public schools to offer a smooth transition from home to school.
Strategies to address college retention and completion; however, we are interested in supporting efforts that smooth the transition between high school, or equivalent, and college and/or career.
K-12 private schools.
New or expanded programming developed without meaningful engagement with the priority population it is intended to impact.
Environmental education programming not specifically designed to meet the academic, social or cultural needs of priority students.
The Equitable Education team has conducted information webinars in which we shared insights into what fits within the scope of the portfolio; introduced our priority populations; provided additional information about our vision, goals and outcomes for eliminating gaps and increasing opportunities for students; and much more.
Finally, we've organized a set of Applicant Resources to make the process easier. You'll find additional information, tools and advice on topics ranging from diversity, equity and inclusion to Meyer's definition of collaborations.
We look forward to working with you in the coming year, apply soon!
Capitalizing on housing momentumdarionMon, 04/15/2019 - 13:31
As our portfolio name suggests, it is indeed a time of Housing Opportunities across the state. Sizeable new funding resources, innovative public-private partnerships and passage of statewide tenant protection legislation are evidence of the impressive energy and creativity responding to housing challenges across the state. In this moment of great potential, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio is pleased to open its doors for our 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity.
This is the fourth Annual Funding Opportunity cycle since restructuring our grantmaking program. We continue to refine and (we hope!) clarify the process. The list below highlights those elements that are the same this year, followed by those that have changed.
What’s the same in the Annual Funding Opportunity?
1. Our overarching housing goals are essentially the same:
• Preserve and increase the number of affordable housing rental units for priority populations
• Support the housing stability and success of priority populations
• Foster stronger, more equitable and more effective affordable housing systems and strategies
We’ve tweaked the goal language here to reflect a focus on priority populations — the people who experience the impacts of historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices. These impacts are widely felt by people of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes, as well as people with disabilities and other marginalized communities. To achieve our vision that every Oregonian has a stable, safe and affordable place to call home, we strive to focus on those who face the disproportionate impacts of housing discrimination and instability. More on that below.
2. Grant-funded work should connect to and advance the outcomes we’ve identified under the three goal areas. In addition to the nine outcomes offered last year, we have added three more. This chart provides a snapshot of the funding goals, outcomes, funding ranges and grant types to help you assess the best fit. The grant types and ranges are the same as last year. Don’t forget to take a look at the shorter list of what doesn’t fit well within the portfolio.
3. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth through the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles into both their external programming or services and internal structures and operations. We seek organizations that share our values and are making progress toward DEI integration.
As part of those DEI values, Meyer believes people experiencing housing challenges are experts on their own situations and key stakeholders in housing solutions. We seek to support work centering the lived experience and expertise of people benefitting from programs and also building the capacity of impacted communities that have faced systemic housing disparities to define and implement their own solutions to housing needs. (This ties to a new outcome around Community Influence.) We are more likely to fund projects that demonstrate meaningful involvement by the people with lived experience in defining the issues and solutions proposed.
4.General operating support grants face a high bar. As noted in our funding guidelines, we have heightened expectations from organizations that are awarded unrestricted operating support. First and foremost, they should be housing organizations (do a majority of their work in affordable housing) and strongly advance the core funding goals in our Housing Opportunities portfolio. Additionally, they should play a unique and/or important role in the field and have wider impact for the sector (e.g., as an intermediary, seen as a field leader in Oregon or nationally); demonstrate leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the context of the communities where they work; and have DEI strategies as a meaningful part of their work plan for the grant period. Reach out if you have questions about whether to apply for this funding type.
5. The Annual Funding Opportunity continues to be a competitive process, with limited funding. In the past two funding cycles, the Housing Opportunities portfolio has funded about half of the proposals we received. This means we’ve had to turn down many solid proposals. We also expect the 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity to have robust demand, due in part to the fact that the Housing Opportunities portfolio will not be offering other Requests for Proposals (RFPs) this year. Moreover, our funding amount for 2019 is smaller ($3.5 million, compared with $3.9 million last year).
What has changed in the Annual Funding Opportunity?
The application process will be open for four weeks instead of five. The application period opens Monday, April 15, this year and will stay open for a month, closing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
In lieu of multiple information sessions around the state, the Housing Opportunities portfolio is offering an on-demand webinar on our website. Potential applicants are encouraged to watch the webinar and review the online resources. Those with specific questions can then email questions [at] mmt.org to sign up for a 20-minute phone consultation with a member of the housing team. We want to spend more time giving personalized and concentrated feedback to applicants and less time in big, general sessions or travel.
We’re trying a one-step application process this year. We heard from many of you that the initial application in our two-step application was much more intense than a typical “letter of inquiry.” This year, we’re going to try a one-step application that looks fairly similar to the questions asked last year. By combining the inquiry application and the full application, we hope for less duplication of content. By early July, we will notify applicants who are invited to move forward in our process. For selected organizations, due diligence will look pretty similar to our previous process with one exception: We will prioritize in-person site visits for newer organizations or complex projects. Applicants who have had recent site visits may only receive a follow up via phone conference.
Income of people served will be a factor but not the most prominent factor in our analysis. In the past three years, we have asked all housing projects if they intend to serve people living with low-incomes (at or below 60% AMI). This year, the emphasis is on serving the priority populations who have experienced historical and current housing discrimination. Applicants should understand historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and focus their work to eliminate those disparities.
Time and again, we have seen that having a “one size fits all” approach to solving housing instability tends to be less successful than projects that use strategies designed with community input, tailored to the needs of a specific group of people. Foremost, we want to know how your project is designed to serve the needs of priority populations. The language of our goals was revised to connect all of the outcomes to the priority populations. More information on the priority populations can be found in our webinar.
Want more information about what we look for? We’ve gathered a set of Applicant Resources, with everything from building a budget to understanding our definition of collaborations and learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. You are encouraged to review those resources as you prepare your proposal.
Your work inspires us every day. Your efforts to serve the person in front of you, while keeping an eye on the larger systems-level changes needed to address housing discrimination and disparities. You push for new tools and resources to bring housing stability to more Oregonians and then figure out how to align resources and efforts for maximum impact. We hope to be the thought-partners and funders that you need to bolster your efforts.
Four nonprofits respond to Meyer’s “1 Million Months Challenge”darionMon, 04/15/2019 - 13:01
Is there a better way to create more affordable housing in Oregon? We intend to find out over the next few years, as four dynamic teams test, improve and iterate on very different innovative ideas.
Last year, Meyer laid down an unusual and ambitious invitation, which we called the “1 Million Months Challenge,” to encourage innovation around affordable housing design, finance and construction. The basic intent was to empower people who think mainstream affordable development isn’t concerned enough with cost, and those who claim there are less costly ways to help people attain housing that’s affordable, but also meets some basic threshold of quality, dignity and comfort (while still attending to long-term costs of operating and maintaining housing).
A Caveat - This is Harder than it Looks!
Full disclosure: After nearly five years of engaging with experts on these issues, we are not entirely certain there’s a path that can deliver dramatic cost reductions. Too often, people who criticize the (admittedly eye-wateringly high) cost of delivering new housing do so without much experience with the thicket of constraints and cross-cutting pressures that define a typical government-subsidized multifamily development. And too often, critics suggest cutting corners without thinking through the tradeoffs of throwing out (for instance) prevailing wage requirements or building to a high standard for energy-efficiency.
As we outlined in our 2015 report, the basic math involved in building high-quality buildings makes it essentially impossible to aim for rents affordable to people earning a modest wage (or far less), and that necessarily means that public funding will be an important part of most affordable development. Factor in a white-hot construction market, expensive land, the string of expectations that follow public dollars, and the risk mitigation requirements of a dozen or more funding partners, and affordable housing seems far from affordable.
Still, that’s not an excuse for complacency, and as the 2015-16 round of grantees pursuing innovative cost efficient strategies demonstrated, there are some important ways to trim costs at the margin in design and construction, as well as some finance and design strategies that haven’t been fully tested that deserve to be further developed.
The 1 Million Months Challenge
As we reflected on what we learned from the 2015-16 RFP focused on innovation, we wanted to open the doors even wider to innovative ideas and approaches and to focus more clearly on the end goal: creating as much access as possible to affordable housing for as little public subsidy as possible. This led us to last year’s 1 Million Months Challenge, a moonshot-style competition, focusing creativity and energy around a specific, lofty goal: Bring us your best ideas for guaranteeing 1 million months of affordability, using as little public subsidy as possible.
We framed the challenge this way to emphasize flexibility and focus on the big-picture outcome: This is less about developing "projects" than creating a viable new model or path that could potentially help our partners house large numbers of people for an extended period of time.
Proposals were invited under three broad categories: Rural Workforce, Extremely Low-Income/Hard to House (i.e. those with additional challenges to housing stability like mental illness, etc.), and an Open category serving any low-income population.
Meyer received 18 proposals from across Oregon, and after an extensive vetting process, awarded grants to four projects:
BRIDGE will explore utilizing the new Opportunity Zones to promote the creation of affordable housing in Oregon without relying on scarce and competitive federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The recent federal tax cut package created tax incentives for investing in economically distressed communities (“Opportunity Zones”) defined by the state. BRIDGE will partner with Novogradac & Associates (a national tax and real estate development consultant) to develop a model for creating housing with the help of new investors expected to be drawn to the Opportunity Zones. Many in the affordable housing world are wondering whether Opportunity Zones could be an effective tool for developing affordable housing, and BRIDGE is well-positioned to be an “early-mover” here and to share what they learn with the field.
Housing Development Center (HDC) will partner with Vermont Energy Investment Corp. to bring VEIC’s interesting zero-energy modular housing model to scale in Oregon, combined with a land trust model to assure long-term affordability. HDC is a leading nonprofit consulting firm focused on affordable housing finance and development across the state and a partner with Meyer on several recent important projects. This proposal takes on several key unresolved issues in affordable housing in Oregon: how to scale up modular design and construction beyond its very small current market share, how to jump-start affordable housing production in rural Oregon, and how to leverage highly energy-efficient new construction for long-term affordability.
SquareOne Villages: Affordable Together: scaling a community-based approach to housing (Lane County/Open)
SquareOne Villages was a grantee in the first round of Cost Efficiency grants in 2015-16, developing and documenting best practices around creating new tiny home villages for extremely low-income people (typically those leaving homelessness) in Lane County. In its next phase of work, it will explore combining limited equity cooperative ownership with a community land trust structure to create a new affordable homeownership model. Since it began experimenting with very low-cost housing options, SquareOne has progressively stepped up its ability to improve the quality and design of tiny homes, and if this hybrid ownership structure is successful, it could benefit a range of similar efforts across the state.
In addition to those three projects, a fourth organization was awarded a grant under Meyer’s 2018 RFP to improve access to private market housing and was invited to join the 1 Million Months cohort because its work aligns well with the goals and intent of the 1MM RFP:
Hacienda CDC: Community-based affordable ADU rentals to increase the supply of private market units and stabilize low-income homeowners at risk of displacement. (Portland/Open)
Hacienda has been a leading partner in the Living Cully collaborative (along with Verde, NAYA and Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East), which has been engaged in robust neighborhood-focused work on affordable housing and community development since 2010.
This project will fund the design, planning and implementation of affordable accessory dwelling units to be rented to low-income tenants and people of color in Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland. The project will not only create new affordable units, but also help insulate low-income homeowners from displacement pressures by supplying them with supplemental income from the rentals.
What Comes Next
The four grantees are just beginning their work now and are committed to sharing what they discover over the next two years. Meyer plans to provide a series of opportunities for stakeholders and other interested parties to engage with the cohort and learn from their work to build out replicable and scalable new approaches. Stay tuned for more!
In the road of Meyer’s housing work, we are seeing a “Merge Ahead” sign. Our Affordable Housing Initiative, a five-year plan to explore innovation, support systems change and leverage resources to meet the housing needs of Oregonians is coming to its official end. That isn’t to say that our work will stop. Rather, it will be blended in with the Housing Opportunities portfolio and not labelled as a separate initiative.
In the foundation world, an initiative is a focused effort to support change. It implies that the foundation is taking the initiative to set aside specific goals and strategies for a particular effort. At the time the Meyer’s Affordable Housing Initiative was established, the foundation was a traditional responsive grantmaker. Applicants could submit proposals on the topic of their choice, which allowed grantseekers to have maximum flexibility but made it difficult to move a body of work toward a specific end.
The Affordable Housing Initiative was one of Meyer’s first two initiative experiments, the other being the Willamette River Initiative. From the time they launched in 2008, both became incubators for new ways of working as a foundation. Through the Affordable Housing Initiative we:
Engaged with our partners in deeper collaborative work, starting with an advisory committee that helped identify the eight targeted strategies of the Affordable Housing Initiative;
Sought grant proposals that advanced our specific strategies, using new funding mechanisms like Requests for Proposals (we’ve completed 15 RFPs, awarding more than 125 grants) and Meyer-directed grants;
Launched an early prototype of an equity lens, specifically prioritizing under-resourced communities, including communities of color, culturally specific organizations and underserved rural communities. For the first time, our applications asked for disaggregated data on who was being served by a project, as well as the board and staff makeup of an organization;
Developed stronger ties with the investments side of the house at Meyer. This has allowed us to better connect our work and support some innovative work by the investment team.
In these ways, the Affordable Housing Initiative ran as a parallel path to Meyer’s core grantmaking work. Successes and stumbles learned from this incubator helped inform the restructure of Meyer’s programs in 2015, when we created four portfolios to help move us toward a flourishing and equitable Oregon. Forming the Housing Opportunities portfolio provided us the space to add more dedicated housing staff and roll out a more responsive funding opportunity to complement the targeted strategies we had been doing through the AHI.
When the parallel roads merge this month, you are not likely to see much difference. We’ll have the same staff, the same use of RFPs to advance specific strategies as well as an annual funding opportunity and the same attention to policy- and systems-level change. We’ll have a clear focus to center people experiencing housing discrimination and work to reduce the disproportionate impacts of racist and discriminatory housing policy on Indigenous communities, people of color, people with disabilities and other priority populations.
Through five intense years of the Affordable Housing Initiative, Meyer’s housing staff have reflected on our work and corrected our course based on market fluctuations, policy changes and a sharpened equity mission. Later this year, we’ll complete a more holistic assessment of the impact of the AHI on our partners and the larger housing landscape in Oregon. If you are interested in participating in a focus group for the evaluation, let us know on this form.
The Affordable Housing Initiative helped Meyer deepen and transform its work, and we are confident its lessons will continue to influence our work and the wider housing field in Oregon.
2018 Annual Funding Opportunity grants total $24 million
Meyer Memorial Trust recently approved $24 million in grants to organizations working throughout Oregon to remove barriers to equity and create conditions in the state where all individuals thrive. Among the 188 Annual Funding Opportunity grants are efforts to directly dismantle systems perpetuating hate and injustice in Oregon, to push forward systems-level change across rural and urban communities, and to amplify the impact and credibility of community level solutions to advance justice.
Meyer's third Annual Funding Opportunity (AFO) supports 24 new-to-Meyer grantees, has statewide reach and overwhelmingly benefits communities and people who are marginalized and experience disparities. Those priority populations include people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Oregonians; immigrants and refugees; women and girls; economically disadvantaged individuals; people with disabilities; indigenous populations and Tribes; and underserved rural communities.
The 2018 funding call includes support for efforts to build inclusive and diverse communities, to break down inequities through local and statewide policy and systems change, to support pathways for people most impacted by decisions to sit at the tables where those decisions are made, to grow organizations so diverse people see themselves reflected at all levels and to help build wealth in communities that have long experienced income disparities.
Specifically, this batch of grants will help build 204 new units of affordable housing and preserve an additional 34 affordable homes. Grants will support 23 organizations working to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion in their services and throughout their operations to better serve Oregonians. And the 2018 grant awards reflect partnerships with four of the state’s nine federally recognized tribes: the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.
In all, the foundation received 630 AFO applications this year, requesting more than $74 million through Meyer's Building Community, Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities portfolios. More than half of the requests were directed to the Building Community portfolio with the remaining spread across the other three portfolios.
Highlights from the Building Community portfolio awards
Meyer provided a $180,000 grant to Mano a Mano to support Radio Poder, a startup full-power, non-commercial FM radio station broadcasting in three indigenous Mexican languages: Purepecha, Mixteco and Trique. Radio Poder, "La Voz del Pueblo," aims to reach a Latinx community of 350,000 people throughout the Willamette Valley with trusted, vital and timely information focused on housing, immigration, workers' and LGBTQ rights, gender, criminal justice, health care, gun and domestic violence, local elections, community leadership, cultural traditions and other equity issues.
Meyer made a $175,000 grant to Elders in Action for coordination of a coalition focused on improving policies and services for low-income older Oregonians in Multnomah County. One-eighth of the county's population of 800,000 people are over 60 years old, the fastest growing demographic, projected to increase by 60 percent by 2025.
Meyer also made a grant of $99,600 to Self Enhancement Inc., to support the Portland African American Leadership Forum, which is implementing a newly adopted, community-driven strategic business plan. The Portland African American Leadership Forum, which helps Oregon's Black community build political participation and leadership, takes seriously the words of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer: "Nobody's free until everybody's free."
These grants are among 61 Building Community portfolio awards, totalling more than $7.7 million, aimed at making Oregon a place where all Oregonians can be part of vibrant communities they help to shape and where they feel valued, represented and seen.
"We're looking for projects that propel systemic change in tangible ways," wrote Building Community portfolio director Dahnesh Medora in his blog post announcing the 2018 Annual Funding Opportunity awards. His team sorted through more than 350 applications. "This philosophy and belief in systems-level change is fundamental to what we do at Meyer: support solutions that counteract and fix the underlying issues of inequities and not just the symptoms that create the need for a given program or service."
Read more about the Building Community grants here.
Highlights from the Equitable Education portfolio awards
Meyer provided a $100,000 grant to the American Indian Science and Engineering Society for programming in computer science, science, technology, engineering and mathematics for Tribal and urban Native students throughout Oregon. The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) was founded 41 years ago with the mission of substantially increasing the representation of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Pacific Islanders in STEM-related fields. The grant is one of 40 Equitable Education portfolio awards, totalling nearly $5.2 million and leveraging strategic impact for an Oregon where all students have true opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Meyer made a $141,933 grant to Chemeketa Community College for a program that will increase the number of biliterate and bilingual teachers in Oregon schools. Last year, 31 states — including Oregon — reported teacher shortages in the areas of bilingual, dual-language immersion or English as a Second Language education. These shortages reflect a national struggle to find teachers with needed pedagogical knowledge and skills to support the country's growing English language learner student population.
Meyer also made a grant of $120,000 for innovative academic programming to help low-income, rural youths in Harney County go to college and become career ready. Dozens of the current batch of AFO grants serve rural and frontier communities and Tribes in communities that are home to 16 percent of Oregon's population of 4.1 million people.
Matt Morton, the Equitable Education portfolio director, explained how Meyer's education strategy guided his team through 99 applications: "We remain laser focused within our lane and to support projects that don't just feature high representation of our priority students. We have to fund projects that meet and satisfy student needs, above all," in his award announcement blog. "Without targeted investments for those experiencing disparities, disparities grow, resulting in even greater inequities in the very classrooms where we are trying to eliminate them."
Read more about the Equitable Education grants here.
Highlights from the Healthy Environments portfolio awards
Meyer provided a $165,000 grant to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) for expansion of a pilot program that brings community solar projects to serve low-income residents in Oregon. The poorest 20 percent of Americans pay a disproportionately large share of income for their energy. The pilot is part of BEF's efforts to build an inclusive clean energy movement to support the economic vitality of disadvantaged communities while also improving the environment. The grant is one of 55 Healthy Environment portfolio awards, totalling $5.3 million and helping to diversify Oregon's environmental movement.
Meyer made an $86,000 grant to Beyond Toxics for a collaborative addressing environmental racism, health and justice issues affecting African American, Latinx and immigrant communities in Jackson, Josephine and Lane counties. Oregon's environmental justice organizers demand that government policies and business practices use a framework of justice and equity to protect all Oregonians from environmental harm.
Meyer also made a grant of $100,000 to the Forest Stewardship Council Investments and Partnerships to expand the market for sustainably sourced construction materials grown in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. The globally recognized leadership standard for forest management, FSC requires stringent forestry practices to prohibit deforestation, to protect rare old growth forests and threatened and endangered species, to strictly limit clearcutting, to restrict the use of highly hazardous pesticides, and to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples on public and private lands.
"One of the new developments in this pool of awards is a robust collective of grants to Tribes and Native-led organizations that seek to elevate and integrate Indigenous knowledge and practices into conservation and environmental protection efforts across the state," Portfolio director Jill Fuglister wrote in her latest blog. Half a dozen grants serve Oregon Tribes and Native American communities across the state, grantmaking that reflects the portfolio's renewed efforts to strategize more closely with Oregon's sovereign tribal neighbors. "Not only are we delighted to support these efforts, but we are excited to learn more about how traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous communities and Western science can work together to support healthy natural systems and communities."
Read more about the Healthy Environment grants here.
Highlights from the Housing Opportunities portfolio awards
Meyer provided a $200,000 grant to Sponsors Inc. to build five tiny house duplexes for people with criminal histories in Lane County. Plans call for each home to be just under 300 square feet and rent for around $300 a month. Average rents in Eugene run $1,250, with studio apartments renting on average for $840, one-bedroom apartments for $980 a month and two-bedroom apartments for $1,170. The grant is one of 33 Housing Opportunities portfolio awards, totalling more than $5.8 million, addressing thorny housing issues throughout Oregon.
Meyer made a $185,000 grant to the Coalition of Communities of Color to support an Oregon-wide network of housing advocates of color and culturally specific organizations active in housing issues. Affording a safe and stable place to live remains a challenge for many Oregonians, particularly renters. Housing costs weigh more heavily on communities of color, especially for the state's African American community, where seven in ten households are renters, double the rate of non-Hispanic white Oregon households.
Meyer also made a grant of $135,000 to Northeast Oregon Network (NEON), for the Housing Matters Collaborative, which is focused on increasing affordable housing options for low-income and vulnerable families and individuals in rural Union County. Residents of Oregon's more isolated areas struggle to find safe, affordable places to live despite lower costs of living because incomes in many rural areas are also significantly lower thanks to limited economic opportunities and struggling or dormant industries.
"Knowing that our funds are limited, we look for strategic investments that reflect an understanding of racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and work to eliminate those imbalances through collaboration, systems-level change and resource alignment," Theresa Deibele, director of the Housing Opportunities portfolio, wrote in her blog announcing $5.86 million in grants. "We applaud our partners in the field — including Sponsors, CASA of Oregon and dozens of others — that remain committed to solving some of the hardest issues in affordable housing and breaking down barriers to equity that have likely been in place for decades, possibly generations."
Read more about the Housing Opportunities grants here.
And take a look at the full AFO list here, or for a more visual experience, check out these spreadsheets with the 188 grants broken down by portfolio, goal and counties served.
Meyer is also excited to announce another 44 grants totaling $1.58 million made outside the annual funding call; check out that list here.
Funding statewide stability: Housing Opportunities portfolio awards $5.86 million in grants
Through our Annual Funding Opportunity, this year the Housing Opportunities portfolio saw many of our partners propose innovative solutions to address some of the most complex housing challenges in Oregon. In surveying the awards, grit and creativity rise to the top as two of the most prominent themes of the efforts of this year's 33 grant recipients — taken from 78 applicants — receiving awards totaling $5.86 million.
And, yes, like previous years, projects funded in 2018 span the entirety of our state, from urban to rural regions and include large and small organizations focusing on single efforts and group collaborations. And a few organizations were funded by Meyer for the first time.
Each year, we seek grant proposals that will move us closer to our vision of safe, affordable, long-term housing for all Oregonians. Knowing that our funds are limited, we look for strategic investments that reflect an understanding of racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and work to eliminate those imbalances through collaboration, systems-level change and resource alignment. That's the joy and challenge of working within this portfolio. Needs make themselves known and we respond. It's our job to find them.
Thankfully, our partners make that easy.
We'll take a closer look at two topics that gained traction in this year's batch: replacement of substandard manufactured housing and providing housing for formerly incarcerated people.
When Meyer established its initial housing goals five years ago, preservation of rural manufactured housing was one of our key strategies. We knew that manufactured housing is a primary source of affordable housing in many rural Oregon communities. A significant percentage of those homes were built before 1980, and many are in significant disrepair, forcing families to live in unstable and unhealthy environments and pay a significant portion of their limited incomes on utility costs. Our partners labored for years to piece together the puzzle of resources needed to replace these substandard homes at a price families could afford.
Four proposals funded in this batch focus on replacing dilapidated mobile homes. Each proposal comes at it from a unique angle, bringing expertise and connections to address part of the issue. For example, we've been working with Community and Shelter Assistance of Oregon on housing issues for a number of years. This year, CASA of Oregon received a two-year grant to fund a replacement strategy manager position that will both manage and document the ambitious collaboration happening at a resident-owned cooperative park in southern Oregon.
That means fewer repairs, lower energy bills and healthier homes. Better homes allow families to focus more energy on career, education and family goals. Families will also feel empowered because they'll be living in new homes that can be preserved for the next generation.
We at Meyer are even more buoyed by the long-term ripple effect this model may one day achieve.
A critical component of the newly funded position at CASA of Oregon is to memorialize every phase of the process so that other organizations throughout the state can reproduce and adapt its processes to fit their needs and unique circumstances. It's thrilling to imagine the number of new homes for low-income individuals and families, immigrants and elderly people that may emerge from this project.
Three other proposals in this batch are also immersed in manufactured housing. When viewed together, the collective work is poised to make big strides that can address the thorny issues around manufactured housing replacement.
Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation has engaged in a range of homeownership counseling services, such as financial capacity building, matched savings accounts, reverse mortgages and foreclosure counseling. Increasingly, it was seeing owners of manufactured housing coming in with requests but found it was ill-equipped to serve them because of distinct differences inherent in manufactured housing. Meyer's grant will support NEDCO staff focused on manufactured housing education and counseling services over two years.
Craft3 received a two-year grant to pilot a funding model with the Energy Trust of Oregon to replace aging and unsafe manufactured homes in southern Oregon with healthy, energy-efficient models, helping low- and moderate-income homeowners with long-term housing stability.
Meyer supported St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County to preserve needed affordable housing at Saginaw Mobile Home Park. With many park homes deemed unlivable, the grant will help to replace existing single-wide manufactured homes with new, energy-efficient models and improve the health, safety and long-term viability of the park.
We also saw breakthrough work this year from Sponsors, which provides transitional and long-term housing services to previously incarcerated individuals, for whom firm grounding in the housing market has always proven elusive. The Sponsors grant will staff and support a multi-sector collaborative integrating comprehensive case management and parole and probation supervision support with permanent supportive housing for the prison re-entry population in the Lane county area.
This level of assistance is essential. Individuals released from prison often can't compete for housing in the marketplace for numerous reasons: a prison record, inadequate rental history, lack of funds, the absence of a job and so on. Yet housing is the most stabilizing factor in a person's life and provides a crucial platform for employment, education and health.
Sponsors works directly with Homes for Good, which is familiar with supporting high needs populations, to ensure a holistic approach to property management and solving housing disputes in an equitable way before resorting to evictions. The pilot was extremely successful, achieving a one-year housing stability rate of 87 percent and a one-year incarceration recidivism rate of only 2.4 percent. Recent analysis conducted by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found that the one-year felony re-conviction rate among residents at one of the Homes for Good sites with Sponsors was 60 percent lower than the Oregon state baseline.
Sponsors has been working for years to make housing less daunting to this vulnerable population. The rest of us are just catching up to their good work.
We applaud our partners in the field — including Sponsors, CASA of Oregon and dozens of others — that remain committed to solving some of the hardest issues in affordable housing and breaking down barriers to equity that have likely been in place for decades, possibly generations. It is only through our partners' work that Meyer will see strides toward our mission of an equitable and flourishing Oregon.
A full list of the grants in this year's Annual Funding Opportunity batch can be found here.
Diversifying our environmental movement: Healthy Environment portfolio awards $5.32 million in grants
A guiding principle for the Healthy Environment portfolio is to support work that transform the systems which create and sustain inequities and environmental degradation in our communities. This means changing the rules, relationships, roles and practices in institutions and systems — large and small — that shape culture, politics, the economy, how we manage natural resources and more.
As I consider the 55 grants totaling $5.32 million that we awarded this year through Meyer's Annual Funding Opportunity, I see a common vision woven throughout that seeks to undo the extractive, transactional and damaging relationships we have with the planet and each other to advance new and proven approaches at all levels — organizational, local, regional and state — that are based on values of justice, cooperation, ecological sustainability and equity.
The breadth of applicants and grantees this year reflects the continued scope of this portfolio: advancing solutions toward climate change and climate justice, land and forest conservation, clean air, watershed health and green workforce development. Awards include small technical assistance grants, particularly for organizational development work to deepen internal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, as well as support for larger projects and broader state policy efforts.
One of the new developments in this pool of awards is a robust collective of grants to Tribes and Native-led organizations that seek to elevate and integrate Indigenous knowledge and practices into conservation and environmental protection efforts across the state. Not only are we delighted to support these efforts, but we are excited to learn more about how traditional ecological knowledge of Indigenous communities and Western science can work together to support healthy natural systems and communities.
This collective of Tribe and Native-led projects includes:
$185,000 to The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to fund a natural lands conservation plan that integrates the Tribes' cultural and healthy traditions goals.
$176,037 to The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to support a program that will improve air quality and mitigate health impacts related to prescribed burning for wildfire management.
$249,850 to support a collaborative effort of five Tribal communities — The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Nez Perce Tribe — to study and assess the loss in Tribal natural resource services of importance to the governments and members of the Tribes as a result of contamination in Portland Harbor and to integrate this information into watershed and habitat restoration in the lower Willamette.
$50,000 to The Confederated Lower Chinook Tribes and Bands to purchase, protect and revitalize the Tribes' historically important Tansy Point treaty grounds.
$136,978 to the Nez Perce Tribe to support the integration of Tribal knowledge into Wallowa Lake management that will benefit Tribal members and Wallowa County communities.
$185,000 to Wisdom of the Elders to train Native American adults living in both urban areas and on reservations about Native plant nursery work and to help them develop agricultural careers and/or micro-enterprises using these new skills.
One aspect of the legacy of colonization is how it privileges the colonizer's viewpoint related to land, which is oriented around concepts of "ownership" and "private property," rather than an Indigenous perspective, which is oriented around the concept of a reciprocal relationship with the land. In short, colonization has destroyed, exploited and invisibilized Indigenous communities and their approach to environmentalism. A common example of this is the predominance of Western science information in environmental education versus an approach that also includes spiritual or cultural values and understanding of the environment. Another example is the commodification of plants by pharmaceutical companies based on Indigenous community knowledge and medicinal use of these plants.
The Tribe-led projects that we are funding this year disrupt this colonial legacy and integrate cultural and traditional ecological knowledge with Western science in their efforts to protect and restore ecosystems. They embody what we in Meyer's Healthy Environment portfolio are trying to achieve.
I'm pleased to celebrate our partnership with the grantees that I've highlighted here as well as the other organizations that we are honored to support this year. View a full list of Healthy Environment grantees here.
I look forward to entering 2019 in search of new opportunities for partnership and to build on our portfolio's growing body of environmental justice and conservation work that aims to benefit communities experiencing disparities in Oregon and change the institutions and systems that perpetuate inequities.
Leveraging for strategic impact: Equitable Education portfolio awards $5.16 million in grants
History tells us that extraordinary change begins by way of small but significant steps that often aren't even visible at first glance.
For example, as we welcome this portfolio's Annual Funding Opportunity awards, I notice, on the surface, similar numbers as last year: 99 applications requesting $12.8 million in funding, with 40 grants totaling $5.16 million eventually awarded.
Grant recipients also include, once again, a broad mix of urban and rural organizations stretching from Portland to eastern Oregon. There are both independent and collaborative team efforts, featuring organizations of all types, trying to redress disparity in public education from different approaches: by amending policy and systems and by proposing both short and long-term impacts.
But as I dig deeper through the numbers and each of the 2018 grant proposals, I see a reason — woven subtly into the many narrative threads of this year's grantees — to be excited by the potential of seismic, systemic change in education across the state. The organizations funded reveal a small wave of momentum that clarifies the guiding, game-changing spirit of this portfolio. Our North Star, if you will.
That tiny murmur actually made its presence known last year, during our inaugural season, when we funded a multi-year $250,000 grant for Oregon Coast Community College (OCCC) in Newport. In a sentence, the proposal outlined a collaboration between OCCC, the Lincoln County School District, Tillamook Bay Community College and Western Oregon University to grow a teacher workforce for Lincoln County.
The details, however, revealed a deeper story that's still progressing and will continue to evolve for some time.
It's no secret there is a shortage of teachers in Oregon coastal communities. But more importantly, data show that the teaching workforce in the state is 90 percent white even though the student body — like the coastal population as a whole — is increasing in racial diversity. The OCCC proposal recognized this inequity and formulated a plan to recruit high school students of color who have an interest in teaching. The collaborative effort seeks to shepherd students from high school into a community college network and then onto four-year institutions such as Western Oregon University, where they can prepare for the professional credentialing process.
This year, to our delight, the trend involving community colleges continued but in an even more targeted way. Columbia Gorge Community College and Chemeketa Community College each proposed plans similar to OCCC's in scale and focus. Their proposals call for direct outcomes intended to recruit and transition a diverse student pool into the teaching profession so they may eventually serve their respective communities. Aside from diversifying the workforce in their regions, each proposal applauds diversity itself: Biliteracy is treated as a tool meant to be celebrated, one that adds to the life potential of bicultural students.
Only time will show if these unique, forward-thinking projects achieve fruition, but I believe they will. The implications could be staggering and could tell us several critical things.
In 1991, the Oregon Legislature passed the Minority Teacher Act, which means Oregon has been working to close the diversity gap between students and teachers for 27 years. But the progress made over nearly three decades has been modest, perhaps because it's difficult for members of any legislature to commit to systemic change when the state operates on two and four-year cycles. But here's the problem: You can't plan for long-term solutions when you don't have time for leverage.
This is where philanthropic organizations like Meyer can add to the discussion and make a tangible difference. For example, over the past two years we have received education grant requests that exceed $35 million in funding. For us, this is evidence of the depth of need that is out there. Although our $5.16 million in grants for equitable education are microscopic compared with Oregon public school system budgets that total in the billions, we aren't tied to limited duration planning cycles that understandably handcuff risk-taking for the sake of pragmatism.
These projects also buttress what those of us working in the education sector have always believed: Community colleges are uniquely poised to serve as low-barrier intermediaries for diverse student populations. What's more, they have the entrepreneurial initiative to build enduring and replicable networks that catapult students toward achieving their dreams.
As I look at the first two years of funding opportunities as one continuous story, I see three proposals that, while unrelated to one another practically, emanate from the same governing spirit and ethos: School districts and the communities they serve recognize the value of empowering their diverse populations and providing students with educators who reflect their history and backgrounds. Community colleges have taken note and are acting on it.
Collectively, these events spur Meyer and the Equitable Education portfolio to think about the job we're doing and how it can be done better as we move forward.
Three years ago, we at Meyer decided to focus our efforts exclusively on achieving equity in Oregon. For those of us working in the Equitable Education portfolio, that now means we must always hew to the meaning of the word "equitable" and our North Star of advancing meaningful public education for anyone who has faced enduring, systemic barriers to equal access: students of color, those living in poverty or as part of the foster care system, young people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community and more.
Practically, our commitment to equity demands we remain laser focused within our lane and to support projects that don't just feature high representation of our priority students. We have to fund projects that meet and satisfy student needs, above all. Without targeted investments for those experiencing disparities, disparities grow, resulting in even greater inequities in the very classrooms where we are trying to eliminate them.
Our efforts have a chance to operate as a catalyst for change and possibly shift how institutions conduct business. One day, for example, we may even alter how public resources are spent or advance ideas that other institutions can emulate without fear of risk.
Admittedly, I'm describing game-changing, potentially transformative, scenarios here. But this year's annual funding opportunity fills me with the potential of promise that, after two years, the Equitable Education portfolio is very much on to something.
P.S. I encourage you to review the full list of 2018 Equitable Education Annual Funding Opportunity grantees here.