Myth: Disparities in education are not an issue of race but rather an issue of povertydarionMon, 08/12/2019 - 11:46
In partnership with Dr. Ann Curry-Stevens, Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio debunks incessant myths that act as barriers to education equity in Oregon. This blog is intended to provoke both thought and action, offering an opportunity to look beyond common myths and re-imagine a public education system rich in opportunity.
Historically, when issues of racial equity are talked about people will often say that the problem isn’t racism but rather that people of color are more likely to be poor and that any discrepancies that exist (either in terms of opportunities or outcomes) are more the result of poverty than race.
A study produced in Oregon by the Center to Advance Racial Equity compared racial groups within similar income categories to see what level of academic achievement was attained by each group.1 The findings showed that in Oregon, when comparing academic achievement of higher income students (wealthier students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch subsidies) to other students, students of color were not as able to reach the same levels of academic success. And that “while income remains a protective factor for all student groups (meaning high income students do better than low income students), even economically advantaged students of color are, on average, unable to gain the educational results attained by economically advantaged white students.”2
Academic achievement differences were visible in elementary and middle schools, presenting about a 5 percentage point difference in test scores, both in English and math. In high school, the gap doubles and more affluent white students have test scores that are approximately 10 percentage points higher in both math and literacy. Graduation rates are also significantly better for white students, at 85 percent compared with 81 percent for students of color.3 In short, even among the more affluent students, students of color face barriers that interrupt their educational progress, while white students are able to take fuller advantage of the benefits of higher incomes.
The second study looked at these patterns across time and found that, in comparison with the 1950s and 1960s, there is in fact a reduction of the influence of race on student success and rising influence of family income.4 This insight does not invalidate the prior study, but it brings forward a troubling view that suggests progress has been made in reducing the influence of racism in student achievement.
But not so fast …
This isn’t much of a good news story. The main cause is that income inequality has been surging in the past 40 years and low income students increasingly are part of single parent families where fewer adults being present narrow the likelihood of enough time to support homework and reinforce academic needs. Also implicated is that students of color are increasingly likely to attend high poverty schools,5at levels eight to 10 times higher than that of white students.6 In essence, income inequality is outpacing the influence of racial dynamics. Racial disparities by income remain intact (as the first study indicates), though they have reduced over the past two generations, but inequities have worsened due to rising income inequality.
These data are important to disprove the idea that racial disparities are simply an indicator of more important consequences of inequality—income. These aren’t data that absolutely disprove that income matters more than race but are evidence that confirm beyond any doubt that a large comparative study of students is needed, collecting their racial and income demographics, tracking income changes and how that impacts their academic performance over time. Simply put: The study should track all students in a district or state and assess how incomes and race influence school performance. The current problem is that the education system does not track income, except for student eligibility for free and reduced lunch programs, which captures those with incomes up to about twice the poverty level.
Until this comparative study is done, we draw from the best available evidence that shows even affluent students of color still are unable to get the same level of academic achievement as their white counterparts. We ask that educators build the ability to shoulder the possibility that racism exists in their schools, classrooms and teaching. We also know that most people, including educators, do not want to believe themselves capable of racism, despite the fact that studies show 96 percent of educators hold unfavorable bias toward students of color.7 It’s easier to believe that educators fail students due to income barriers rather than race bias.
Is it really hard to believe that our schools are not performing well enough to support children of color and many educators deflect issues of race and redefine them as poverty or income related?
Frankly, it’s easier to think we fail students because they don’t have enough resources at home than because we educate white students better than students of color. The available research shows that racial equity and educational dimensions that include harmful elements of racism and white privilege must be the focus of school and education system reform efforts.
Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. ↩
P.36, in Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. ↩
P.36, in Sinkey, A. & Curry-Stevens, A. (2015). Equity in education: Disaggregating student outcomes by race and income in Oregon. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. ↩
Reardon, as cited by Bernhardt, P. (2013). The Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) Program: Providing cultural capital and college access to low-income students. School Community Journal, 23(1), 203-222. ↩
Reardon, S. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. In G. Duncan & R Murnane (Eds.), Whither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools and children’s life chances (pp.91-116). New York: Russell Sage & Spencer Foundations. ↩
Wise, T. (2016). What is your perception? Unpacking white privilege. At Teaching with Purpose. Portland, Oregon. ↩
Clark, P., & Zygmunt, E. (2014). A close encounter with personal bias: Pedagogical implications for teacher education. The Journal of Negro Education, 83(2), 147–161. ↩
Housing shouldn’t depend on immigration statusdarionSat, 06/29/2019 - 10:33
Equity and fair access to opportunity are core values for Meyer Memorial Trust.
It’s rare that Meyer uses its voice to call out federal policy, but we felt called to comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families. The more we heard from partners about HUD’s plans to evict thousands of families, seniors and children into homelessness, the more we knew we had to speak up and use our platform to support Oregonians on this important issue.
On May 10, 2019, HUD proposed a rule change that would no longer allow “mixed-status” families — households with both documented and undocumented members — to qualify for federal housing assistance based on their immigration status. This proposed rule would force families out of public housing and Section 8 programs, effectively spurring homelessness, forced family breakups and/or loss of housing assistance. The proposed rule would give current residents nearly no time to react or prepare. There are some great in-depth explainers here, here and here about the proposed rule and its effects.
This is even worse than it looks. It would have a devastating impact on not just the families directly affected by this rule but also our local communities across Oregon. Not only would the proposed HUD rule revoke housing assistance to families who are entitled to federal housing assistance but it would also without a doubt increase homelessness in Oregon. It also would impose new reporting and documentation guidelines on legal residents and U.S. citizens that feed a climate of fear, distrust and division.
It’s time for more people to say “enough.” Enough using families and children as props for a political gain. Enough terrorizing some of our most vulnerable neighbors with intimidation, fear-mongering and inciting hatred from other groups. The proposed rule change is racist. It’s not a strategy to address immigration or housing. It seeks to target the Latinx community, and HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing wait lists and the rule could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that nearly 700 Oregon households, including 1,700 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.
Meyer stands with all Oregonians to make Oregon the best it can be for everyone who calls it home. And Meyer intentionally stands with communities of color. We strive to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten the livelihood of our neighbors and communities.
Every day our nonprofit partners doing on-the-ground work across the state change individual lives and transform communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on those efforts and on Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.
— Michelle J. DePass, President and CEO
Read Meyer's public comment on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule about mixed-status families here or below:
I am writing on behalf of Meyer Memorial Trust in response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposed rule to express our strong opposition to the changes regarding "verification of eligible status,” published in the Federal Register on May 10, 2019 (RIN 2501-AD89; HUD Docket No. FR-6124-P-01). We urge the rule be withdrawn in its entirety and HUD’s long-standing regulations remain in effect.
Meyer Memorial Trust is a private foundation in Portland, Ore., whose mission is to work with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon. We see the proposed rule as a direct affront to our core values — and to the values that define America. Foundations have long devoted resources to address society's problems, including funding programs to help address and alleviate the homeless and housing crisis.
This is likely the first time Meyer Memorial Trust has commented on a pending federal housing rule. We are moved to do so by HUD’s willingness to use families and children as props in a political drama that will destabilize communities across the United States and directly increase homelessness and trauma among Oregon’s 4.2 million residents. We are deeply alarmed at this effort to divide Americans, to sow fear and distrust and anger, and to stigmatize our most vulnerable neighbors.
The proposed rule will hurt tens of thousands of immigrant families, including many citizen children.
There is no legitimate policy purpose behind the proposed rule. HUD itself has admitted that there would be no benefit to families on housing waiting lists and it could lead to reduced quality in housing. If it takes effect, it would jeopardize the housing stability of American citizens and legal residents of the U.S., as well as undocumented residents (who are already prohibited from receiving federal housing assistance). It is estimated that 100,000 households, including 55,000 children, would be directly impacted by this proposed rule. This would create a significant burden on communities and local governments across Oregon that do not have the resources to respond to an increased wave of homelessness and emergency support needs.
The proposed rule would bar children who are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from maintaining and seeking federally subsidized housing. The proposed rule would severely and immediately impact thousands of people, many of them children, in Oregon. We know all too well the human, social and financial cost of homelessness; we are appalled to see the federal government propose policies that would make this crisis worse. And the message behind the proposed rule is already contributing to a climate deeply at odds with the work Meyer aims to support. We know from our partners working with Latinx communities across Oregon that the federal government’s demonization of undocumented workers, families and children is having a chilling effect — preventing people from accessing services and benefits to which they are eligible, feeding a reluctance to have any contact with government, and feeding a climate of fear and distrust. The proposed regulations are in direct conflict with their underlying statute and ignore amendments that Congress made to Section 214.
HUD has not adequately addressed the administrative burdens created by the proposed rule.
Housing providers and landlords would be significantly burdened by the rule. The rule’s impact would not be limited to immigrants and their families. Under the proposed requirements for documentation, tens of thousands of public housing agencies and private property owners and managers would need to collect documents “proving” the citizenship of over 9 million assisted residents receiving HUD assistance who have already attested citizenship, under penalty of perjury. They would also have to collect documents on future applicants for assistance. Housing providers would also need to collect status documentation from 120,000 elderly immigrants. Additionally, the proposed rule calls for public housing authorities to establish their own policies and criteria to determine whether a family should receive continued or temporary deferral of assistance. These requirements would place a significant cost burden on housing authorities and other subsidized housing providers that are completely unaccounted for in the rule. Housing authorities, charged with administering the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs, have spoken out against the proposed rule.
For the past five years, Meyer has worked to foster relationships between housing service agencies, public housing authorities and private landlords. Nonprofits and landlord groups have made significant progress to work together and streamline better public housing authority processes across Oregon, making housing placement smoother and faster, benefiting all parties involved. Most Oregon landlords own and self-manage fewer than 20 units. The proposed rule would create an undue burden on hundreds of Oregon landlords and small public housing authorities, strain existing positive relationships and complicate housing placement of all low-income families eligible for public assistance.
Meyer Memorial Trust strives to use our position of power and privilege to call out policies and programs that threaten our neighbors and communities. This proposed HUD rule is a direct assault on our core values and on our vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.
We urge HUD to immediately withdraw its current proposal and dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that strengthen — rather than undermine — the ability of immigrants to support themselves and their families. If we want our communities to thrive, everyone in those communities must be able to stay together and get the care, services and support they need to remain healthy and productive. We urge the secretary and the administration to join us working on positive solutions to the issues affecting us.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed rulemaking. Please do not hesitate to contact me at michellej [at] mmt.org if further information is needed.
Teachers are telling us something, let’s listendarionFri, 05/03/2019 - 11:18
On May 8, public school teachers across Oregon planned a walkout to advocate for more state funding. Districts responded by cancelling school for the day, adjusting calendars and, in the case of Portland Public Schools, demonstrating support for increased public education funding: “Our educators and students deserve better. It is long overdue that we prioritize schools in Oregon,” said Guadalupe Guerrero, Portland Public Schools superintendent.
As Oregon teachers continue to advocate for deeper investments in schools statewide, Meyer supports their efforts by investing in a system that not only guarantees teacher voice, but also sees it as a trusted, integral part of how schools operate and how students learn. As we elevate the voices of all teachers, Meyer is deeply committed to centering those who have been our communities’ most marginalized: teachers of color.
A key outcome for Meyer’s Equitable Education portfolio is diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce. Data show that racially diverse teachers have a significant positive impact on the achievement of priority students, specifically students of color, but we and others would argue all students benefit. The Oregon Legislature is seeing this need, too; the Joint Committee on Student Success is currently reviewing House Bill 2742, which directs the Department of Education to distribute grants for the purpose of developing and diversifying Oregon’s educator workforce, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
Meyer believes incorporating teacher voice is crucial to our state’s education puzzle. Legislation, district policies, grants and scholarships alone will not move the dial on our biggest challenges: We must build mechanisms designed for inclusion, created to recognize expertise where it exists and engendered to promote agency in determining the most effective solutions. Led by these principals, Meyer has sought opportunities to participate in education discussions centered on this topic. We discovered that those who are the most critical to defining challenges and creating solutions are often missing from the conversation entirely.
For Meyer to make informed decisions on investments that further our outcome of diversifying Oregon’s public education workforce, we needed to engage those closest to the subject. To do so, we connected with our statewide networks and gathered together teachers of color from across Oregon who are known equity champions in their schools and districts. This diverse group of 23 teachers of color discussed what brought them to teaching, what keeps them teaching and what daily challenges push them to consider leaving the profession. Most importantly, we discussed their recommendations for how public education in Oregon can attract, sustain and retain teachers of color.
The information below was collected during our gathering. It has informed Meyer’s present work and will serve as a guide for future investments.
Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering was facilitated by Zalika Gardner, a teacher of color who taught for more than 15 years and now serves as education director for KairosPDX — a school she co-founded in North Portland in 2012. The 23 participants were from different racial and ethnic groups and identified as Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx, Native American, South Asian and multiracial (identifying with two or more races). The educators’ experience teaching varied from less than five years to more than 20 years and one administrator with five years of experience. The teachers came from cities and school districts across Oregon: Portland, Hood River, Clackamas, Medford, Gresham, Eugene and Seaside. Most teachers had earned their teaching credentials in Oregon. The few who earned their credentials out of state earned them in California or New York. One participant was a credentialed teacher in Mexico but was not able to teach in Oregon without earning a master’s degree in education in the United States.
Many participants commented that they had never been in a space with such a diverse group of teachers, primarily folks of color. Those who had experienced a similar space said that it did not happen in Oregon. Within the first few hours of the gathering many teachers began to express that eight hours would not be enough time to grapple with the topics of the day. It was clear that the event itself was serving a crucial need for networking and relationship building among educators of color within Oregon.
What We Heard
Teachers of color are mission-driven. The core message from participants was their love for their students and communities compelled them into the teaching profession and that passion for their students and communities keeps them teaching and persevering through common challenges.
Throughout the gathering, four themes emerged as central to transforming Oregon’s public schools and education system into an institution that attracts and retains teachers of color:
Teacher preparation programs must do a better job of educating emerging, pre-service teachers in culturally affirming pedagogy. At the same time, programs must create honest and nurturing spaces for pre-service teachers of color to share experiences and build support networks with other teachers and mentors of color that will sustain them as they enter the teaching workforce and face biases on a daily basis. Key programs cited as exemplary: Sapsipkwala program, Portland Teachers Program, and the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program at Portland State University.
Excellent, culturally matched mentors matter. In almost every activity, the necessity and influence of effective mentorship surfaced as a central reason participants remained in teaching. Participants insisted that placing emerging teachers with content-specific and grade-level specific mentors who are honest, culturally empowering master teachers is critical to achieving and retaining a diversified teaching workforce.
Teachers of color need an organization that shares the values and concerns of diverse teachers. This idea emerged as a “collective” or hub that offers resources for professional coaching, mental health support, legal support, lobbying and advocacy services. Teachers of color don’t always feel represented by their unions; leadership is predominantly white and trails behind national educator organizations on issues of equity. Because the majority of Oregon’s teaching workforce is white, the union serves the agenda of the majority of its constituents. Some participants felt they were vulnerable to being marginalized, tokenized and forced to stay quiet when union decisions and actions put them directly at odds with the organization charged with representing them.
The higher you move up in education leadership in Oregon, the whiter the population becomes. Currently there are 197 superintendents across Oregon and just seven of them are leaders of color: Guadalupe Guerrero (PPS), Paul Coakley (Centennial), Danna Diaz (Reynolds), Katrise Perera (Gresham/Barlow), Gustavo Balderas (Eugene), Koreen N. Barreras-Brown (Colton) and George Mendoza (La Grande); less than 4% of district leaders. Oregon’s teachers of color rarely have leadership that understands what teaching or leading in a school building feels like as a person of color. The cohort of teachers identified more responsive, culturally affirming training for emerging school building administrators and thorough ongoing professional development and equity training for those already leading buildings. Teachers believed that school building leaders set the framework for cultural norms in the building. Thus, this is a crucial role, one that has an immense effect on whether or not a teacher of color remains a teacher. It’s important that these leaders know how to lead, affirm and develop a diverse teacher workforce.
Meyer’s Teachers of Color Gathering uncovered clear alignment in why participants chose the teaching profession: their love for their communities. Teachers also shared the central issue that challenges them to stay: biased co-teachers, building administrators and others openly dismissing, belittling, disparaging and underestimating teachers, children and families of color.
If we truly seek to create an educator workforce that reflects Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population, we must not only examine how we prepare and train teachers of color, but also radically reshape the expectations for pre-service white teachers and administrators. A training system that exposes and examines biases isn’t one class or a few discussions but a central area of mastery essential to becoming a teacher or administrator in the state of Oregon.
Meyer remains committed to elevating the voices of teachers and administrators of color. We will continue to work with this core group of educators to determine meaningful investments toward our outcome of sustaining and increasing Oregon’s education workforce diversity. Heeding the feedback we received from the first gathering, we will hold another gathering in winter 2019, bringing back this core group of educators and adding more, including administrators of color who are leading for equity. We also plan to connect pre-service teachers of color with this incredible collection of educators to promote networking and relationship building for these burgeoning teachers.
Drawn to Meyer’s commitment to equitydarionMon, 04/15/2019 - 18:13
The start of the year initiated a new chapter of life for me. I joined Meyer with 20 years in philanthropy, most recently serving as vice president of programs at the Brooklyn Community Foundation in New York.
Why did I come to Meyer? It was simple: I was drawn to Meyer’s top-to-bottom commitment to equity, both internally and externally, and the ability to guide this level of resources to invest in critical issues. Not only is equity guiding the grantmaking work but it is also guiding investment decisions as well, building to use all of our assets to advance our mission. Plus, I was pleased to see the hard work of living equity values internally has started here as well.
Meyer has one of the most diverse teams I’ve seen in philanthropy: an all-women, majority people of color executive team led by a visionary African-American woman; a diverse board, also led by an African-American woman; and a bold, diverse and thoughtful team. Among Meyer’s staff of 41, more than half identify as people of color or Indigenous, more than half have taken part in nine or more days of equity training and a third were raised in a home speaking a language other than English. My partner jokes that it took a move from NYC to Portland to find a foundation as diverse as Meyer, but it is indeed an amazing organization and I am excited to be a part of this thoughtful, talented and committed team.
I am thrilled to be here in Oregon. I moved with my spouse and two sons in January and have been welcomed with friendliness and warmth, and we respect and are falling in love with our new home state. For me, taking part in visits to Tribal councils and Native communities around the state has been a wonderful start to learning more about the land and communities here. And I am looking forward to getting out of the office to meet all the grantees and communities that we are in service to and partnering with.
My role isn’t a new one entirely at Meyer, but adding the word strategy to my title was an important shift for the organization. I’ll be working to foster organization wide collaboration and making sure we build a stronger learning culture inside Meyer, while also developing and implementing programmatic strategies that reinforce the foundation’s four portfolios and leverage underlying intersections among them. The goal is to implement best practices of the sector to help Meyer continue as a leader in the field, specifically to move from a culture of metrics and compliance to a culture centered on building connections with communities.
I look forward to working with you to tackle inequity and disparity and make our home of Oregon a place that is equitable and flourishing for all. I look forward to meeting with you 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.
Six projects help extremely low-income people access private market housing
If you are apartment hunting, an already daunting task can feel impossible if you are low-income and have a spotty rental history, especially in a neighborhood of your choice.
When low-income tenants find housing that they can afford, they are often subjected to stringent screening criteria and considered "high risk" tenants, in addition they are rejected for reasons such as relatively minor nonviolent criminal records, prior evictions, poor credit histories, limited or no rental histories and outstanding debt. Families with children, people of color, non-English speakers, people who have experienced homelessness and people who were formerly incarcerated also face increased challenges to finding affordable housing. These renters are at increased risk of homelessness, unstable or unsafe housing situations, extreme rent burden and being asked to pay exorbitantly high security deposits.
Five years ago, case managers tasked with helping clients find housing had a group of landlords they could call regularly and access to tools for renters who were considered "higher risk." Today, that is no longer the case. In a nutshell: The housing market has changed dramatically over this time and the cost of housing has drastically increased, and incomes have not kept up. Market rate housing on the lower end of the pricing spectrum is limited and very competitive. Housing placement agencies and case managers are finding that strategies that used to work just a few years ago are no longer as effective. Even if a renter has a rental assistance voucher, if they can't pay for multiple applications or the security deposit, it may be several months before they can secure housing. This all contributes to lost individual savings, longer shelter stays, housing instability, increased trauma and lower utilization of public support systems like rental vouchers if families can't find a home.
Last summer, Meyer released a Request for Proposals for pilot and demonstration projects with potential for future scaling or replication that would increase low-income people's access to rental homes with private market landlords. Projects that proposed replicating an existing strategy to a new population or geographical community or significantly scaling an existing project were also encouraged. Meyer received 18 proposals from across the state requesting a total of $2,060,754. With a strong field of proposals, six projects were funded totaling $809,600 over two years.
These six grants wrap around Oregon, from the coast and southern regions to the central most parts of the state. Most of the proposals recommended for funding are aimed at supporting households exiting homelessness or families that are at high risk of homelessness. Each project actively leverages other resources, especially public funds like rental assistance vouchers. These projects are designed as proof of concepts of a missing element in current available housing support that is needed to effectively utilize public resources. We are confident that the selected proposals will complement efforts to address the housing crisis across Oregon.
Meyer's hope is that with more flexible and risk-tolerant funding, organizations can develop new or modified housing placement strategies to support low-income people to overcome housing barriers, enabling a family to lease a long-term rental home faster and reducing time spent in shelters or homeless.
Meyer awarded the following organizations through the 2018 Private Market Request for Proposals. These grantees will document the impact of their work and hope to demonstrate the effectiveness of these strategies for broader learning:
Hacienda CDC (For work in Multnomah County) $125,000 - To plan an equitable and inclusive community-based accessory dwelling unit (ADU) development and rental program structured to serve tenants at or below 60 percent Median Family Income (MFI) in the displacement-risk neighborhoods of Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland.
Homes for Good (For work in Lane County) $150,000 - To expand the Move Up Initiative, Homes for Goods permanent supportive housing program, by adding a housing navigator and piloting a leasing bonus strategy for landlords housing 50 high-risk and high-barrier households.
NeighborImpact (For work in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties) $150,000 - For piloting a debt-relief strategy for 60 high-barrier tenant households exiting homelessness.
Northwest Credit Union Foundation (For work in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties) $149,600 - To develop a demonstration project of a low-cost security deposit loan program led by credit unions that can rapidly be scaled to meet the needs of 120-150 low-income households a year, in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties.
Oregon Coast Community Action (For work in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties) $115,000 - For replication of Yamhill Community Action Partnership's (YCAP) landlord engagement and retention program to support 30 families receiving case management services who are exiting homelessness or unstably housed.
Yamhill Community Action Partnership (For work in Yamhill County) $120,000 - To scale YCAP's landlord engagement and retention program and add a debt relief strategy for households exiting homelessness, serving 123 high-barrier and extremely low-income tenant households.
We know that these grants will only address a fraction of the statewide need, if proven successful, but have potential to create game changing strategies for the entire housing industry.
Today, Meyer's Housing Opportunities portfolio released a new Request for Proposals to support housing advocacy efforts around the state.
We think of "advocacy" pretty broadly, including community organizing and mobilization, policy analysis and research, focused communications and education around housing issues, as well as targeted approaches to achieve specific policy goals. Proposals under this RFP can address local, regional and/or statewide issues but must have a strong connection to affordable housing.
This RFP will focus on two tracks: Campaign Leaders, for work that is focused on a clear policy or systems change goal and is led by a strong coalition of partners, and Advocacy Mobilizers, which may be more broad and less focused on one specific issue or for the early stages in mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities.
For either track, strong proposals will reflect a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; a clear sense of the issues to be addressed and obstacles to be overcome; and some track record doing the kind of work proposed. We strongly encourage proposals that bring in voices and collaborators that may not have been part of affordable housing advocacy in the past.
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 cohort.
An application under this RFP does not preclude organizations from submitting proposals for other Meyer funding opportunities and grantseekers may apply to this RFP regardless of any other active Meyer grants.
Two information sessions are scheduled to explain the RFP in detail and answer questions. Register to attend a session at 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 or 3 p.m. on Feb. 5. Register online here.
Proposals will be accepted online (via grantis.mmt.org) until Feb. 26, 2019. Funding decisions are expected in late spring, with grant payments going out shortly thereafter. Make sure you're signed up for our Housing newsletter to stay current on this and other funding opportunities!
Campaign Leaders:grants intended for focused and targeted efforts with a clear policy or systems change goal led by a strong coalition of partners with a credible plan to succeed. Maximum of $75,000 available per year, for a total of $150,000 over two years.
Advocacy Mobilizers:for organizing efforts that may be more broad-based and less focused on one issue, or in an earlier stage of mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities. Maximum of $40,000 available per year, for total of $80,000 over two years.
Final award decisions are expected in May 2019, with first-year payments released in June 2019.
Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and be available to answer questions at two information sessions:
As most folks packed up their belongings and headed home after the Philanthropy Northwest annual conference, I boarded a bus with several other PNW members and staff and headed to Jerome, Idaho to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site and view what’s left of the former incarceration camp that held my family, along with 13,000 other people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
As you step onto the ashy soil of the high desert plain, it’s hard not to notice how little of the camp is left and the expansive scale that it once occupied. Originally 33,000 acres, the camp became the seventh largest city in Idaho at the time. I try to imagine what life would’ve been like behind these barbed wires and underneath the ever-present gaze from the guard tower. I think about how terrified my grandmother must have been, younger than I am now with two young children and pregnant with a third, having just lost everything and now forced to live in a shabby barrack with several other families and no idea about what will happen next. Everything unknown.
I grew up with stories of my family just trying to maintain as much a sense of community as possible, and I can feel that when walking along the baseball field or stepping into the fire stations at Minidoka. Scanning photos of the makeshift holiday celebrations and the community gardens, knowing how my family had to completely rebuild their lives after leaving the camps, the resiliency of the Japanese American community is not lost on me. I feel the strength of my relatives under the face of oppression in the core of my being and in my motivation for supporting communities of color in this work.
My grandmother was vocal about sharing her experience at Minidoka so that it would never happen again. As a yonsei, fourth generation Japanese American, I also know that the trauma of this experience lasts for generations. As I continue to grow within the field of philanthropy, I carry my family’s strength and experience with me and I move towards the ways that philanthropy can play an active role in fighting the oppression of communities of color by centering them in our work, following their lead, elevating their voices and supporting their work. Because “never again” is right now.
A stone monument near the entrance of Minidoka Relocation Center, reminding visitors of “what can happen when other factors supersede the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens and aliens living in this country.”
Tribal Sovereignty: A conversation with Louie Pitt Jr.
Theresa Deibele, director of Meyer's Housing Opportunities portfolio and Kimberly A.C. Wilson, director of communications at Meyer, interviewed Louie Pitt Jr., director of government affairs for The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
As the director of governmental affairs for The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Mr. Pitt is responsible for maintaining relationships with off-reservation governmental entities regarding the tribe and its interests and ensuring open communications.
Sovereignty is going to be a major theme of the Treaty Conference. What does it mean when we say that The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is a sovereign nation?
Of the three tribes, Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute, the Warm Springs and Wasco negotiated a treaty in 1855, and that negotiation has recognized the inherent sovereignty of the Warm Springs and Wasco tribes. Those two tribes have been their own entities, what lawyers call distinct political entities, not a minority but a distinct political entity, for thousands of years. The Creator put those two tribes on the river and all of the places that they've been. That's before the United States; that's before Oregon. That's what's called inherent sovereignty. We're not a creature of the U.S. Constitution either. It predates the Constitution but is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution under Commerce, and treaties are actually in the Constitution, too.
There's a lot of ignorance that exists in the United States about Indian Country, Indians, Native Americans, and what is a distinct political entity versus a minority. Who are these people and how does it work with the laws of the United States, federal, state, local, county and such. Anything that helps educate ourselves, No. 1, then, of course, our neighbors surrounding us, is really important and helps us do what the treaty, I think, was meant to do — which was to help protect and preserve our tribal way of life.
You mentioned the negotiations that led up to the Treaty of 1855. Could you tell us some more about those negotiations? What was given up in that process? What was gained from the tribe's perspective?
The Warm Springs and Wasco tribes on the big river and the Paiute tribes up on the high desert plateau were living their own tribal way of life — a people with inherent sovereignty. Then the Warm Springs, Wasco and the Paiute people heard about the push westward by a new people. We definitely knew that times were changing and that there were prophets that talked about this new people coming over, that they were going to be different and that they were going to be wanting our land.
We had our own communication system about what happened on the Plains. Really aggressive military action against a really powerful people of the Plains and, also, I think we knew there were numbers [of folks] coming, too. We were wondering how this was going to happen because the Creator had given us these lands and had successfully provided for us — the lands, for thousands of years. When we saw people coming in, pre-treaty, they weren't as respectful as we had hoped they would be. There were trespassers and people setting up land here and there within our — what's called the ceded area. Treaty negotiations started upriver with (Washington Territorial Gov. Isaac) Stevens negotiating for the United States with Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce and the Walla Walla tribes. We heard what happened up there, so we were preparing downriver for negotiations. There were a number of pre-meetings to the treaty conference to figure out, "How is this going to work?"
We had a few English speakers who could understand, but very few of them were prepped for the tremendous communications challenge. Three days of negotiations, Gen. (Joel) Palmer, like Stevens in earlier treaties, representing the United States, showed up in the mid-Columbia area. His whole goal was to clear title to the land. Way back when early contact on the East Coast started, lawyers declared that Indians were subhuman, they only occupied the land, they didn't own the land. We differ with that today.
The Creator gave us those lands, and we've been on those lands. Whatever ownership is, if it is that anybody owns land, it was us for thousands of years. That gives an example of the difference in language, that the challenge was to negotiate a clear title to 10 million acres of land that they said, "We occupied and had sole exclusive authority over." It went back and forth. You had a lot of bands, different bands within tribes, that had different types of leadership. It all had to be discussed, and some tribal people had what they call wild oratory or wild eloquence. It must have been pretty wonderful to hear them talk about mixing who we were for thousands of years, with the challenges we were having at that time, that day, and looking to the future. "How are we going to preserve our Indian way of life?" There was a lot of back and forth and trying to figure that out. "How do you give up land?" "How do you own land?"
The negotiations went on, and probably some of the less desirable lands were decided for the Warm Springs and Wasco Tribes. That's the current land of those tribes now, 640,000 acres. One of the amazing things that happened was the tribes must have been in a pretty strong position. We reserved rights, we didn't have them given to us by the United States, but we reserved them. We brought these rights to the table, and that is the nature of inherent sovereignty. The United States didn't give us those rights. We had those rights previous to the United States and the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
We held on to those, we reserved the rights to fish, hunt, gather roots and berries, and all the other off-reservation rights we had at the time of the treaty. That's the major thing that is different than a lot of other treaties. There are just a couple of tribes that have clear treaty language for off-reservation rights. Warm Springs is one of the four Columbia River treaty tribes. There are just a couple of other tribes with off-reservation rights. That was something that was kept. We didn't give that up; we kept it. We did give up authority to manage the lands the way that we think they should be managed. Fifty percent of that 10 million acres right now is managed and owned by the United States in our ceded area. We ceded to the United States 10 million acres. What about that other 50 percent? What about that other 5 million acres? How do we go about that?
I asked that question to myself. How do we protect our way of life? Is our way of life important as Indian people to the roots? To gather berries, to gather medicine, to gather materials, and fish and hunt? Well, yes it is. We need to figure out a way to work with the private or claimed lands. It's in the Treaty of 1855. If you read the treaty, we have these rights clearly on unclaimed land.
That's the federal lands, but what about the arguably claimed lands? The county, the state, the private property? What do we do about those? One of the things we do is go to Salem, talk to the Legislature about how to better protect certain things that are related to our treaty, like the fish. Fish need water, they need it in quantity, they need cold water and they need it at the right time of year. We work and use our treaty to get us to the table, number 1; that's what the treaty does, it brings us to the table. We are then able to negotiate.
We gave up a lot of management authority, and we have to sit at the table for the planning process of federal agencies. It's pretty long, complex and onerous. But if you hang in there, you do get more protection for your way of life. We can count so many partnerings with council, to use that to help protect elements of our treaty rights, everything from huckleberries, to roots, to deer, elk, habitat and fish, too.
We're able to partner all that. Before we had sole authority to take care of everything; now we have to partner with our folks that manage the resources off the reservation. We have to figure out what their process is, and we can go about suing them for treaty rights and such if it would help bring us to the table. Anytime you go to a court you take your chances, and in Oregon and Washington, the federal courts saw that the answer wasn't in beating your heads against each other and fighting all the time. We needed to figure out a better way of doing business so the federal court ordered the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho to work with the treaty tribes to figure out a better way of doing business.
Before we were the exclusive authority. To control the quality of the environment, too, is something we gave up. We're very dependent upon tribal internal discipline and local respect of taking care of the earth, the waters and the air. Today, there are people everywhere, every inch of our ceded land is being utilized, or so-called not being wasted. They viewed our way of life as one that wastes resources. John Locke, way back when, said, "These people aren't civilized. They let the land be wasted." But that "wasted" approach, we utilized that for thousands of years. You can't say it didn't work. It worked very well for us.
The gains and the losses create a lot of social and legal friction with the state. Here we have the state of Oregon that fought against us and Washington, too, fought against Puget Sound-area fishing rights. If you believe you have these rights, you're going to have to fight for them. We did, and we won. It took a while, and still today we have folks who have no idea about who we are and what rights we have. They think we got everything from the federal government. No, it's the other way around. We gave the federal government 10 million acres. We gave the authority to own the land. We gave the air and the water.
Yeah, you certainly did, and it's probably a misnomer to say what you gained here because as you pointed out it's really what you reserved of the rights you already had. Well said.
If you look at, I think it's (chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Oregon Robert C.) Belloni's case, the court case that I have taped up to my wall here. "I did not grant the Indians anything. They possessed the right to fish for thousands of years. The Treaty of 1855 simply reserves to the Indians the rights which they already possessed. They traded title to most of the lands in the Northwest in return for their fishing rights. The tribes negotiated long and hard not to be dispossessed of those rights." That's from the 1969 court case, Judge Robert Belloni, not very recent, but very important.
You spoke about how treaty rights get you to the table. More generally, could you talk about how treaty rights and obligations compare with other rights that might be granted from city, state or federal governments? How did treaty rights differ?
It's a really complicated thing. I was reading court cases, and it didn't get any clearer; if anything, it got more cloudy. Of all people, Supreme Court Justice (Clarence) Thomas was the one who brought some things out. The ending phrase was, "The Federal Indian Policy is, to say the least, schizophrenic." I kind of got a kick out of that. No wonder I've been having trouble with that all these years.
In discussions with some of my Canadian tribal friends, they said (they were) impressed with what we were doing off reservation, and what we were doing with the gorge, working with six counties, 13 urban areas and the U.S. Forest Service. Because they have to pretty much sue or go to the Legislature to get a special bill to do anything that protects their way. In the United States, we can use the treaty to get us to the table, and it does require us having an all-point pressure, or a full court press as they call it in basketball.
We let the senators and representatives know that we are going to be focusing in on a certain area of who we are and we ask them help us do that. Then we start focusing in on the land and water managers, leading with our treaty. We have to use contemporary organizational laws of our tribe. Tribes now are corporate entities, too. A confederacy of three tribes, Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute, and we get Tribal Council to sign a letter to a federal person, a manager, that we believe we have rights per our treaty.
For Warm Springs and Wasco, there's also a treaty of 1865 — the Huntington Treaty — which told tribes,"You gave up your right to leave the reservation, you gave up your right to hunt and fish." What the heck is that all about? The tribes had vehemently stood up and said, "Heck no," to that, and I'll be darned if that 1865 Treaty isn't still on the books.
During the Treaty Conference, we're going to have a portion dedicated to educating people about the 1865 Treaty. That it is our duty as American citizens and it is our duty as tribal members of Warm Springs to correct a major wrong in this nation: that's the Treaty of 1865. It needs to be nullified because the treaty that is in effect is the Treaty of 1855, The Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855.
There are three sovereigns in America: There's the feds, there's the state and there's the tribes. It's always pushing back and forth between those three entities. The feds push the states, the states push back, and the tribes, well, the tribes kind of came late because we didn't have a war chest to fight for our way of life until after we were able to build up our economy on reservations during the '50s, '60s and '70s. We pretty much had to take what we were given, and then through 1968-69, we sued the United States and the state of Oregon to clarify the rights in the treaty, not gain rights.
The treaty is a major part of helping us protect our way of life, and it's the law.
With a name like the Treaty of 1855, the general public may perceive the treaty to be an outdated document. But the way you're describing it is that it continues to be a living document. It continues to guide the lives of the people today. Could you describe more how that feels like a living document for the tribe?
Every Sunday when we thank the Creator for being Indian, and the water, fish, deer, roots, berries and water again, it's very much a living part of us to be Indian. We know that when we turn around to see who our friends are, one of our biggest friends is a written piece of paper. That's the treaty. It puts in writing, it challenges the good name of the United States of America and the middle Oregon tribes of Wasco and Warm Springs. If it's an out-of-date, old document, there's another one we could maybe throw out, too: It's called the U.S. Constitution, that's an old document. Let's throw that out and see how it works. That is also a living document.
The experiment known as the United States, all the people who were trying to get to their own land, to have religious freedom, and not have to fight for their way of life every single day against the king, or czar, or the queen, or whoever is the chief of the people. It's really powerful. The United States is still a wonderful experiment. I call it an experiment because it's not over with yet. It's a young country. Again, we're proud of being here for thousands of years, as Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute. The United States isn't even in its teenage years, as far as I'm concerned.
When I went to Salem one time on a Tribal Council meeting with Barbara Roberts, Gov. Roberts at that time, Tribal Council said, "Okay Louie, do your thing." I was the new government affairs guy. Like my dad told me, "I don't know where these state people get off because they're the junior government. Our government's been here thousands of years, and theirs has just been here since Valentine's Day 1859." We have a lot of pride in where we are. We declared ourselves to be one of the senior governments in Oregon.
An important subject for Indian people is this dynamic of the old; how do we keep values that got us here and moving into the future? Richard Trudell, who is one of our great attorneys and a great teacher, says, "Proud yesterdays are a valued possession, but progressive todays and tomorrows are the focus of modern tribal leaders." For us, how do we do this? How do we as Indian people do this? It was these tribal values that we were close to the land, and the waters, and their rhythms, and all of the gifts that we had. We also have what's called a Declaration of Sovereignty you need to look at. Our way of life is an important part of that.
We understood that we were here as a major gift from the Creator, and we appreciate that. We've been in the same place for thousands of years. Compare that to the average American. Think of yourself, are you from where you are now? Where did you go to school? Where were you born? Where do you spend your winters? Americans don't have a place. We can go back thousands of years, and it's still just right over there, right up the river.
So, yes, the old document, the U.S. Constitution, there were a lot of treaties made as old documents. All along the East Coast, there were treaties between tribes until a lot of disease took over, some brutality by non-Indians, wars happened between the colonial people and the territorial people, then finally the state people versus the tribes, and such. Treaties were a written document to, so called, peaceably acquire lands.
I think in Oregon, too. Territorial Oregonians tried to move the tribes from the Willamette Valley over to the Warm Springs reservation. No, no, that won't work. How did we stay strong here? Well, we didn't trust anybody. We grouped up and let them know that we were a serious force to be dealt with one way or the other, and pretty much all of those tribes in the Willamette Valley were pretty much torn apart every which way you can. It's pretty sad, they got terminated, and we didn't. I think it was mainly because of our working together, and our tribalism, and being out of the way.
In the Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855 a negotiated legal right was the product. We need to educate people on the legal place that we stand and their understanding of who we are. It's not only the good hearts of fellow American citizens but treaty law that we are here today.
We understand that six pages of the original Treaty of 1855 are on loan from the National Archives and will be on display at the Museum at Warm Springs in October. What significance does this hold for the people to have those original documents there?
To make the Middle Oregon Treaty of 1855 more real. We've heard nothing but stories, there's no pictures. I'm looking for a map with an X signed on it, and a Joe Palmer signature on the map and thumbprints from some of the tribal Indians, Wasco and Warm Springs signers. The treaty is for real. Tribal members can pick up a copy of the treaty, and see that, yes, it is a real thing that really happened. Thank goodness it did, and it just makes it more real for us.
It is a tool to help us and help protect our way of life.
Here's a right that was written down on paper, and we're living it. It's really neat that I'm living the dreams of those treaty signers. I hope to be able to pass on the same dream to my sons and daughters. To me, they got a chance to grow up tribal and share the home education they received about the treaty. It's just part of our family. Then the Indian way of life, which is just living it, taking it easy, trying to be forgiving of our ignoramus neighbors and the American dream. We have our dream, too, that's a part of that.
I wanted to follow up on your last answer about the display of the documents there through October. Are your children going to be coming at some point?
I sure hope so. I took a chance, the museum had a life achievement award and I had two of my children introduce me. They were amazed at how many diverse people I am in contact with. I used to drag them around to meetings when they were little guys. They were known as the best behaved kids in the meeting room. It wasn't until maybe about 10 years ago that they both started integrating the lessons they learned. I didn't tell them what to learn, I just did it the Indian way, whether you like it or not, you're going to see, you're going to learn by seeing and hearing, and occasionally feeling, too.
It was a nice occurrence that, they're good people and they know a lot about Indian Country, and they're very respectful of the lands and waters. They'll do very well wherever they are. They'll be in the minority, working on the tribal viewpoint of things, but that's okay. That's what we need because America is still pushing really hard everywhere it can, and it's like any city that's jam-packed, how are we going to do this? Before it gets too much worse, we need to figure out that there are some places that really do need to be protected for their function to our whole way of life. We set aside wildernesses because of their beauty, but they also have a function to the circle of life. They also got to listen to a lot of my friends here, ecologists and wildlife biologists and co-workers, too. Anyway, they were pretty well advanced into their own tribal environmentalism and ecologism. Everything has a function, everything has its place. I'm very proud of them.
I've got two other kids. My oldest is in Baker City and my youngest is working at Skamania Lodge and he's not quite sure what he wants to do. He reminds me of somebody … I think about the same age. It's a different world when you're responsible for somebody; "My gosh, what do I teach these guys? What do I know?"
In Warm Springs there's a saying, Tiichám, that means the earth or land. But you have to be a part of the Indian way of life for about 30 years before you figure out what it's all about. Tiichám, is not just about the earth. It's a whole process of accepting Tiichám as a gift, then turning around and gifting it to your children. "This is yours. This is the gift of Tiichám. I give to you." It's a gift. It's taken me 30 years to figure that out. It was just a word at one time. Now I know that it is also a big responsibility.
The front entrance to The Museum At Warm Springs, located in the homeland of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute Native American Tribes, which stretches from the top of the Cascade Mountains to the banks of the Deschutes River.
At the intersection of Philanthropy and Tech: Sharing my perspective at ACT-W
This first in a series of blogs will focus on what tech, as a sector and a community, gets right. The three big ideas: how the philanthropic sector can maximize impact with better technology, developing a more generous attitude toward risk and how philanthropy can invest internally by creating an open and mentoring work culture that spreads beyond the bounds of the individual workplace.
In July, I had the opportunity to speak at ACT-W Portland, the annual conference for our city's local ChickTech chapter. My talk, "At The Intersection of Philanthropy & Tech," was about the ways I think the tech industry is ahead of philanthropy, the things it can learn from philanthropy, and areas where both industries need to work together for the betterment of society. Last year, I attended my first ACT-W conference, when I was just beginning to get my head around the idea of being a "techie": I was three months into learning Python and a year or so into developing websites.
I was inspired by the conference and its unique mix of high-tech, person-centered and down-to-earth sessions –– so much so that –– this year I wanted to share my thoughts at this particular conference because I've been working at the intersection of tech and philanthropy, and I see the gaps in-between what each sector wants to accomplish and what they are currently achieving. Furthermore, I wanted to provoke and facilitate a conversation on this subject and felt that ACT-W was the right venue, as it brings together socially-responsible minded people rooted in tech.
The idea of better systems is close to home, because Meyer has maintained an in-house grants management system since 2004, when we decided to move toward digital. Technological advancements within the past decade have provided significant growth in tech products aimed at the philanthropic market and I think the future promises us not just the tools to do our jobs but also tools that will make philanthropy more effective. For example, data visualization platforms and real-time data platforms (as an alternative to traditional grant reporting) are already in the works. Just imagine how the entire conversation about the U.S. 2020 Census and the importance of an accurate census count could be changed if funders didn't need to rely on census data collected once per decade. Additionally, projects such as Grantmakers.io are utilizing APIs and caching tools to create more transparency in our sector, which is great news for nonprofits –– because it's 100 percent free –– and great news for the public, who deserve to know where philanthropic dollars go.
Philanthropy's attitude toward risk needs a shakeup.
As a sector, we tend to be risk-averse, which is funny, since our primary goal is to lose money. Foundations that have roots in tech are modeling the big-bet approach to philanthropy. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is best known for global big bets on eradicating malaria and ensuring family planning and reproductive health care for all women. However, they also invest heavily (if quietly) in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in helping marginalized people secure education that leads to high earnings. They describe this work as "big bets in innovation." I'd call it equity, because it is looking not just at getting marginalized people into the workforce or into traditional university education, but also intentionally striving to build their long-term power. Another example of big-bet philanthropy is Michael & Susan Dell Foundation's annual expenditure of 15 percent of its assets, as opposed to the industry-standard (and legally required) 5 percent. In 2017, Fast Company profiled Dell Foundation's risky spending, their influence and their impact investing strategy as it relates to broader sector trends.
Finally, I think the way that the tech industry invests in people is absolutely phenomenal. From hosting weekly Meetup groups to participating in and supporting conferences like ACT-W, the people of tech are wholeheartedly engaged in sharing knowledge, mentoring and moving folks into the fold. Techies understand that the future success of their sector — and of society — depends on developing more programmers. If that sounds hyperbolic, consider cybersecurity expert and "Future Crimes" author Marc Goodman's warning: reserving high-level knowledge for an elite task force will only ensure that the bad guys stay ahead of us in matters of personal, institutional and national security.
I have personally experienced this supportive culture and learning environment: through groups such as Women Who Code and Latinx Tech PDX; through mentorship, encouragement, and being given advice by tech professionals; through free learning platforms such as Khan Academy, GitHub Labs and edX; as a member of the LaunchCode community; and from organizations such as ChickTech, who provided an interface for me to engage and platform for me to connect and share with peers. All of this has happened free of charge and within the past 18 months.
Philanthropy has nothing on this! I think it's time our sector got strategic about how to recruit, mentor, and retain instead of assuming that there are a finite amount of jobs in grantmaking and no one ever leaves them. I managed GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington's jobs board for more than three years, and I know that's not the case. People move through our sector from government, academia, nonprofits and for-profits all the time. Philanthropy needs to consider doing more than the occasional diversity pipeline or leadership program (most of which don't result in getting folks of color into leadership).
If the idea of funders stationing a booth at a career fair or hosting a Meetup for folks interested in learning about grantmaking seems totally wild, it says something aboutour sector and the value we place on investing in people. That's not a message I want us to send.
If you're a funder and this blog feels like a total downer or if you're a techie patting yourself on the back for being awesome, stay tuned. I have more thoughts on how our sectors can work together. I think philanthropy has a lot to teach the tech industry about deploying resources for social good, and I think engaging tech in this work is one of our most pressing tasks.