The Conversation Starts Locally

Categories: BELONGING AND CULTURE: Uniting Community, Leadership, CEO Message,

Homegrown ideas have a way of catching on far beyond their initial geographies.

Consider our region for a moment. Two of the top three selling master planned communities in the nation are here, three cities have been listed as top places to move to for quality of life in the last few years, and it is expected our population will increase by 50% by 2045. As these trends indicate (and our own daily lives confirm), we’re undergoing tremendous changes and growth.

Amidst all this transformation, there is an opportunity not to be missed:

Ensuring the lifestyle that attracts the many who come here is thoughtfully cared for and disparities that already exist are not multiplied as we transition into a post-pandemic society. It’s a question that requires local thinking, local listening, and local change-making.

Community foundations have long played a role in bringing assistance – and new ideas – to the ever-evolving needs of places like ours that find themselves shifting.

A few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to share this perspective to a media roundtable hosted by the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative, with journalists from national publications like the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Associated Press. It was a humbling experience sharing a Zoom screen with other community foundation leaders from the Cleveland Foundation, The San Diego Foundation, and Innovia Foundation that serves a portion of the states of Washington and Idaho.

Though we represented community foundations of varying sizes and geographies, we all came with a common purpose: to illuminate lessons coming out of the pandemic that can better prepare our communities for the next crisis and build more equitable futures for our residents.

There were many heads nodding, “yes” moments among foundations and media alike, underscoring how the technology challenges, financial pressures, and equity concerns we’re seeing regionally are playing out on the national stage. Here a few notable commonalities that resonated with me:

  • A focus on racial equity is rightfully here to stay. Both the Cleveland Foundation and San Diego Foundation have launched multimillion-dollar investment funds for Black-serving nonprofits and communities, the former to strengthen organizational capacity and the latter to build generational wealth. Our own reexamination of our grantmaking, impact investing, and community relationships through an equity lens continues to evolve in tandem with efforts led by our new Knowledge and Equity Department, as well as our longstanding board-driven Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Task Force.

  • Educational empowerment is key to sustaining children and their families. Within the last two years, the Cleveland Foundation and Innovia Foundation became “Say Yes to Education” communities to ensure every student from pre-k to grade 12 has the opportunity – and support – to complete a post-secondary education. These efforts mirror our commitment to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and our own scholarship opportunities for Traditional and Adult students, as well as our 2Gen philosophy to provide families facing economic hardships with the supports they need to reach their full potential, for the long-term. Education is interconnected with housing, hunger, and health, and these all will continue to be priorities as we move beyond relief and recovery into rebuilding resilience for whatever the future may hold.
  • The long-term view is centered on acquiring and sharing knowledge while incorporating community voices. This next year will be one of great listening and learning. Across the board, community foundations are gathering feedback and sharing what we learn as our communities become more open to reconsidering previous patterns and ways of doing business. It’s clear to me that we have a responsibility to ensure our foundation remains a proactive, informative resource that gives a holistic view of not just our greatest assets, but also our greatest opportunities.

After an enriching collaborative experience such as this, I would be remiss to leave out my favorite saying: All of us are smarter than one of us. As my colleagues at this roundtable reminded me, this conversation is just a starting point. More voices have joined with community foundations nationwide this past year. More perspectives have been shared, too. As a result, more paths have opened for a bolder dialogue so everyone who calls our area home can thrive.

In the spirit of local input, now it’s time for you to share your thoughts. What are the post-pandemic priorities you want to see addressed through local efforts? What local conversations are you having that you want to amplify? Please share any feelings or impressions in a personal message. Let me know. We’re listening.

With gratitude,

Roxie Jerde

About Author

Roxie Jerde

President and CEO