Women & the New Economy - Boston, June 2013

Women's Funding Network is launching Women & the New Economy, a series of convenings to explore patterns, practices and partnerships that affect women and girls in today’s changing economic landscape. Follow along as funds, foundations, and changemakers in the northeast U.S. gather in Boston.


  1. Kicking Off // June 24, 2013

  2. Women & the New Economy has kicked off in Boston, with over 20 women's funds and foundations from the northeast United States gathering to connect, learn, and share around questions such as:

    - How are shifts in resources, access, and economic stability influencing women’s paths? 
    - What new economic realities are shaping the role of philanthropy and social change? 
    - As these shifts demand more creativity and resilience, how can we work across sectors to re-imagine the work of change?

    Over the course of the next two days, we will identify emerging issues affecting women, girls, and their families; explore new research and its application to grantmaking and grassroots change, and create strategies for moving forward locally and regionally. 

    This is the first of three convenings that we will hold throughout the United States in 2013. To learn more about the series and future convening dates, visit  www.womensfundingnetwork.org/convenings .

  3. Shaune Zunzanyika, Director of Programs at Women's Funding Network, offered a quote to frame the conversation for the next two days:

    "Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary."  - Martin Luther King Jr.

  4. Michele Ozumba, President & CEO of Women's Funding Network, welcomed the group and spoke to Women's Funding Network's role in convening conversations like Women & the New Economy. She shared that this series of convenings will be a chance to learn and share as a Network while challenging the broader field of philanthropy to think bigger:

    "It's critical to apply the gender lens in a broader space, beyond ourselves and philanthropy. We must bring that lens to other systems that are influential in the lives of women and girls, in order to create truly systemic change."

    Confronting Suburban Poverty in America // Presentation 
    Elizabeth Kneebone, Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings

    Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, joined us to share highlights and implications of the recently released book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America. The book sheds light on how poverty is becoming increasingly suburbanized and how that shift increases the complexity of potential solutions.
  5. The reality is that poverty is "now spreading outside of the inner city and often beyond older, inner-ring suburbs." Each region looks a little different in how poverty shows up and what the implications are in terms of available resources, strategies, and potential partnerships. 

    Kneebone shared that when it comes to suburban poverty, the market failure is typically not at the neighborhood level. Therefore, the neighborhood-centric investment that funds and foundations may be used to in the inner city often isn't a good match for suburban settings. Addressing suburban poverty calls for new strategies and innovative partnerships, often with a regional approach and private-public alignment of resources.
  6. Women are also more likely to be experiencing suburban poverty -- as of 2011, 55% of suburban poor are women.
  7. Many Systems Involved: Additional Challenges of Suburban Poverty
    - Lack of transportation availability: Finding quality work often comes with the trade-off of a long and costly commute.
    - Strained local services: The spread of suburban communities leads to a thin safety net, and dollars are invested disproportionately. For example, in the Chicago area, $68 is invested per person in poverty in the city, whereas $2 per person is invested in the suburban areas surrounding Chicago.
    - Change in school populations: Schools end up being the front lines in suburban areas, providing wraparound services such as medical and dental services, clothing, food, etc.

    Reality: Current policies are not aligned with the new geography of poverty. 
    Funding, perceptions, and policies haven't kept pace with the change. In particular, there is:
    - A lack of capacity among those who are serving the suburban poor
    - Extensive fragmentation of geography, resources, organizations
    - Inflexible and unreliable funding

    What can the philanthropic community do with this information?
    - Smart leadership is emerging, and it is important to recognize that it is coming from a variety of sectors.
    - Philanthropy can learn from innovations and help practitioners achieve scale, collaborate and integrate, and fund efficiently/strategically (e.g., blending public and private dollars).
    - Investments to improve systems and networks would be helpful (e.g., helping organizations cut red tape).
  8. Defining Poverty: Shared Challenge, Shared Solutions
    A participant asked about "the need for a more dynamic definition of what poverty is." Kneebone agreed that this would be helpful, adding that "by broadening the definition, it becomes everybody's issue... Poverty is touching more people in more places than ever before. This is a shared challenge. It is happening in your community, and in all kinds of neighborhoods." She emphasized that a mantra of this work is that poverty is a "shared challenge, shared solutions."

    What's the role for women's philanthropy?
    Kneebone said women's funds and foundations can have "a leadership role in the collaborative and integrated piece" of solution to poverty. She stressed the importance of a coordinating capability or role in the regional work, and added that this role is often a missing link. "There is a vacuum. We are seeing leadership from so many different places." Kneebone described this role as "a quarterback -- an entity to pull things together. We've seen very different people playing this role in different regions. They move across different sectors and areas, but that quarterback role takes investment so that there is capacity to build on."

    For more information
    Watch  ConfrontingSuburbanPoverty.org  for ongoing updates and fresh data as Brookings brings this study to communities across the United States. 

    Mapping Our Priorities, Benchmarking Our Impact // Strategic Dialogue

    Much of the afternoon was spent sharing the grantmaking priorities of convening participants, discussing how the work is framed, and looking at specific strategies, such as advocacy and social media, involved in doing the work.

  9. Leveraging Limited Dollars // Presentation
    Christine Reeves, National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy

    Christine Reeves from the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy joined us to end the first day of the convening with a talk on how grantmakers can achieve tangible results by funding policy and community engagement. She provided a geographic and strategic overview, as well as a look at how foundations nationwide are getting strong return on investment when investing in women and girls.
  10. In one of the reports prepared by NCRP, they found that for every $1 invested by a foundation, there was a return on investment of $115 in three years. The areas of commonality across those with this high return on investment: multi-year suport, directing grants to a marginalized community, a strategy focused on root causes, and an approach that is supportive of general operating needs, in order to building trust and capacity within organizations while sparking change externally.

    In 2011, 42% of reported grant dollars went to underserved communities. Twelve percent of dollars went to social justice grantmaking that year. NCRP recommends that 50% of grantmaking goes to underserved communities in a targeted way, and 25% to social justice grantmaking. They are working to grow the size of the pie being granted toward marginalized communities while also improving the quality of ingredients that make up the pie. It's important for the field to think about grantmaking in a diversified and holistic way by investing in direct service programs as well as social justice strategies. 

    Common challenges to social justice grantmaking
    Funders often cite the following reasons for not investing more in social justice:

    - Too political
    - Our direct service is enough 
    - Mission and donor intent
    - Social justice work is too hard to measure

    Christine challenged the group to think beyond what's easy to fund and easy to measure if we want to create deeper change: "Would Gandhi, Chavez, or King receive a grant today? What are we willing to put on the line in terms of risk?"

    Philanthropy's Promise
    More than 150 foundations across the United States have committed to give at least 50% of their grants to marginalized communities and to look at high-impact social justice strategies. Each funder has created a one-page document in their own words to capture how they are approaching this commitment. Christine described this as an effort to make social justice grantmaking less of a "fringe philanthropy." Learn more at  http://www.ncrp.org/philanthropys-promise .

    Gender-Informed Philanthropy // Presentation
    Riki Wilchins, True Child

    Riki Wilchins joined us for a presentation on the context, research, and current developments that shape how funds and foundations can reflect gender in their grantmaking strategies and bring a true gender lens to their work. Riki encouraged everyone to visit TrueChild.org for ongoing updates about gender norms and gender-informed philanthropy, as well as resources and research to support the work.