March 26, 2019

St. Louis Young Black Leaders Cohort Design Process Consultant Search

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse framed by The Gateway Arch behind it.

Photo by Brittney Butler on Unsplash

In late 2018, the Amplify Fund engaged with a group of local advisors in a strategy development process to determine its grantmaking priorities in Missouri. Through that process there was a clear ask from local strategy advisors to invest in young Black leadership in the St. Louis region to deepen relationships, develop trust, and align around a shared political analysis and plan.

Specifically, the funding strategy calls for Amplify to support the leadership primarily of Black and youth leaders and names several strategies as pre-conditions to the success of any work in the region:

  • Nurture trusting relationships and collaborative spaces where they exist, and urgently invest in relationship and trust building, to lay the groundwork for fruitful future collaboration
  • Embedded in this work, include developing a more shared lens among leaders of key groups on systems change, power, and racial justice.
  • Support skill development – leadership development to ensure shared tools and points of reference, organizational development, and “brass tacks” organizing training to ensure a shared set of tactics and approach to the work, including, sharing national best practices and promising innovations that could be translated/implemented in St. Louis.

Together with a small core group of leaders who will serve as the design team, the Deaconess Foundation and the Amplify Fund are seeking a consultant to facilitate a 4-6-month design process to plan a leadership and organizational development and political alignment cohort experience for a small aligned group of young Black leaders in the St. Louis region.

DESIGN QUESTIONS

The purpose of the design process is to gain clarity on:

  • Who beyond the design team should be invited to participate in the cohort, and/or what the selection process will be? What is the ideal composition of the cohort overall?
  • What are the shared goals and areas of focus for the cohort? (i.e. what are the specifics of the “curriculum”: relationship and trust building, leadership development, political analysis and alignment, shared analysis regarding systems change, power, racial justice, campaign strategy and organizing models/tools, etc.) This will be informed by an initial capacity scan of the potential cohort members’ organizations and other movement stakeholders.
  • What is the desired outcome of this cohort experience? (i.e. Is this the formation of a Black political roundtable? Or something else?)
  • What entity (or entities?) – national or local – will support the cohort, and in what ways? (i.e. transformative leadership organizations like BOLD, Rockwood, or generative somatics, or groups from other states who have gone through political alignment processes, national organizing networks, M4BL, independent political strategists, etc.)
  • Other details such as duration, ongoing facilitation needs, etc.

DELIVERABLE

The outcome of the design process will be a grant proposal describing the cohort program design, timeline, and expected budget, reflecting the shared desires of the design team.

The finished product will be submitted to the Deaconess Foundation and Amplify Fund for funding, aiming for launch in fall 2019.

PROCESS AND DESIGN TEAM

Process-wise, there is a small group of core local, young, Black leaders — Kayla Reed, Action St. Louis; Blake Strode, Arch City Defenders; Charli Cooksey, WEPOWER — willing to serve on a design team, but the facilitator will be the primary person scoping and presenting opportunities, facilitating learning and generative design conversations, holding the overall process, coordinating design team members, and taking the lead on co-creating the proposal. The facilitator will be selected by the design team, highly attuned to their needs, schedules, and orientation to the process, and will work in a way that pushes and challenges assumptions, while producing a product that reflects the desires and inputs shared by design team members.

The purpose of hiring a facilitator for this process is to in every case minimize the burden on local leaders who are already burdened by far too many demands on their time. We are looking for someone who can craft a design experience that lifts up design team members’ brilliance and input, but does not ask them to do unnecessary extra work. The design team will help the facilitator identify key stakeholders in the community for input to the design process beyond the design team.


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KEY QUALIFICATIONS: 

  • Strong facilitation and process design skills
  • Embedded in and deeply knowledgeable about efforts to build Black political power
  • Knowledgeable of the leadership and organizational development landscape of organizations in the national social justice space
  • Proven experience in processes of political alignment
  • Experience in equitable development work, for example: housing justice, green infrastructure, and/or organizing efforts to influence private and public development projects
  • Ideally knowledgeable of the St. Louis region and Missouri context, but minimally a quick study and interested and willing to get up to speed on the local context in a self-driven way; proposals invited from consultants based in any geographic location  
  • Flexible time availability, so as to be able to work around the design team’s busy schedules (all three are EDs of organizations and have other responsibilities as well), and (if not based there) to be present in St. Louis as needed.

 

TO APPLY:

Interested applicants should submit a proposed scope of work and budget to info@deaconess.org by April 25, 2019 for consideration by the design team. We welcome pairs or teams of consultants, particularly those that combine local and national representation to apply.

PROPOSAL CONTENT

Please submit a proposed scope of work of no more than 5 pages that includes:

  • Statement of interest in this project, articulating how it aligns with your core work and purpose
  • Proposed approach to this project
  • List of past organizational partners and a relevant example (an artefact) of work you have completed with one of them
  • Proposed budget
  • Proposed timeline
  • Names and contact information for two references from organizations you have previously worked with

SELECTION TIMELINE

  • April 29: Proposals due to info@deaconess.org
  • April 29 – mid-May: Period of proposal review
  • May 23: Final candidates interviewed in-person by the Design Team in St. Louis, with candidate selection and offer to follow

SELECTION CRITERIA

  • Relevance of qualifications and experience listed above, and demonstrated interest in and passion for the project
  • Understanding of the work to be performed
  • Clear timeline for producing deliverables
  • Alignment with purpose and core values of the project, Deaconess Foundation, and the Amplify Fund
  • Budgetary considerations

 

ABOUT THE AMPLIFY FUND

The Amplify Fund is a national pooled grantmaking and capacity building fund focused on supporting work to build the power, influence, and direct decision-making authority of communities of color and low-income communities to advance equitable urban and regional development. Amplify is housed at the Neighborhood Funders Group and administered in partnership with the Common Counsel Foundation. The Fund has a four-year time horizon and grantmaking will begin in Fall 2018 in four pilot sites: Missouri, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico, as well as in California, through the Fund for an Inclusive California. One goal of the Fund’s design is to be disruptive to some of the typical dynamics in philanthropy, and as such its defining characteristics include:

  • Amplify will prioritize and be guided by local leadership in every site, and has crafted grantmaking strategies in each site with the guidance of local leaders.
  • A race analysis is at the center of the Fund’s grantmaking, learning and evaluation, communications, and capacity building with grantees.
  • The Fund supports work that positions communities of color and low-income communities as the primary drivers of change.
  • From the outset, Amplify will strive to develop a strategy to ensure long-term sustainability for the work after the Fund sunsets.

Amplify’s grantmaking seeks to respond to the fact that communities of color and low-income communities experience the most negative impacts of development, and currently have the least power and say over how decisions that directly affect them are made. Amplify aims to support a shift in local power structures by helping to put decisions about local development in the hands of people of color and low-income communities. The Fund’s theory of change asserts that historically systemic racism is at the heart of these decisions and therefore a racial justice analysis has to be applied to solutions in order for them to be effective. We believe that people in communities have much of the wisdom and clarity to drive an equitable development agenda. In order to insert that wisdom in the decision-making process, greater power among communities of color and low-income communities is necessary.

  

ABOUT THE DEACONESS FOUNDATION

Deaconess Foundation invests in the well-being of children, engages our region around the plight of youth, and advocates for change. A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $80 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998 and believes healthy, hope-filled futures for children benefit the entire region. The Foundation’s grantmaking footprint includes St. Louis City, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles, and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois.

Deaconess Foundation operates as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and as a supporting organization under Section 509(a)(3) of the Code. Deaconess Foundation is a supporting organization of the Missouri Mid-South and Illinois South Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

Additional information about the Foundation can be found on our website: www.deaconess.org.

 

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August 14, 2019

Identify. Describe. Dismantle. Repeat.

Nicky Goren, president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, writes about calling out and then rejecting systems and institutions rooted in racism as a way to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist. This post was originally published here on Medium.

Nicky was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Meyer Foundation, which pursues and invests in solutions that build an equitable Greater Washington, is a member of NFG.


 

Nicky GorenRecently, the president of the United States openly targeted four women of color in Congress, overtly lying about and mischaracterizing things they have said and suggesting they, “go back to where they came from.” Later, at a reelection rally in North Carolina, he continued to stoke these flames of racism and hate as he appeared to bask in the glow of his supporters chanting, “send her back!” in reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This, along with his tirade against Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and the Baltimore-area district he represents, was just among the latest in a long track record of openly racist comments, actions, stances, and tactics the president has used since long before he was elected to the highest office in the nation, and make crystal clear what he and his supporters seek to uphold.

We are long past any question about whether the president and many of the people around him and supporting him are racist. His actions and his words by any objective standard make it so. What is more important is to understand how our systems of government and white culture actively enable racism to continue to play out in our election processes, our governance processes, in virtually every aspect of our day-to-day existence in this country.

A great example is what happened after the president’s remarks when members of the House of Representatives condemned those comments through a resolution. In the context of that debate, some House members attempted to derail the resolution by turning to a House precedent that would preclude the speaker of the house from characterizing the president’s comments as racist; essentially, using precedent and procedure designed to inhibit the ability to call out racism in order to avoid confronting the very issue that is at the core of how we function as a country. If you can’t name it, you can’t address it. This is a prime example of how those in power (historically, white men) have created systems, processes, procedures, cultures, and norms, that allow them to maintain the status quo. We should all be scratching our heads.

We need to call out those in power who are silent or who use a so-called desire for civility — from the White House to the state house to our own houses — as a shield to maintain the structures of white supremacy that have gotten them to where they are and continue to oppress people of color in the United States on a daily basis.

White people who believe themselves to be socially aware need to understand how we are using our dominant cultural norms — that show up in ways including a general avoidance or reimagining of historical facts, an over-reliance on precedent, and outrage at the very idea of being thought of as racist — to shield ourselves, our systems, and those in power from accountability for equitable outcomes. Many of us are constantly deflecting and, thereby protecting, the way things are.

I challenge white people to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist — and to call out racists and racism when we see it. We need to hold those who are perpetuating systems, institutions, and practices rooted in racism accountable. And we need to recognize what we are seeing for what it is; not something from our ancient past that we can absolve ourselves from, but something that is deep in the DNA of this country. We must actively name and refuse to accept racism any longer if we want to move forward and reflect the standards of freedom and democracy we believe we stand for.

In the words of author, historian, and professor Ibram Kendi: “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”

Let’s keep going.

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August 15, 2019

Beyond Outrage: A Clarity of Purpose

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniWe live in dangerous times, and every passing news cycle contains another outrage, another violation of norms, another threat to our democracy, another threat to our planet.  

In the face of escalating racial attacks, (be it imprisonment of kids on the border or the racist rhetoric being tweeted from the white house) many have noted, rightly, that philanthropy as a sector has been too cautious and too quiet.  The Communications Network, in it’s recent piece, Silence Speaks Volumes, calls on foundations to use their voices in this moment.

Yes, it’s meaningful for people from all sectors of our society to condemn the Administration’s attacks on people of color.  And, for those of us working in the philanthropic sector, these times call on us to use all of our tools in defense of our inclusive, multi-racial democracy.  We are more than commentators or observers– as funders, our role is to resource a more just and equitable future. What we do in this moment will be far more important than what we say.  

As painful as this moment is, it is also a time in which the work to be done has become more clear. The vulnerability of our democracy has become more clear.  Racial anxiety and social divisions are being stoked in order to prop up a reckless system that benefits only the wealthiest. As we condemn the most recent of a long list of outrages, can we also use this moment to deepen our own clarity of purpose, and ensure that our funding will bring about a more just future? 

As funders, we can not only speak out but also take action to bolster our inclusive democracy.

  1. Support those most directly impacted by injustice. Instead of wielding of our own voice and power as a foundation, we can support those most directly impacted by injustice to build their voice, power, and leadership. They must lead the way to a more just world; it is our job to uplift and resource their visions and voices. National organizations such as Color of Change, New American Leaders, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, regional and state-based organizations such as Western States Center, Black Voters Matter and Workers Defense Project and so many others are seeding a future in which racial, gender and economic justice will be the norm.
  2. Invest in the creation and dissemination of narratives that reshape cultural attitudes around belonging in our country.  The recent escalation in the use of racist and sexist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum– rather it builds on broader public narratives shaped by white supremacy and male dominance.  We need to normalize new narratives that humanize all of us, that value all of us. Organizations such as the Pop Culture CollaborativeReFrame, and the Culture Change Fund, for example, build capacity for narrative equity and culture shift.
  3. Question the default funding habits and practices that limit us from making a bigger impact in this moment. As funders, we sometimes have a blind spot for how our internal practices create unnecessary burdens and barriers for organizations that do the important work we support. This moment calls on us to question our practices, shift to ways of working that account for the gravity of the problems we face, and center the people who are leading the social change efforts we support. Could your foundation increase its payout, provide more general operating support, increase the length of grants, and minimize busywork for grantees? Could you shift your grant strategy to more boldly meet the moment or more directly address the imbalances of power in our society? The Trust Based Philanthropy Network has tools and stories of inspiration from foundations who have increased their impact by changing their practices.

So many of us in philanthropy are eager to do something meaningful in this tumultuous time.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use this moment to put our institutional values into practice. Let’s walk the walk as boldly as we talk the talk.