March 1, 2016

Innovative community land trust from Puerto Rico wins 2015-16 UN World Habitat Award

San Juan, Puerto Rico - The Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña, a community land trust from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, won the 2015-16 UN World Habitat Award, which honors innovative and replicable initiatives that address issues affecting human settlements.  The Award will be received during the third UN Habitat global summit, which takes place every 20 years.

“We are proud to obtain this honor for Puerto Rico as an acknowledgement of what can be accomplished through ample citizen participation and community work towards a common vision for better living conditions,” said Carmen L. Febres-Alméstica, president of the grassroots Group of the Eight Communities Adjacent to the Martín Peña Channel (G-8), Inc., and member of the land trust’s board.
 
“With the support of partners and collaborators, the communities along the Martín Peña channel designed an innovative tool to prevent gentrification as an unintended consequence of urban and environmental restoration projects, while addressing the lack of formal land titles through collective ownership,” María E. Hernández Torrales, the Fideicomiso’s board president, explained.  “These communities have placed Puerto Rico once again as a reference point in housing innovation.”
 
The Fideicomiso de la Tierra is the first community land trust in Puerto Rico, created by the residents of densely populated communities along a highly polluted tidal channel located at the heart of the San Juan Metropolitan Area, as a tool to overcome poverty and achieve environmental justice.  The channel’s obstruction leads to constant flooding with polluted waters affecting the health and safety of thousands, and its ecosystem restoration is being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE.  Land Trust members collectively own 200 acres of valuable land, while also owning surface rights to the plot of land where their homes are located.
 
The World Habitat Awards were established in 1985 by the Building and Social Housing Foundation as part of its contribution to the United Nations.  Two awards of £10,000 are given annually to projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems.
 
Leilani Fahra, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing explained: “The project tackles a number of core elements for the right to housing such as ensuring security of tenure for those living in informal settlements, community participation and protection of land.  It recognizes housing is a human right rather than a commodity.  Women are community leaders, and the project ensures them title to properties.”
 
David Ireland, BSHF executive director, added: “The empowerment of these communities is outstanding.  They have used a Community Land Trust to turn the threat of displacement of an informal settlement into something very special - a strong–and flourishing neighborhood in which everybody is engaged.  It is arguably one of the most democratic places on earth.”  BSHF coordinates the awards for the United Nations.
 
In November, 2015, a team of evaluators from the Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) based in the United Kingdom, visited the Caño Martín Peña communities and met with residents, community leaders, collaborators, and representatives from the G-8, the Fideicomiso and the Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, which leads the implementation of the comprehensive development plan for the area.
 
The jury was comprised by Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat and Leilani Fahra, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.  This year’s finalists were from Brazil, Colombia, Bhutan, Malawi, and the United Kingdom.
 
“We expect that this award will help us consolidate support in Puerto Rico and abroad for our land trust, and help us obtain the resources needed to ecologically restore the Caño and finally be able to live in healthy conditions,” concluded Febres-Alméstica.
 
For further details, visit worldhabitatawards.org and cano3punto7.org.

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Read the article "Puerto Rico Community Land Trust Awarded UN World Habitat Award" on NBC News.com. 

Visit NFG's virtual tour of the land trust and other organizing projects in Puerto Rico.  

October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin 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 Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.