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May Must-Reads 2019

This month, we thought about roles we play in our organizations, on boards, and in the broader social change ecosystem. What caught your attention this month?

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This month, we thought about roles we play in our organizations, on boards, and in the broader social change ecosystem. We considered how people living paycheck to paycheck are impacted by digital privacy. We read about efforts to give low-income, single black women money to spend in the ways they deem most important. And we considered benefits of collaboration between foundations.

What caught your attention this month?

1. My Role in a Social Change Ecosystem: A Mid-Year Check-In

STRATEGY | Medium | 4-minute read

We each play different roles in social change. This framework—created and updated by Deepa Iyer, senior fellow at Race Forward—walks through nine of those roles: frontline responders, healers, storytellers, artists, bridge builders, disruptors, caregivers, visionaries, and builders. She shares guiding questions to help individuals and organizations explore their role(s) and revisit them over time as circumstances change. This framework may be useful in mid-year individual and organizational check-ins and can help organizations understand how they fit into a network, coalition, campaign, or ecosystem.

2. The Devastating Consequences of Being Poor in the Digital Age

SOCIAL TRENDS | New York Times | 5-minute read

People who live paycheck to paycheck often bear the burden of both greater monitoring (think: policing and security footage) and fewer resources to challenge unfair outcomes. A Pew Research Center study shows the unique ways low-income individuals in the U.S. experience digital privacy-related harms and how fear of those harms can lead many individuals not to apply for life-sustaining supports like food stamps or to avoid getting the health care they need. It may also impact the 2020 census, where for the first time, most people will be asked to respond online.

3. The Crucial Role Collaboratives Can Play for New Philanthropies

COLLABORATION | Center for Effective Philanthropy | 6-minute read

A new Center for Effective Philanthropy research report offers guidance for new philanthropies: be bold, hire staff with aligned expectations, learn from others, and be humble. One way to follow all this guidance at once is to join a collaborative. New and old foundations alike can benefit greatly from philanthropic collaboratives, which create opportunities to hear examples of bold work, learn from peers, and foster a beginner’s mindset, all of which can strengthen philanthropies’ potential to contribute to impact.

4. The Roles of Foundation Board Trustees and Foundation Staff Must Radically Change

BOARDS | NonprofitAF | 7-minute read

Although many foundation staff want to shift their institutions toward better practices, little has changed across the philanthropic sector. According to writer Vu Le, the biggest challenge that program officers cite for why their foundations aren’t changing is that boards have all the power. Vu lays out three ways in which both foundation board trustees and staff members must change: Foundation staff must have the trust and autonomy to make funding and other decisions, trustees must focus their energy on creating alignment around visionary goals, and they both must learn to let go of power and shift it toward the people closest to the issues.

5. Baby Steps Toward Guaranteed Incomes and Racial Justice

STRATEGY | New York Times | 10-minute read

Magnolia Mother’s Trust, a pilot project in Mississippi administered by the nonprofit Springboard to Opportunities, is giving single, black mothers $1,000 a month for 12 months. Early results indicate that the reliable funds are making a difference, not only in financial stability but also in quality of life: one woman paid off her student loan debt and another drove her children to Pennsylvania so they could meet her father who they’d never met and who she hadn’t seen in 21 years. This guaranteed income project is part of what Springboard to Opportunities describes as a “radical resident-driven approach.”


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