Thursday, June 02, 2016

Black Star Project Challenging Major Foundations in Chicago

I've known Phil Jackson, founder and leader of The Black Star Project since we first met in the office of Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, back in 1995. That's when I first shared the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy with CPS.

Phil and I have stayed connected and he has been part of many of the past Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences that I hosted in Chicago from 1994-2015. In fact, he was one of the few youth serving organizations who frequently sent 4-8 people from his staff to the conferences, especially after 2011.

A few weeks ago Phil launched a full-frontal assault on the two biggest philanthropic foundations in Chicago...The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.   I encourage readers to look at these stories and share with others. This is one issue of his daily email newsletter. See more articles on the Black Star Project  Facebook page.

I fully support Phil's efforts, even if I think it is philanthropic suicide for his own organization. Since I've been hosting a list of Chicago non-school tutor/mentor programs and using maps to show where they are located, and where they are most needed, based on poverty, poor schools, violence and health disparities. 

All of the articles and information I've shared on the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site have been intended to influence what donors and volunteers do to provide on-going, flexible operating resources to every youth serving organization in the city, including The Black Star Project.

The information is also intended to help each program use those resources to learn from each other and constantly strive to be the best in the world at helping kids move through school and into adult jobs and careers. For kids in highly segregated poverty neighborhoods, that means helping them expand their personal network of support to include people who don't live in poverty.

This PDF shows indicators I'd like to see on tutor/mentor org web sites, showing the ways they are using resources they receive. 

However, if they can't get the operating resources needed to build strong organizations, that stay in place and get better year-after-year, they won't be able to accomplish as much as they seek to accomplish.

I remember in 1994 speaking to the only Chicago representative on a Carnegie Council Task Force that produced A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunities in the Non-School Hours, which focused on the need to fill the non-school hours with all sorts of learning opportunities.  He told me my idea would not receive foundation funding for at least 5 years because I had no track record. I think this is challenge many face.

I tried to get funding from The MacArthur Foundation in the 1990s and was told that my strategy was not "systemic" enough.  I did receive grants of $25k a year from The Chicago Community Trust between 1998 and 2002, but these were not sustained.

Part of the information I host in my web library is a section on philanthropy and fund raising, with two sub sections focusing on general operating support and challenges facing non profits.  There are smart people in many places saying that the way the system works now does too little to help solve complex, long-term programs such as we face in Chicago.  Philanthropists, business, colleges, hospitals and others need to help strong non profit, and for profit, social benefit organizations grow who show information on their web sites that indicates they know what they are doing. 

In the MappingforJustice blog I point to uses of geographic maps to understand where people need extra help, and where existing tutor, mentor and other forms of non-school learning are located in Chicago.  Below is a map from this article, showing how philanthropic dollars flow to different zip codes and to different types of charities.  Foundations in Chicago should pool funds and create a map platform like this, that shows where their money is going....and who they are supporting.

I've also been mapping locations of Chicago area youth serving organizations since 1994.  The interactive map that I created in 2008 has not been updated since 2011, but still is an example of the type of map platform that a city like Chicago needs.  In early 2016 I created a new map,  Here's the link.  If Phil's effort is successful, we ought to be able to see maps on a Chicago foundation web sites, with color coded icons showing places they are supporting with philanthropy.  Perhaps the size of the icon could indicate the size of the grant.

My 2016 map does not include poverty overlays the way the interactive program locator map does. Thus you will need to look at other maps, like the one below from the Community Commons web platform. See map here.  

Thus, activist will need to mash up two or three maps to make a story.  I created the image below by making a screen shot of a map from one of my platforms, then pasted it into Power Point. I added additional information, then copied it to Photoshop, cropped it, and then saved as a JPG. 

Thus, foundations can provide maps showing where their donations are going, and can sort this by category of organization, which would be most helpful.  

However, non profits could also do this work, by pooling their grants received information onto a map.  

I wonder how many would be willing to do this.

Hopefully, in 2017 or 2018 Phil Jackson's efforts will begin to show more philanthropic, business and government giving to non profits serving high poverty neighborhoods, which in Chicago are also mostly high minority neighborhoods.  

Hopefully, The Black Star Project will show as one receiving these grants. However, this is where speaking truth to power has a downside. Foundations in Chicago may fund more programs, but they may punish Phil and not fund his organization.  

This is the fear that causes many non profit leaders to not speak "truth to power".

1 comment:

joyfulnoise121 said...

I know the work BlackStar has done for the last 20 years. Programs to further the skill set and build hope and confidence in young people in underserved populations has been exceptional. This organization truly has a commitment to helping youth become independent and successful.