2018 has been an exciting journey of exploration regarding local programming. Although it sometimes feels hectic, confusing, or overwhelming, we are actually right where we had hoped to be. The monumental decision to discontinue the Youth Global Leadership (YGL) program in 2017 in order to explore new initiatives was a difficult yet exciting transition for Philanthropiece. The staff and board collectively agreed that a focus on local work would guide us in the coming years. But what would that look like? Would we simply replace YGL with something different? Would we pursue a particular theme? Would be partner with other organizations?
We decided to pursue what we called “Campaigns” in the first half of the year as a way of exploring existing relationships, potential programmatic directions, and specific themes that impassioned the staff. We created a conscious process for the team to collectively interrogate the pros and cons of these Campaigns and then to decide how to proceed.
One of our campaigns is focused on the theme of financial inclusion. Jordan continued to network across the region to explore the potential of a local community savings group program. As interest grew, we have had to ask ourselves what we are actually prepared to take on. What capacity do we have locally? What does the community need? Do we have the capacity to create a brand new program?
We have determined that we will move forward and initiate Community Savings Groups in Boulder County. By forming 1-5 groups, we hope to better understand the potential impact of this initiative. We are currently working closely with the Boulder County organization, Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes (ELPASO). Jordan has met various times with their Executive Director, Tere Garcia. A recent survey of ELPASO parents determined that financial education is one of their highest priorities in supporting their families.
Other new program conversations returned to the idea of a “Fellows” program where Philanthropiece would support local changemakers. This idea remains a top consideration, but the Advisory Board has constantly reminded us that there is no rush to create a new, full-on program. In this light, we have decided for the time being to continue with the concept of Campaigns. The work now is to recognize our current capacity in terms of time and money and always returns to key words from our mission statement: “empower” and “co-create.”
During the last month, these phrases popped up continuously as staff began evaluating where these Campaigns have led us. Both Neda and Jake worked closely with exciting collaborations with Just Transitions Collaborative (JTC), Right Relationship Boulder (RRB), and the White Privilege Symposium. They found themselves being pulled into the logistics of these organizations. Partnerships turned into a “co-creation” model where much time was spent planning, creating content, determining logistics, and co-facilitating. This was more than what we expected, and we ran into issues of time and how to form an effective collaboration. Our questions led us to taking step back to review our organizational goals, resources, and staff capacity in order to make the best decisions moving forward.
We had to ask ourselves if this was actually the commitment we wanted to make. And if not, what were the alternatives?
Neda specifically decided to step of the co-creation piece and focus on the “empowerment” component by diving into more intentional support and development of the Climate Justice Leaders component of JTC’s strategy. Co-creation requires much more effort and time on our behalf. We want to be careful and deliberate with these relationships and define clearly what our staff will take on. We might consider that empowering, as opposed to co-creating, is a way for us to continue to pursue the exciting possibilities that constantly emerge locally without overwhelming our capacity. This could involve a variety of support avenues for local changemakers, initiatives, or organizations. For example, Jordan recently began conversations with folks from Motus Theatre regarding a new project called “UndocuAmerica.” Similarly, Neda has established a relationship with the Museum of Boulder about an immigration initiative they are considering. Philanthropiece may not be able to co-create these new projects, but we can certainly consider ways that we can champion the effort. Know how to best work alongside, support, and sustain initiatives in our local community is a key focus of this moment for the Philanthropiece team.
The old adage warns against being a Jack of All Trades. But can we find the power within diverse and widespread action? Philanthropiece has always been drawn to many different issues, has always had many partnerships. After all of these questions about what we can and should do, perhaps the answer is quite simple. We will always follow the community. We will listen to the voices and needs of our community. We will trace their steps and follow their echo home.
Jake Matlak is Philanthropiece’s Director of Programs. He is also currently serving as a Coordinator of the Right Relationship Boulder group. Edited by Raye Watson.