Helping All Minnesota Children Succeed

An Asian American girl and boy work on craft projects at a table in a school room

From our Fall 2016 MNSights Magazine

This spring I had the wonderful opportunity to participate with fellow foundation leaders Sandra Vargas and Gary Cunningham on a panel at Hamline University’s Annual Community Economic Development Symposium. We explored ways to contribute to a community in which disparate groups can successfully co-exist and where access to economic opportunities is no longer predictable by race.

Multiple sources of trend data and economic impact studies consistently lead to one sobering conclusion: Despite the best efforts of many well-intentioned Twin Cities leaders, access to economic advancement is often dependent on a person’s zip code, which is still strongly correlated to race. We have thus far been unable to disentangle the policies and practices that keep some communities locked in cycles of generational poverty.

For our region to thrive, we must address the institutional, legislative and economic practices that hold the structure of racial disparities together. We have so far made necessary but insufficient progress for people of color in our community. We need a model that yields necessary and sufficient progress to ultimately eliminate the disparities that persist. This involves understanding a notion of our “shared fate.” Minnesota‘s regional and economic growth requires the full participation of people of color, highly skilled and ready to support existing and emerging industries. There is both a moral and economic imperative to identify and invest in models proven to effect systems change.

I am encouraged by the work of colleagues in the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) who have proposed a framework for Responsive Philanthropy to help address these disparities. Their model identifies five critical steps for philanthropists:

  • Fund community organizing and constituency engagement
  • Fund policy and system reform work
  • Fund leadership and infrastructure in communities of color
  • Invest in assets-based disaggregated research
  • Engage in strategic communication that changes the narrative about race-based disparities

I am pleased that the foundations comprising Minnesota Philanthropy Partners actively provide leadership and funding in each of these areas. We have long believed that focused, cross-sector collaboration is the most effective means of addressing the stark and complex economic disparities that plague our region. From our work with the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, to our recently-launched East Metro Pulse community connectedness survey, we are joining with committed partners to effect systems change. We hope this issue of MNSights sparks discussion about how together we can best engage multiple stakeholders in providing access to economic sufficiency for all who call this region home.

- Eric J. Jolly, Ph.D., President and CEO, The Saint Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations

Portrait photo of President and CEO Eric J. Jolly, Ph.D.

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