From A.J. Fletcher Foundation <[email protected]>
Subject History Has Its Eyes On Us and We're Learning
Date July 21, 2020 2:14 PM
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The AJF Update
July 2020
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Aaron Burr, in the hit musical, Hamilton, discovered (albeit a bit late) that the world was wide enough ([link removed]) for both himself and his archrival, Alexander Hamilton. In this world turned upside down ([link removed]) , seeing our community as a place with room for everyone isn’t easy. But one of the important roles of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation -and the work of this newsletter- is to share. Our core line of business is grantmaking or sharing funds. But just as important, when we come across new ideas in the air, or observations, or stories we share them also.

But for this to succeed, there is someone else we need ([link removed]) : Our community.

So, for this edition, we asked some friends and partners to share their thoughts on the year and to write everything down, as far as they can see ([link removed]) . They put their minds to work (work) ([link removed]) and the results are what you are about to read.

No doubt history has its eyes on us ([link removed]) , and we all have much work to do. But here at the foundation, despite all of what has happened in 2020, when we look around (look around) we feel lucky to be alive right now. ([link removed])

Thoughts From Our Friends
We reached out to those close to us and asked them what they were learning in the midst of everything going on. Here's what we heard.

“We've been challenged to think of the idea of "service" in new ways - what it means, the ways service can take place (we're now focusing significantly on ways to volunteer virtually and remotely from the safety of home) -- and also, the access to opportunities to be a part of service. We believe every person who wants to should have the opportunity to be a part of service to improve the community. So finding ways to "meet people where they are" to enable them to participate has been a running theme this year and we are learning a lot from conversations about this.”

- Amber Smith, Executive Director & Founder of Activate Good

“…COVID has surfaced the deep systemic disparities across Wake County, North Carolina, and the Country. COVID has challenged the traditional community support model that was focused on place-centric services and required institutions to mobile resources to communities where transportation is limited. Also, COVID has made “philanthropic activism” a transparent need for serving and changing deep-rooted disparities. Philanthropic Activism is a human-centered approach to philanthropy that seeks the guidance and wisdom of community leaders at all levels of decision making.”

- Dr. Terrance Ruth, Executive Director of The Justice Love Foundation

“If I could go back to and tell my-2019-self one thing, it would be to trust your team, listen to your community, and listen to what they all need! To roll with the punches because there are going to be a lot of them. Your community will rally around you no matter what.”

- Maggie Kane, Executive Director of A Place At The Table

“We have learned to be flexible and nimble (a good example of this is the internal changes we made in response to possible exposure, having to stop taking new admissions, setting up an offsite detox). Personally, I continue to be amazed at how ignorant I am. When this started in March, I was thinking we’d be back to normal by the end of May. This isn’t a criticism of myself, but an awareness of how the brain processes overwhelming change. Also, learned how to be mindful of and attentive to the psychological or moral safety of staff and participants when subjected to prolonged and heightened stress.”

- Chris Budnick, Executive Director of Healing Transitions

“The importance of letting go and listening. Letting go of restrictions and old procedures, and finding ways to be innovative, engage in new and different ways with our nonprofits and donors, and being willing to change. So much has changed, yet much of our work has stayed the same, even as we see need increase in our region. Be it COVID-19 or the recent unease and unrest sparked by further violence towards Black Americans, we have (and are) learning to better listen to our community and their needs, so we can really help.”

Lori O’Keefe, President & CEO of the Triangle Community Foundation

“Covid-19 has made invisible issues visible. The digital divide as it relates to both devices and the lack of high speed, high quality internet access for too many North Carolinians became more apparent when remote education hit at the same time that third spaces such as McDonald's, Starbucks, and libraries were closed. The sudden economic downturn is another significant challenge unleashed by the pandemic that will have a profound impact, in particular, on rural North Carolina as small businesses and rural communities face the dual hammer of both a health and economic crisis. Many of these communities already faced significant challenges that left them with threadbare safety nets already. The other structural challenge for our path forward will likely come from the rising costs to educate students safely at the same that our state's revenue base is shrinking.”

Nation Hahn, Director of Growth for EdNC

“Our world, our country, our state, our city, and our neighborhoods are more connected than we gave credence to. We need to look outside our owns spheres of influence and comfort zones to truly make connections, learn, and impart change”

Ilina Ewen, Director of Communications & Community Engagement for the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy

“We talk a lot about rural communities needing to adopt an ethic of resilience in order to build a more vibrant future, and the coronavirus pandemic and our statewide and national conversation about racial justice push us to redefine just how we do that…The coronavirus has also highlighted racial disparities in our health care systems; Hispanic communities account for 46 percent of all cases in the state, but only make up 10 percent of the population. Similarly, African Americans account for 38 percent of coronavirus deaths and only 20 percent of the population. These distressing statistics show the effects of systemic racial injustice and demands attention. Though the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many structural issues and shed a brighter light on others, I am optimistic that this renewed and concerted focus on confronting the issues of broadband, health care, small-business development, and racial injustice and inequality will ultimately lead to widespread, lasting change."

Patrick Woodie, President of the NC Rural Center
Let's learn together. What have you seen? How have you changed? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter @AJFfoundation

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