News you'll be interested to know


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Asset based community development

John McKnight: Low-income communities are not needy -- they have assets

Detail from a graphic record of a facilitated discussion in Vancouver, B.C., in which participants talked about what belonging and community mean. The artists included examples of local community development in the drawing.
Detail from a graphic record of a facilitated discussion in Vancouver, B.C., in which participants talked about what belonging and community mean. The artists included examples of local community development in the drawing. Illustration by Liz Etmanski and Aaron Johannes/Spectrum Consulting
People who want to help low-income communities should see them as “half-full glasses” -- places with strengths and capacities that can be built upon, says the co-developer of the asset-based community development strategy.

Most people and institutions that want to serve poor communities are focused on what the residents lack. “What are the needs?” is often the first question asked.

John McKnight says that approach has it backward.

“I knew from being a neighborhood organizer that you could never change people or neighborhoods with the basic proposition that what we need to do is fix them,” he said. “What made for change was communities that believed they had capacities, skills, abilities and could create power when they came together in a community.”

McKnight is co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (link is external)and professor emeritus of communications studies and education and social policy at Northwestern University.

He and his longtime colleague John Kretzmann created the asset-based community development (ABCD) strategy for community building. Together they wrote a basic guide to the approach called “Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”

Read more here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Acceptance and community

The Discipline of the Tongue

Where the discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the beginning, each individual will make a matchless discovery. He will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, judging him, condemning him…. Now he can allow the other to exist as a completely free person, as God made him to be. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion for joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction. God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather, God made this person in God’s image. I can never know beforehand how God’s image should appear in others.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Strange Fruit

The offensiveness of recent expressions of hate and racism by university students comes into sharper focus if you expose yourself to the context, background and meaning of any talk of "hanging" people on a tree.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Police actions and training?

Disturbing video by anyone's standards.

Can police not learn how to take a potentially threatening person down without killing them?

Not hard to understand how communities of poverty and color feel in jeopardy while being pushed to the margins. 

I'm needing some answers.

How about you?

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5

WE Americans are a nation divided.
We feud about the fires in Ferguson, Mo., and we can agree only that racial divisions remain raw. So let’s borrow a page from South Africa and impanel a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine race in America.
The model should be the 9/11 commission or the Warren Commission on President Kennedy’s assassination, and it should hold televised hearings and issue a report to help us understand ourselves. Perhaps it could be led by the likes of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Oprah Winfrey.
We as a nation need to grapple with race because the evidence is overwhelming that racial bias remains deeply embedded in American life. Two economists, Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers, found that white N.B.A. referees disproportionally call fouls on black players, while black refs call more fouls on white players. “These biases are sufficiently large that they affect the outcome of an appreciable number of games,” Price and Wolfers wrote.
Read more here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 4

WHEN I write about racial inequality in America, one common response from whites is eye-rolling and an emphatic: It’s time to move on.
“As whites, are we doomed to an eternity of apology?” Neil tweeted at me. “When does individual responsibility kick in?”
Terry asked on my Facebook page: “Why are we still being held to actions that took place long ago?”
“How long am I supposed to feel guilty about being white? I bust my hump at work and refrain from living a thug life,” Bradley chimed in. “America is about personal responsibility. ... And really, get past the slavery issue.”
Read more here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Huh? Why do we need a Mandela over here? We’ve made so much progress on race over 50 years! And who is this guy Stevenson, anyway?
Yet Archbishop Tutu is right. Even after remarkable gains in civil rights, including the election of a black president, the United States remains a profoundly unequal society — and nowhere is justice more elusive than in our justice system.
When I was born in 1959, the hospital in which I arrived had separate floors for black babies and white babies, and it was then illegal for blacks and whites to marry in many states. So progress has been enormous, and America today is nothing like the apartheid South Africa that imprisoned Mandela. But there’s also a risk that that progress distracts us from the profound and persistent inequality that remains.
Read more here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

Readers grudgingly accepted the grim statistics I cited — such as the wealth disparity between blacks and whites in America today exceeding what it was in South Africa during apartheid — but many readers put the blame on African-Americans themselves.
“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.
Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems. It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”
Read more here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When whites just don't get it. . .

When Whites Just Don’t Get It (Part 1)

AUG. 30, 2014 


MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: “All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.”
Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.
Yes, you read that right!
Read more here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Other people's kids

"The American dream is in crisis. . .because Americans used to care about other people's kids and now they only care about their own kids."
Robert Putnam,
Our Kids:  The American Dream in Crisis
Check out related The New Yorker article here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Racism and forming children

The broadcast of a recent video of Oklahoma University fraternity students singing racially charged lyrics (including a refrain that speaks of lynching black people and uses the "N" word with clearly casual ease) shocked many people.

Frankly, I wasn't too surprised. I run into such attitudes frequently.

What troubled me most was the light-hearted, nonchalance of those involved.

Where does one learn the "values" of such an insensitive, thoughtless, hateful, racist frame on life?

On the other hand, where does one learn truth, the sort of truth that resists evil when it's encountered.

Here's the horrific video.

Watch it again.

Let it soak in.

As you watch, try to put yourself in the shoes of your African American neighbors.

If you are a parent, use this shameful display of hate to teach your children the truth they will need to be a force of transformation and unity that stands resolutely over against the darkness of this latest example of the spirit of racism that remains alive and thriving in our society.

Over 60 years ago, Ms. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She stayed on the bus and she didn't get up or off.

Today we face a similar choice as white people.

When we face moments of hatred and racism, we must be brave enough to deal with the bus we may be riding.

In our case the challenge will be to stand up, speak out and get off any bus going into the terrible darkness defined by our nation's past in this country.

Form your children in love, acceptance and celebration of the beauty of all of God's children.

And, by all means, never tolerate expressions of hateful racism.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sankofa Coalition

Take a moment to view this public statement from Dallas City Hall from Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters.

Click "Open Microphone Speakers" and FF to comments beginning at 4:49.

In view of all that has been going on, what do you think about this idea? 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From "inward/outward"

   Such a Clearance

I have a need
of such a clearance
as the Saviour effected in the temple of Jerusalem
a riddance of the clutter
of what is secondary
that blocks the way
to the all-important central emptiness
which is filled
with the presence of God alone.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

If you can read the following essay and not be concerned, you process reality much differently than do I.  Read and let me know your response.

2015_03_16 Richer and Poorer

Accounting for inequality.


For about a century, economic inequality has been measured on a scale, from zero to one, known as the Gini index and named after an Italian statistician, Corrado Gini, who devised it in 1912, when he was twenty-eight and the chair of statistics at the University of Cagliari. If all the income in the world were earned by one person and everyone else earned nothing, the world would have a Gini index of one. If everyone in the world earned exactly the same income, the world would have a Gini index of zero. The United States Census Bureau has been using Gini’s measurement to calculate income inequality in America since 1947. Between 1947 and 1968, the U.S. Gini index dropped to .386, the lowest ever recorded. Then it began to climb.

Income inequality is greater in the United States than in any other democracy in the developed world.

Read more here.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Dallas County Schools--public and private

Interesting “snippets” from The COMMIT! Partnership’s annual report, “Our Kids.  Our Tomorrow.”

·         750,000 students served by COMMIT!

·         Coalition of 160 different institutions with a “vested stake” in Dallas     County’s educational outcomes.

·         Between 1980 and 2010, poverty increased by 242% in Dallas County neighborhoods.

·         Dallas has 3rd highest childhood poverty rate in U. S. (38%), behind Detroit (59%) and Memphis (44%). 

·         Dallas County’s job growth lags behind surrounding counties.  Between 2000 and 2012, jobs increased in Denton County (+63%), Collin County (+71%), Rockwall County (+89%), Kaufman County (+4%), Ellis County (+21%), Tarrant County (+10).  In Dallas County jobs fell (-13%).

·         By not increasing each student’s level of attainment, our region loses $6.9 billion in lifetime earnings for every cohort of about 30,000 students entering the K-12 system annually.
·         Hispanic and African American students lag woefully behind white students in Dallas County in every measured category:  in 2014, only 345 black students graduated “college ready.” Fewer than half as many economically disadvantaged students graduated college ready as more affluent students (1,128 compared to 2,600). 

·         56% of eligible students are not enrolled in Pre-K or Head Start. 

·         36% of students in Dallas County are reading on grade level by 3rd grade. 

·         $33 million is left on the table in Dallas County in student financial support/services. 

·         Teacher supply is declining by 4% annually, while student population is growing at 1% each year. 

·         While there are examples of high-poverty schools doing well or better, poverty remains a key driver in low performance.  

More clear and compelling evidence that we must attack poverty and its associated stresses on children and families.  And, NOW!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Why wait?

Everyone knows it.

We need to discover a radically different approach to attacking, beating back and at least managing poverty and its frightening growth in Dallas.

We don't need more data--data plays a key role, but we have more than enough for today. 

As Todd Williams noted at this week's COMMIT! Partnership festival, "we're not here to admire the size of the problem". . .  we know we have a problem already! 

What we need are solutions, hope and a plan to act. 

While our problems confront us with daunting complexities, pervasive affects and little sign of real progress (check this news report--listen past the weather update!), we must not back away from the challenge.  And, we must not settle for more talking, analyzing and reporting. 

The time has come for action.

So today, I'm in a "what if" mood as I consider the more than rapid growth of poverty in my hometown.

What if. . .

. . .we decided as a city to get dead serious about poverty in Dallas? You know, the kind of "serious" that puts poverty reduction on the agenda of every single Dallas City Council meeting and in the economic development strategy of the City Manager?  The level of commitment that served as a formula for settling disputes at City Hall about where to allocate limited resources? 

. . .we identified one public elementary school, possibly with a focus on one grade/class within that school? Or, if we could muster the courage, take on all the families represented by students on the target campus?

. . .we enrolled a cohort of families to participate in our 3-5 year process?

. . .we laid out cohort requirements in a membership contract for parents to sign on to (things like regular meetings, coaching, financial literacy, Safe Conversations about marriage and family, health and wellness screenings, life plan development, imagination trips/tours, etc.)?

. . .we recruited another cohort of resource partners who would sign on to target our family cohort with benefits and savings (I'm thinking of the principal and staff at the chosen DISD elementary school, folks from Health and Human Services, staff and leaders at the City of Dallas, major corporations, all public utilities, at least one serious bank partner, Dallas County, Parkland Health and Hospital System, expert but wide-ranging non-profit organizations, faith communities and others)?

. . .we located as many resources for the cohort as possible inside the target public school, transforming the school into a beehive-active community center?  Included would be mentors, reading partners and many other expressions of the smart, effective volunteer activities that have proven beneficial to schools, communities, families and children.

. . .we cut down on as much cash "outflow" as possible via free or near-free Internet/Wi-Fi access complete with computers or tablets, reducing all utility rates for the target cohort households, planning a monthly diet building exercise that would focus on both health and cost containment (via food pantries and the North Texas Food Bank, and lots of other creative cost reduction strategies we could begin to imagine together.

. . .we went to work providing aggressive, unrelenting counsel and action to increase cash and non-cash benefit flow into all of those who agree to join the cohort?  Here I have in mind a long list of resources that need to be obtained systematically as a part of enrolling in school and joining our cohort:  all HHS benefits, SNAP, CHIP, WIC, SSI/SSDI, Medicaid/Medicare/ACA, EITC, child care, child care tax credits, workforce training, AmeriCorps membership for some, home improvement subsidies/incentives, "school success" backpacks that took advantage of purchasing in bulk/coop style (uniforms, supplies, books, etc.).  This essential component would call for an up-front investment to staff the target school with the financial advisors/counselors needed to handle the enrollment and sustainability of the discovered resources.

. . .during or staged across the process, we invested a direct cash benefit into a savings/bank account for cohort members--parents and children (possibly with an Individual Development Account type asset) with the agreement that we could study the impact of this direct, hard investment on family stability, academic performance and overall well-being?

. . .we marshalled and focused the city's code enforcement assets to ensure that the area around the target school provided a clean, safe and livable environment, complete with well-maintained parks, sidewalks, streets and private properties?

. . .we informed and involved the Dallas Police Department in the project with community policing, "beat cops" and even mounted officers who were long on teaching children about equestrian skills, appreciating horses and even visiting the community's horse park? 

. . .we engaged a research partner to measure impact, document outcomes and advise us on program modifications for rolling out our successful pilot effort to another target school/neighborhood? 

. . .we proved to the inevitable naysayers the depth of our commitment by finding, raising and appropriating the on-going funds needed to achieve our objectives?

What if?

Overcoming poverty, or at least working together to see good people climb out of its depths, calls for hard-nosed, economic choices. 

Here's my hypothesis:  the cost to engage families in a "dispelling poverty cohort" will turn out to be an incredibly wise, smart and effective investment. 

Forget about our community values or the moral/ethical considerations. 

The effective ROI for the city, its neighborhoods, its schools and its social fabric would be beyond enormous.

In my view the successes realized in one neighborhood could lead to program expansion, as the early adopters of the approach actually could end up paying for the next steps in the effort.   Our research partner could document our progress for everyone to see and understand.

We know enough right now to act.

Why do we tarry?

Confession seldom heard. . .

"Saint Francis Xavier, the noble Jesuit missionary, said that in the confessional men had confessed to him all sins that he knew and some that he had never imagined, but none had ever of his own accord confessed that he was covetous."

Christianity and the Social Crisis
Walter Rauschenbusch

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

COMMIT! report to the community

Below you'll be able to read my brief remarks yesterday to the community reporting session hosted by COMMIT!.

The Commit! Partnership helps drive student achievement throughout Dallas County from cradle to career by leveraging data, community expertise and collaboration, to measure what matters, identify best practices and spread what works. 

I was glad to be asked to say a few words about what I consider to be our number one challenge in Dallas and our region. 
COMMIT! Update
February 24, 2015
·         Impressed by and grateful for this public show of concern and commitment to see our children receive the best in education across the region
·         My 5-minute assignment is a perfect length:  you’ll likely leave here with “data overload”—so, I’ll be easy on you
·         Here’s the deal:
1.       Poverty is the biggest challenge/problem/obstacle facing us and the education of our children
2.       Poverty is pervasive:  almost 9 of 10 DISD students receive free and reduced meals at school; if we look at the county public schools that number is 3 of 4 students
3.       Poverty is growing:  between 2000 and 2012 the population of the city of Dallas grew by a modest 5%; while for the same period the number of us trapped in poverty grew by 41%!
4.       Poverty is deepening:  during that same time frame the number of census tracts experiencing concentrated poverty almost doubled.
5.       Our poverty problem calls for new imagination as to how to use schools to strengthen entire families/neighborhoodsrelationally, intellectually, financially, skillfully, spiritually & politically
New imagination as to how to regard one another with respect, value, love and commitment.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Homeless Bill of Rights

Every human being arrives in this nation with "certain inalienable rights."  What applies to the housed, applies also to those men, women and children without homes.  Thinking about that and talking it through with my friend, Jonathan Grace has led me to propose a first draft of a homeless persons' bill of rights.

Essential Articles

1.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to a permanent place to call home.

2.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to personal security and safety.

3.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to restroom and hygiene facilities.

4.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to police protection.

5.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to privacy.

6.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to educational options.

7.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to treatment services.

8.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to basic human respect from others.

9.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to sit down and rest in public places without harassment or derisive treatment.

10.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to be heard in the public dialog of the cities where they reside.

11.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to access food.

12.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to receive adequate health care. 

13.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to basic human services and income supports.

14.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to secure his/her belongings without fear of loss.

15.  Every person who experiences homelessness has a right to a decent life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Religion or Reality?

". . .the immense majority of people in Christendom have holy places, where they recite a sacred ritual and go through sacred motions.  They receive holy food and submit to washings that cleanse from sin.  They have a priesthood with magic powers which offers a bloodless sacrifice.  This Christian ritual grew up, not as the appropriate and aesthetic expression of spiritual emotions, but as the indispensable means of pleasing and appeasing God, and of securing his favors, temporal and eternal, for those who put their heart into these processes.  This Christian ceremonial system does not differ essentially from that against which the prophets protested; with a few verbal changes their invectives would still apply.  But the point that here concerns us is that a very large part of the fervor of willing devotion which religion always generates in human hearts has spent itself on these religious acts.  The force that would have been competent to 'seek justice and relieve the oppressed' has been consumed in weaving the tinsel fringes for the garment of religion."

Walter Rauschenbusch
Christianity and the Social Crisis

Friday, February 20, 2015

Loving beyond the data

Philanthropy Must Lead With Its Heart

By Jennifer and Peter Buffett

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we are struck by a paradox that confronts philanthropy. The very meaning of the word philanthropy is “love of humanity”—yet the concept of love is almost never discussed in our sector.

In the race for philanthropic impact, we’ve got our heads in the game, but what about our hearts?

This is not, as some might claim, a question of fuzzy emotions. Instead, as we hear that nonprofit leaders are advised to avoid words like “love” or “caring” for fear of being seen as “not strategic,” we believe we face a larger problem that could ultimately limit what philanthropy dares to achieve.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve been lucky enough to become financially independent, and at nearly the same time, to become stewards of a large foundation we’ve called the NoVo Foundation. Neither of these things were expected. At all.

After spending a decade in this altered state, we have come to some basic conclusions. People are incredibly resilient. Nature is a phenomenal teacher and the most advanced technology we’ll ever see. As humanity progresses through time, our narcissistic tendencies may be getting the best of us. It’s imperative that we see ourselves in a loving relationship to each other and our planet if we are going to survive—collectively and quite possibly individually.

Perhaps most important: We’ve searched long and hard, but we can find very few indicators that tell us things are truly getting better for more people. Or that they will anytime soon. As our foundation seeks to address the root causes of big global challenges, all we see is symptom after symptom of a poisoned root. It’s systemic: education, agriculture, politics, media—the planet and the people—all commoditized to buy and sell.

This has led us to a new way to think about our role: alchemy. In a world in which everything is a commodity, we’re going to try to turn money into love. Into trust. Into safety. The first elements in the periodic table of relationships.

And we hope that by sharing some initial ideas from our work at NoVo, we might also start a broader conversation about putting love back into the world of philanthropy.
  • First, love means understanding that we don’t have the solutions to the problems we hope to solve and that the real breakthroughs come from the people who live with those challenges every day. After all, it’s the people who are most affected by a problem who most often hold the solutions. 
  • Just as love doesn’t do well being locked up, money doesn’t either. And we’ve observed that if money isn’t moving in philanthropy or any sector, it’s because of fear. If we are inspired by love, we should challenge ourselves whenever possible to spend more of our assets to move money to where it’s needed now. 
  • In practical terms, love also means providing grants that cover a longer period of time and that provide general operating support. We’re not dictating the direction. Not unlike an investment philosophy we learned from Peter’s father, we’re not interested in tinkering with passion and commitment.
  • Love means actively seeking out collaboration and partnership with others, rather than rushing to claim credit for oneself or one’s own organization.
  • It means investing in people—because people create lasting change. And that means truly embracing mistakes as part of a natural learning process, not simply paying lip service to the need for experimentation or risk.
  • Love means accepting that social change is ultimately about human capacity, human relationships, and human happiness and that progress in these areas is never easy to measure. After all, how do you measure a girl knowing she’s safe? How do you measure a worker’s dignity? How do you measure joy?
We’ve all seen money change behavior. What if behavior could change money? What if, by giving in ways that demonstrate our trust as opposed to control, the return would be honesty? And with that honesty would come deeper relationships. And in those relationships we could begin to develop a better understanding of what the person on the other side of the grant truly needs to lead a healthy and fulfilled life? Not a donor’s version of life, but theirs?

There’s a reason love songs are so numerous and popular. Love can’t be quantified. But it seems to matter. So how can we infuse love into the motivating force behind moving money? There are certainly other unquantifiable forces at work—greed and fear to name two. How can we put money out of its misery?

We live in a wildly dynamic time in history. When so much of our social fabric appears to be frayed, the solution is not to sew faster but to find new material. Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” it’s been here all along. And the road starts by leading with our hearts. 
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