Giving TogetherThis story about The Trust's collaborative funds was first featured in the 2011 Annual Report.
Particularly complex problems require a coordinated response from more than one funder. When the opportunity seems ripe, The Trust and other grantmakers—foundations, corporations, and our donors—come together and contribute their money, their expertise, and their passion.
In a year in which the political and cultural divide has grown deeper and wider, this report highlights the work of three of our “collaborative funds”—the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund, the Fund for New Citizens, and the One Region Fund. We’ll explain why we set up these funds, what they do, and what they’ve accomplished.
|Teens participating in the New York Public Library's NYC Haunts program create a game to find clues to a missing girl who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. Photo by Angela Jimenez|
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- Mozilla Foundation
- Joan Ganz Cooney and the Beth M. Uffner funds in The New York Community Trust
- Renate, Hans and Marie Hofmann Trust
- David Rockefeller Fund
- The New York Community Trust
A Hive of Activity: Connected kids
Like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day who wakes up each morning to the same day, education reformers have a continuing sense of deja vu. Still, breakthroughs do occur: every once in a while, an old approach that once failed actually works. Even rarer, a new idea gives new hope.
Our kids are always on their cell phones or tapping away on laptops and tablets. But for all their savvy, many teenagers haven’t begun to explore technology’s vast potential for learning. That’s where the Hive comes in. The Hive Digital Media Learning Fund, which we started in 2010 with our lead funder, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is getting kids excited about learning, and connecting them to cultural and community groups and to each other through the social media networks—and devices—they use.
Why this approach? Research shows that learning outside the classroom can pique kids’ interests and increase their likelihood for success when they pursue those interests as part of a group. Giving them access to the vast resources of museums, libraries, and other organizations is a big part of the solution. Grants support the Hive Learning Network NYC, running projects in which young people research and create an online guide to African art at the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of African Art; plan Emoti-Con!, a competitive digital media festival; develop mobile phone applications based on New York Hall of Science exhibits that increase informal learning for children, teens, families, and teachers; and a lot more.
Not Your Parents’ Library
In 2011, the New York Public Library worked with Global Kids to create mobile scavenger hunts, called NYC Ghost Haunts, to help teens learn about the history of their neighborhoods. We met at the Seward Park Library on the Lower East Side with 9th graders Queena Chiu and Cindy Wang, the designers and writers of a game that takes you on a journey to find out what happened to a young woman who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. Armed with iPads, Queena and Cindy led a group, including librarians Johanna Lewis and Anne Rouyer, and Chris Shoemaker, teen programming specialist, through the neighborhood, following an unfolding story, picking up clues, and using a GPS-enabled map to guide us.
Queena and Cindy were shelving books to fulfill their high school community service requirements. “It was pretty boring,” says Queena, “so when Johanna said we could design a game on iPads, we jumped.”
“I sorta heard about the Triangle fire,” says Queena, “but I didn’t know much about it. It was really tragic. So many girls died because the owner had locked the doors and the workers couldn’t get out.” “It was the beginning of the movement for social justice and labor laws,” adds Cindy. “We learned a lot about the immigrants on the Lower East Side who came before us.”
Johanna also curates a collection on the area’s history: “Two 7th grade classes from a local school are learning about child labor. So two groups of thirty students will come and play the game. Give a kid an iPad and they’ll get involved.” The lessons must have been pretty potent: the treasure hunt ends with an online petition demanding justice for today’s immigrant workers, who continue to be exploited.
|Jim SG with attorneys Christine Bela and Jojo Annobil of the Legal Aid Society. Photo by Angela Jimenez|
- Altman Foundation
- Morton K. & Jane Blaustein Foundation
- Booth Ferris Foundation
- Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Fund
- Clark Foundation
- Dora Fund in The New York Community Trust
- FJC-A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds
- Foundation to Promote Open Society
- Interest on Lawyer Account Fund of the State of New York
- The New York Community Trust
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- Twenty-first Century ILGWU Heritage Fund
- UJA-Federation of New York
- Valentine Perry Snyder Fund
Good Moral Character: Do you have what it takes to become a new citizen?
In 1987, after the passage of a law that offered amnesty to 4 million undocumented immigrants, The Trust set up the Fund for New Citizens to help them take advantage of the law. The Fund has continued to adapt its priorities to the changing needs of newcomers. It has made $17 million in grants since it was started and helped countless numbers of immigrants and the nonprofits serving them. The Legal Aid Society has been a frequent grantee.
Jim SG speaks with quiet confidence. A 23-year-old from Haiti, he has old-world manners and big dreams. One of his Legal Aid lawyers, Allison Baker, seems to take a maternal pride in him.
Jim arrived in New York when he was nine, along with his father and assorted relatives. The streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, proved to be a bigger lure than home. Jim says he made “a lot of bad choices.” He met Christine Bela, a lawyer in Legal Aid’s juvenile division, who was appointed his law guardian when he got into trouble at 13. A year later, he was arrested for for an act of juvenile delinquency. Jim was sentenced to a year at Boys Town. At the end of the year, the staff didn’t think he was prepared to go home and recommended to the judge that he stay another year. Jim wasn’t happy, but when he was scheduled to be released the following year, he asked to stay. “I knew I wasn’t ready. I realized I had a lot more to learn.” And that he did. At 16, with no high school credits, Jim spent two years studying for the GED, which he doesn’t recommend: “Cramming four years of high school into two was really hard.” He passed with high grades.
You can go home again
Jim wanted to go back to Haiti, but Christine warned him that he might not be able to come back, or face deportation if he did. So he returned to his family and enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College, graduating with a degree in human resources. This year, Jim graduated from John Jay College. He’s been working all along as a counselor at Boys Town. “It’s more than just a job,” says Jim. “I get very emotional. I see myself in these kids.” He plans to get a law degree—and one day run for public office.
Jojo Annobil, the head of Legal Aid’s immigration division, reminds us that immigration law is complicated and full of potential pitfalls for those applying for citizenship. Because of his efforts to keep all of Legal Aid—and other— lawyers informed, Allison was able to prove that, despite a bad beginning, Jim was “of good moral character.” Jim is now an American citizen. We’re lucky to have him.
|Nuala Gallagher, Yanet Rojas, Yakima Pena, and Yanet's daughters look forward to a revitalized East New York. Photo: Angela Jimenez|
- Fairfield County Community Foundation
- Ford Foundation
- Long Island Community Foundation
- The New York Community Trust
- Oram Foundation
- Rauch Foundation
- Rockefeller Foundation
- Surdna Foundation
- Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation
- Westchester Community Foundation
Railroad Stations: More than just a place to wait . . . much more
“Babies cry when they need something,” says Yanet Rojas, “but the adults in East New York are so busy just surviving that it’s hard for them to find the time—and the hope—to organize and demand their rights.” The Brooklyn neighborhood is finding that hope through transit-centered development.
Transit-centered what? Here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “Mixed-use residential or commercial areas designed to maximize access to public transport, often incorporating features to encourage transit ridership.” It may sound boring, but its impact on people and neighborhoods can be enormous. That’s one of the reasons we started the One Region Fund with funders from the tri-state area, where residents are often “multi- regional,” living in one state or area while working in another. But when it’s hard or impossible to commute, people’s job opportunities are limited. Neighborhoods can be cut off or divided, and opportunities for revitalization stymied.
Two years ago, the One Region Fund supported the Regional Plan Association’s effort to organize a bi-state collaboration of cities, counties, and regional planning groups. In 2011, the initiative received a $3.5 million federal planning grant to integrate affordable housing, economic development, transportation, and environmental planning. One Region contributed funds for community organizing at several demonstration sites. The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) is leading three projects, one in East New York. Its focus is Broadway Junction—a large, desolate, and forbidding intersection where several subway lines and the Long Island Railroad converge that blights the neighborhood. DCP is working with the Cypress Hills Local Development Corp. (LDC) to ensure that residents have a say in the area’s development.
Hear me roar
Yanet, who was born in Peru, got involved years ago when she couldn’t find a place to buy fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables for her family. She was also concerned about the local schools. She began by talking with other residents and meeting with Betsy MacLean, the deputy director of the Cypress Hills LDC. Together, they dreamed about a better future for East New York’s children. Yanet’s first success involved a 12-year effort to build a new school, PS 89, which opened two years ago with a greenhouse that produces a limited amount of fresh produce. She is now involved in planning for a community garden to increase production and a chicken coop. It’s become part of larger plans for East New York.
Nuala Gallagher, director, and Yakima Pena, coordinator of Cypress Hills Verde, a community sustainability project of the LDC, share Yanet’s passion and speak eloquently about the area’s needs. “We’ve spoken to kids from ages 11 to 21,” says Yakima. “They don’t want to eat fast food, and they want not only space for sports but also for the arts. Because they’re poor, they can’t afford cultural events in Manhattan.”
“Thirty percent of the neighborhood’s lots are vacant and there’s a desperate need for affordable housing,” says Nuala. “The LDC runs close to 300 housing units and we have a 7-year waiting list.”
The agency has held multiple workshops to learn what residents want. “At one daylong meeting, which attracted more than 300 residents and a number of City agencies they made their voices heard: more affordable housing, clean-up of an unpleasant industrial park, jobs, stores, and a community center,” say Betsy. “Broadway Junction has the potential to open up the neighborhood, leading to safer, easier commutes and safer navigation. What’s more, these agencies are really committed to making it happen. They know it needs to start with community input and buy-in.”
Tony Proscio, who has written three essays on foundation jargon, puts “collaboration” and “partnership” on his list of overused, tired, and irritating words. We don’t disagree—and try to use them sparingly—but believe strongly in the message they attempt to convey: it takes the collective wisdom and resources of people working together to make social change. Our pledge is to listen, learn, and use the money entrusted to us by our donors to make New York City truly a place where all of us can, in the words of WNYC’s 1930s station ID, “live in peace and enjoy the benefits of democracy.”
This article appears in the 2011 Annual Report>>