With our fall Community Grants Season almost here, our program team will soon be engaging in a dialogue with many local nonprofits as they present their annual program operating requests.
Thanks to the breadth of our mission, we cover a lot of ground with our granting: Civic Life, the Arts and Environment; Early Childhood Development; Economic Security; Healthy Communities; and, Youth Development and Education.
How do these disparate pieces fit together? In a word, opportunity.
Our mission is to provide the opportunity for everyone, especially those facing economic and social obstacles, to flourish. To enjoy a healthy start as children. To reach adulthood able to support a family. To enjoy the cultural riches of our community. To participate in decisions that affect us all.
In most of the United States, no less in Worcester County, there is a significant “opportunity gap.” And we want to close it. Simply put, our purpose is “to build a community of opportunity for all.” You can learn more by looking at our Community Grant Guidelines.
This work has been recently bolstered by our involvement in a national movement -- the Community Foundation Opportunity Network (CFON) -- a network of nearly 50 local funders that share a focus on closing the gap.
Three studies have been influential in CFON’s theory. Robert Putnam’s 2015 book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, describes how upward mobility has become more challenging than ever, and opportunities have grown less accessible for children on the lower end of the income/wealth scale. For a video interview with Putnam look here.
Later the same year the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings published Opportunity, Responsibility and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream. Based on shared values, a working group of experts bridged the conservative-liberal divide to make consensus recommendations on strengthening families, improving the quality and quantity of work, and improving education, especially in early childhood and after high school. Significant points of agreement across a wide political spectrum show that we have the power to fix this.
And earlier this year, the Urban Institute released Restoring the American Dream: What Would It Take to Dramatically Increase Mobility from Poverty? The Partnership’s ambition is that all people achieve a reasonable standard of living with the dignity that comes from having power over their lives and being engaged in and valued by their community.
Greater Worcester Community Foundation believes that our work in granting, planning, convening, and facilitating philanthropy will serve to empower our local community to bridge the gap.