Now Is The Time

Ending hunger, homelessness, and the cycle of heels.

In the United States more than 633,000 people experience homelessness every night.  48.9 million Americans are at risk of hunger - including one in five kids. Nearly 50 million Americans are living in poverty.  Hunger, homelessness, and poverty are devastating for individuals and our communities. This is unacceptable, unjust, and illogical.

We know that effective, commonsense policies like SNAP and EITC lift people out of poverty. We know that Rapid Rehousing and Housing First models reduce homelessness. We know that innovative philanthropic endeavors like Collective Impact and Social Impact Bonds can transform the way government, nonprofits, and local communities work together to tackle our toughest challenges. We know we can band together and create change.

Now Is The Time to get this done.

This site will feature a collection of personal reflections, original ideas, and smart thinking from around the country and the globe on the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty.  We'll check in with thought leaders and discuss ways we can create change. We will also highlight ways to leverage two of my favorite things - National Service and the philanthropic sector. 

Can Philanthropy Spark Social Change?

This morning Do Something posted the following on Twitter:

It is such a great question – one that my staff challenges me with each day. Who leads? Who should lead? Who is most effective at leading social change?

I thought about this last week as I sat in a room of 750 do-gooders celebrating philanthropy.   After a long evening of disappointing (national) election results, I was eager for inspiration and chocolate cake.  The AFP’s annual Philanthropy Day celebration recognizes individuals and businesses who use their hard earned treasures to give back to help people in need and address complex social problems.  I sat in wrong spot missing out on the cake but there was no shortage of generosity and smarts in the room. From a young cancer survivor who turned her illness into action and an inspiring truck stop owner working to stop human trafficking, to leaders in the fight to end homeless – these are our neighbors doing extraordinary things.   I beamed with pride and shed some tears for our community - full of innovation, plush with volunteers and donors, and surrounded by voters willing to tax themselves to improve access to transit and pre-school.

Flash forward to this weekend. I sat in a Queen Anne Coffee Shop and watched a middle aged man pick and eat food from a dumpster.  I listened as a woman talked about being frightened by a homeless man who walked in attempting to get warm (seriously).  And I read the comments of the Seattle Times piece on expanding encampments for people experiencing homelessness. NEVER READ THE DAMN COMMENTS! Despite all the smart people, the generosity, and the collective assets, we live in a community that struggles (morally and practically) to tackle the very basics of putting food on the table and a roof over head.

How do we change that?  We know that charity alone will not solve hunger, homelessness, or poverty. Strong and well funded public policies that support jobs, housing, healthcare, and safety-net resources are needed. But how do we get there?

Do we need a more robust organized movement?

Will an organic movement succeed?

Does either have sufficient tools and resources?

Or, do we need both. Should philanthropy do more to spark social change by investing in advocacy and influence?  Can we harness our collective resources and assets in new ways – engaging more people and ultimately be more effective? This series in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the Value of Intentional Influence is giving me much to think about. Would love to hear your thoughts.