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Big Change Ahead… [Guest Post by Tamara Lucas Copeland]

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Guest post by Tamara Lucas Copeland, President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

With job losses, home foreclosures and other symptoms of the recession taking a stern toll in the Washington area, grantmakers in the region have worked hard to support efforts by nonprofits to help families ride out the storm.

But grantmakers have learned a lesson from this recession, one they won’t soon forget: they need long-term strategies aimed at achieving true systemic reform—not just short-term projects that fix symptoms, but “big change” to fix big problems. Doing that requires that they mobilize the full scope of their assets—not just their dollars, but their unique capacity to bring people together to share ideas and marshal their resources.

A recent survey of Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers members confirms that local philanthropies have taken a hit during the recession, not surprising given that their investments were rocked when the bottom fell out of the stock market. They’ve had to reduce their grants this year as a result, and they expect to do even more of that next year.

Even with all that working against them, grantmakers have begun to implement a new style of giving, one that takes dead aim at the causes behind deeply rooted problems. Such grantmaking is the subject of Washington Grantmakers’ new report, Beyond Dollars: Investing in Big Change: How Washington Area Grantmakers Are Creating Lasting Impact. Focusing on a series of case studies, the report identifies four distinct elements of grantmaking that goes “beyond dollars” to achieve big change:

* Capitalizing on timing and momentum. By coordinating local and regional action with national initiatives, timing action to coincide with groundswells of public sentiment or moments of crisis, grantmakers are translating a vision for change into on-the-ground progress.
* Being a strong voice for change. By creating a platform for affected communities to engage in the policy dialogue, and sharing information with the media, policymakers and others, grantmakers are creating energy to drive change.
* Leveraging key resources. By supporting research, combining their knowledge and experience, and using their dollars to open the door to national and government funding sources, local grantmakers are creating the building blocks for change.
* Building true partnerships. By bringing organizations and individuals together in new collaborations, grantmakers are strengthening the agents of change.

Put into action in recent years, those strategies have made a real difference in the lives of our neighbors in the Washington area. For instance, as The Community Foundation’s September 11 Survivors’ Fund accumulated $25 million from more than 12,000 donors, foundation leaders asked: what will it truly take to help people heal? The Fund locked arms with Northern Virginia Family Service to pursue a case management approach. The two organizations’ intensive, seven-year partnership resulted in a model system of care–case management combined with financial support–which proved better at addressing complex long-term needs than “quick distribution” approaches.

Despite the recession, local funders are continuing such transformational grantmaking. Building on its continuing commitment to direct services, The Community Foundation’s Neighbors in Need Montgomery Fund recently announced support for a new systemic approach to delivering emergency services in isolated neighborhoods in Montgomery County to ensure services are reaching those who most need them. A partnership between IMPACT Silver Spring and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, the Neighbors Campaign hopes to leverage other community resources to sustain long-term recovery for those in crisis; create a new, sustainable network of mutual support in isolated neighborhoods and increase the number of people embarking or staying on a path toward secure employment and greater economic empowerment. Later this month, The Community Foundation will announce a new round of Neighbors in Need grants aimed at strengthening the safety-net infrastructure and system through which safety-net services are provided.

Grantmakers are continuing to provide dollars to feed the hungry and provide medical care for the poor, and in countless other ways to care for those in need. But they’re also taking aim at the broader causes of such problems, using all the tools available to them. The saying goes that if you give a hungry person a fish they’ll eat for a day, but if you teach them to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime. What grantmakers are beginning to do is more akin to restocking the river with sustainable species of fish! Such strategic grantmaking is where foundations are headed, indeed, where they absolutely must go. The recession won’t prevent that. In fact, it makes the transition all the more imperative.

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  1. chris

    Here's some GOOD news– this is Ben Stein's secret to ending the recession!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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