Monday, November 28, 2016

Mark Shriver, Pope Francis, The Year of Mercy, Sharing Strength


            My friend Mark Shriver, an ally of ours who runs Save The Children Action Network, has a book being published on Tuesday called Pilgrimage: My Search For the Real Pope Francis.  In connection with that he wrote this op-ed for the New York Times about the Pope and mercy, It is also very much about bearing witness, personal transformation, and how each of us can make a difference in the world.  I think you’ll find that it resonates with our work, especially how one shares their strength, whether Catholic, or as in my case, not.  An excerpt:
“I had considered mercy from an intellectual perspective and believed the pope was essentially calling me to be nicer to people. But he is calling on us to live mercy on a deeply personal basis that changes the very essence of who we are.
In his book “The Name of God Is Mercy,” he described an episode from his time as a rector in Argentina. The parish church sometimes helped out a woman whose husband had left her, and who had turned to prostitution to feed her young children.
            “I remember one day — it was during the Christmas holidays — she came with her children to the College and asked for me. They called me and I went to greet her. She had come to thank me. I thought it was for the package of food from Caritas that we had sent to her. ‘Did you receive it?’ I asked. ‘Yes, yes, thank you for that, too. But I came here today to thank you because you never stopped calling me SeƱora.’ ”
The story forced me to think about how I treated people in need, particularly the homeless man I saw outside my office every day. I occasionally gave him money, but I didn’t stop and look him in the eye; I didn’t ask his name, let alone call him Mister.
Now I know his name is Robert. When I give him money or buy him breakfast, I ask him how he is doing. I don’t do it every time I encounter a homeless person, but I am getting better.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/opinion/sunday/this-merciful-year.html

Mark is an upcoming guest on our podcast Add Passion and Stir, available on iTunes and @ http://addpassionandstir.com/
 

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Thanksgiving Thank You for Sharing Your Strength


Thanksgiving 2016

To all of Share Our Strength’s friends and supporters:

            “I’ve got to step up my game in terms of doing more for my community” chef Tony Maws (Craigie on Main, in Cambridge, MA) told me prior to recording an episode of our podcast Add Passion and Stir last Friday morning. http://addpassionandstir.com/ Tony, active on behalf of Share Our Strength and other nonprofits is already doing a lot, and more than most, but it’s a sentiment I’ve heard at least a dozen times in the last 2 weeks days as so many people respond to the presidential election by committing to become more active either politically or civically. 

A challenge facing those of us in the nonprofit sector is to create vehicles that go beyond fundraising appeals, in which people can share their strengths and engage in ways that feel meaningful to them.   We’ve got to provide paths for direct service and paths to advocacy that improve public policy as well. In addition to Share Our Strength, there are organizations like Be The Change, of which I’m on the board, that offer creative and powerful ways for everyone to get involved @ https://bethechangeinc.org/

            I wish you a great Thanksgiving holiday and well-deserved time with friends and family. Thanks to all of our supporters for making this another incredibly productive and impactful year.  Compared to when we launched the No Kid Hungry campaign, American children at risk of hunger are substantially better off today by virtually every measure – participation rates in school meals, USDA food insecurity statistics, access to emergency food assistance via food banks and pantries, and especially the consensus we’ve helped build that childhood hunger is a solvable problem and that we can and will solve it.   

We still have a ways to go to finish what we started. But it’s hard to imagine anything more worthy of our gratitude than the opportunity we’ve had to make a difference in the lives of millions of kids and families in every part of America who are healthier, stronger, and  more secure because you shared your strength.  Thank you and have a wonderful holiday.

Billy

 

More Great Episodes of Add Passion and Stir Coming on Line


   Last week we recorded three new episodes of Add Passion and Stir: (1) Craigie on Main chef Tony Maws with former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz,  (2) George Jones the CEO of Bread For the City with D.C. chef Spike Mendelsohn of We The Pizza, and (3) chef Karen Akunowicz of Myers and Chang with Eric Schwarz, founder of Citizen Schools and most recently, the College for Social Innovation.  They won’t be released for a few weeks, but several new episodes are available since our initial launch and they include Share Our Strength board member Judy Bigby discussing obesity and the social determinants of health with chef Andy Husbands who grew up in a family that benefitted from food assistance, and chef Bill Telepan of Wellness in Schools with Eric Goldstein  telling how NYC school provide a mind-boggling 1 million meals a day! If you haven’t tuned in to the podcast lately, download from iTunes or catch up @ http://addpassionandstir.com/

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016, The Morning After

My note this a.m. to colleagues at Share Our Strength and Community Wealth Partners:

            I wish I had the wisdom commensurate to the searching and questioning you have this morning. I trust you know I don’t mean this as a partisan comment, but rather to acknowledge that many of us, like many Democrats and Republicans across the country, are left nearly speechless by the results of the presidential election. 

            There will be time enough in the coming days to better understand the implications for our work. For now, my instinct is that quiet reflection will serve us better than immediate armchair analysis. But one dynamic worth trying to understand better is the degree to which the election was decided less on the basis of political party, and more on the basis of income, class and education.

In the days ahead it will be incumbent on us to rededicate ourselves to doing our work in ways that unite not divide, that heal not harm, that share strength rather than exploit weakness. Most of all we need to seek to better understand our own country.  I keep thinking of the words of the late Czech playwright and president Vaclav Havel: “The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Social Determinants of Health and Hunger


The Community Wealth Partners board met yesterday.  The meeting helped me appreciate how they are helping to advance our No Kid Hungry campaign as well as the broader mission of Share Our Strength in ways I’d not been paying enough attention to.  I’m writing so that you can see some of the connections I’ve come to see between their work and ours and the value they create not only for their clients but for our larger mission.  See @ http://communitywealth.com/ 

It was the first meeting for new board member Trenor Williams who is also a generous Share Our Strength donor.  Trenor was a family physician and now a business entrepreneur. He spoke about the company he is building to help physicians gather and use data on the social determinants of health - the conditions people are born into or live in including their socio-economic status, education level, housing, employment -  that affect their health. 

One of Community Wealth Partners clients is NeighborWorks America which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes.  Their CEO Paul Weech provided a testimonial at the beginning of the meeting about the value that Community Wealth Partners’ consultants provided to their strategic planning and to their grant recipients. He spoke of the connection between housing instability and child poverty, and how frequent family moves due to rent and housing costs exacerbate the stresses of poverty on children.  And as we know housing costs often conflict with a family’s ability to provide nutritious food for their children. 

Just as hunger might be a social determinant of health, housing might be considered a social determinant of hunger. It’s just one of many issues Community Wealth Partners works on that enables us to address aspects of poverty while keeping our financial resources targeted toward advancing our core No Kid Hungry strategies.  As we continue to achieve success enrolling kids in school breakfast and summer meals, and improving public policy via advocacy, we also need to better understand and address the social determinants of hunger. Thanks to our colleagues at Community Wealth Partners for helping us do that.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Finding Hope in a New Generation of Leadership


            I devoted much of last week to spending time with students at four colleges across the country: Trinity (in Hartford, Connecticut), Harvard, U of Virginia, and University of Denver.  It was a refreshing respite from life inside the Beltway, and especially from the daily dose of presidential politics.  In some ways it felt like an antidote to the political paralysis and the failure of government to effectively address many of our economic and social challenges.

            At each of the four schools I was speaking on some combination of social entrepreneurship, hunger, poverty and philanthropy.  The students, ranging from undergrads to Masters in Public Policy, were filled with ideas and questions, eager to discuss issues ranging from food waste and hunger, to nonprofit salaries and finding the talent and skills needed to succeed.

            I spent the most time at the University of Denver which is establishing a new Institute of Philanthropy and Social Enterprise under the leadership of David Miller a veteran of both government and philanthropy. Students there lined up for a half hour after my lecture to talk about everything from the needs of the low income high schools from which many of them had come, to how technology might be better leveraged to fight poverty.

            Unlike the politicians battling it out across the country, there was no trace of rancor or grudge held against anyone else. No one played the blame game.  No one demonized those with different views. They were ready to take responsibility for their own future. All they need from the rest of us is to get out of the way.

            At the end of the week I had dinner with my old boss, former Senator Gary Hart, and his wife Lee. They are still keenly interested in American politics, and what Gary emphasizes as the obligation in a republic to put the common good ahead of special interest. “I think I really understood American politics in the 1980’s” Hart said, “and although today’s politics are very different,  I do think there continues to be a latent American idealism that our politicians overlook.”

            He’s put his finger on exactly what I’d experienced all week – a new generation of social entrepreneurs that fills me with hope.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Darren Walker on Pepsi Board: Ethical Dilemma or Ethical Opportunity?


With regard to Ford Foundation President Darren Walker joining the board of PepsiCo, the New York Times asks: “An Activist for the Poor Joins Pepsi’s Board. Is that Ethical?”
The answer has less to do with Mr. Walker joining the board and everything to do with how he behaves on it. Assuming he remains true to the values and personal character that have made him such a compelling and effective leader on issues of poverty and social justice, there’s not only nothing unethical about his new role, but in fact reason to believe he will contribute to even stronger ethical standards for Pepsi as a whole.
If we want corporate America to actually listen to social justice activists, we have to be willing to speak to and with them in their own boardrooms when the opportunities present themselves.  This is how change occurs, not antiseptically at think tanks and foundations but in the push and pull of ideas and arguments across all sectors of nonprofit, government and business – and perhaps most importantly in business.
For 11 years while I as CEO of Share Our Strength, I served on the board of Timberland, and the boot and apparel company (on whose board Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi served before me.)  It was a great learning opportunity for me, but also a chance to shape and influence an already socially conscious company to be even more so.  Darren Walker faces a taller order given Pepsi's business interests in sugary soda’s and fatty snacks. But who better to help them shift toward a healthier and more progressive future?