Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Ray of Hope for Kids in Results of Election?

It would impossible to overstate how pre-occupied all of Washington will be with the election results. The House will almost certainly be majority Republican and the conventional wisdom will be that there is much about which the country is divided. But one area where elected officials may find common ground is ensuring a healthy start for our kids.

The new political make-up of Congress and huge deficits will make it very difficult to start new programs, But Share Our Strength’s strategy for ending childhood hunger doesn’t depend on proposing new programs. Instead it depends on more effective use of existing programs like school breakfast and summer feeding.

Congress and the President will be forced to work together and fashion bi-partisan solutions. On childhood hunger there is a long track record of doing just that: working together to expand school lunch, school breakfast, summer feeding, and SNAP (food stamps).

There are many issues for which we may not yet have or agree upon solutions: job creation, climate change, threat of terrorism. But childhood hunger is not one of those. We know it is solvable and what works to solve it. This may be a chance to surprise the nation and get some big things done for our children.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Creating Community Wealth - The Next Generation

Yesterday I spent an hour via video conference with 25 students from the Honors College at the University of Alabama. Incoming freshman there are assigned The Cathedral Within to read over the summer and they wanted to have a discussion about finding careers in community service that would enable them to have the most powerful impact.

They had a lot of great questions about whether nonprofit work can sustain itself and get to scale, about what kind of investments nonprofits need to make in their own capacity, and about the organizational leadership required to create built-to-last organizations. They were all freshman, from all parts of the country, just beginning their education, and determined to chart a course of service and civic engagement but with real concerns about the sustainability of such a path.

It was a timely reminder that the consequences of Community Wealth Ventures' pioneering work go beyond the impressive results we get for our clients.  A new generation, as represented by the students I met with yesterday, is looking to us to make their hopes real – and to create possibilities that have not yet existed for them to change their communities and the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The politics of helping hungry kids

You’ve probably noticed that the media these past few days has been reinforcing the conventional wisdom with new polls and projections of Republican gains in both the House and among Governors races. The Cook Political report shows a near record 87 house seats that would be considered competitive or toss-ups.

I think almost any variation of this likely outcome in November means at least three things for our Share Our Strength’s childhood hunger strategy:

 To the extent that we have been political but not partisan, and reasonably moderate in our approach so far, our anti-hunger advocacy may be better positioned to succeed on Capitol Hill.

 In the next Congress when any initiatives that require new spending will face a very steep climb, and many programs will face cuts, our strategy of focusing at the state level and increasing access to existing food and nutrition programs may have more appeal than ever. Particularly as the impact if the recession lingers, Governors of both parties may be attracted to programs that bring badly needed dollars to their states.

 The Obama Administration will be forced to work more closely with the opposition party and because food and nutrition programs have a track record of bipartisan support, they may represent a common ground on which we can achieve surprising progress on behalf of America’s kids.