The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) recently announced $50,000 in grant funding to five organizations.
WFRI was launched in 2001, and since then its WFRI Grant Program has awarded more than $700,000 to Rhode Island organizations and programs empowering women and girls. In the most recent cycle of funding, prospective grantees were asked to focus on one or more of WFRI’s 2019 advocacy priorities, which include disparities for Women of Color, economic justice and reproductive health and freedom.
Women and girls comprise 52 percent of Rhode Island’s population of roughly one million, and Women and Girls of Color represent 27 percent of all female Rhode Islanders. The WFRI report “Women of Color 2018: A Snapshot,” produced in conjunction with the Economic Progress Institute at Rhode Island College, reveals that as is the case in many other states, Rhode Island Women and Girls of Color have lower levels of education than their white counterparts, have greater difficulty paying for housing, and are more likely to live in poverty. Rhode Island Women of Color are employed at higher rates than Whites, yet are over-represented in lower wage jobs in health care and social assistance including child care workers, personal care aides and nursing assistants.
The 23-person field vying for the Democratic nomination for president includes six women: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson. Two of them (Harris and Warren) are seen as having decent odds of taking the nomination, while Klobuchar is a potential dark horse.
But will these women be torpedoed by press coverage that holds them to a different standard than their male counterparts? The women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet Action says that is a very real danger, and decries the sexist coverage so far exhibited by the mainstream media.
Collectively, state legislatures passed 288 restrictions on women’s reproductive rights between 2010 to 2015. Now, a new film tells the stories of women’s horrific health experiences, and the imprisonments, both actual and threatened, that are a consequence of these laws.
Birthright: A War Story is a new documentary that exposes the radical religious right’s infiltration state legislatures. This movement’s goal is not only to strike down women’s constitutional right to abortion but also to curb women’s access to birth control. Some seek to put the rights of fetuses above those of women.
This is the Real-Life ‘Handmaid’s Tale’
The 1 hour, 40 minute film just completed a highly successful week’s run in New York City before engaged and enthusiastic audiences. This Friday, July 28 it opens in Beverly Hills at theLaemmle Music Hall for another one week run. These two theatrical runs qualify the film for consideration for an Academy Award, a critical step in a documentary’s path to notoriety and success.
Director Civia Tamarkin, a seasoned televisioninvestigative journalist, was motivated to produce BIRTHRIGHT after the Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in Hobby Lobby. “I was shocked not only by the Supreme Court ruling, but by the lack of awareness from young women that their rights were being jeopardized. People were not taking to the streets.”
Unlike most filmmaking, Tamarkin said, “Ironically, it proved easier to raise money than to get people to go on camera.” The director underscored in an interview with Philanthropy Women, “Practitioners were reluctant to come forward. They were worried about repercussions…..especially about repercussions of violence. ”
Lest we forget, the National Abortion Federationkeeps records of this violence. Eleven people have died and 26 attempted murders have occurred due to anti-abortion violence. A federal law, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE or the Access Act), passed in 1994 to address such violence.Rewire recently produced an informative short video about the daily harassment that continues to occur at clinics.
Dr. Ruth Shaber, after a twenty five year career as an obstetrician and gynecologist, in 2014 created the Tara Health Foundation. The mission of Tara Health is to “improve the health and well-being of women and girls through the creative use of philanthropic capital.” Tara Health Foundation takes a holistic approach to its grant making as well as its capital management.
Most intriguing to this author was Shaber’s focus on bringing the principles of evidence-based health medicine into philanthropy. She explained,“Evidence-based health is conceived using science. You have an intervention, and then you look at the impact on a desired outcome. In philanthropy, on both the granting-making and the investment side, decisions are more driven by intuition. It is not a sufficient scientific methodology.”
At a national meeting, Shaber heard Dr. David Grimes of the Center for Disease Control speak of the threats to public health that regressive abortion laws are creating. Shaber, as a doctor turned philanthropist, came home from that meeting in November 2015 and realized: “We needed to remind people that abortion and contraception were protecting women’s health.”
Shaber started networking like crazy, on a mission to make a movie akin to An Inconvenient Truth for women’s health. “I knew nothing about filmmaking or media, but I put my name out there and let people know that I was interested in doing this work.”
Those in film know how exceedingly rare it is for a potential backer to be knocking on the door of a film director, but not long after putting out the word, Dr. Shaber heard of Tamarkin’s project and called her up. By this time, Tamarkin had completed development and shot a few interviews, enough to create a fundraising trailer.
The two women realized their goals were aligned. Instead of a grant, they struck up an equity investment agreement. Dr. Shaber recounted, “I wanted to have more of a business relationship with the film, so we had to strike new ground.”
Shaber and Tamarkin found very few in the foundation world who could advise them. But by discussing strategies, the two were able to conceive up a straight-up investment plan. The key selling point of the strategy for investors would be that they would be able to say that profits from the film would be returned to Tara Health Foundation and be deployed for the reproductive rights of women and girls.
The $675,000 equity investment from Tara Health Foundation enabled Tamarkin and her production team to concentrate solely on conducting the interviews, editing and polishing the completed film. Ruth Shaber became an executive producer of the film, in essence leveraging both financial and human capital to produce the film.
In addition to investing in the production, Tara Health Foundation has also provided a $325,000 grant for community outreach for the film. In this writer’s experience, this promotional work is a most vital component of the process, and is rare in the production of independent advocacy films like Birthright. Picture Motion, with a track record in this arena, has been hired to design the national campaign strategy that will maximize the film’s social impact.
Dr. Shaber is optimistic about the outreach screenings. “Each one will have its own character whether it is individuals or organizations, whether they do them as fundraisers or awareness builders.” So far, one outreach screening has occurred in Colorado, a very successful event organized by the American Civil Liberties Union in conjunction withnumerous other groups. Birthright’s theatrical distributor, Abramorama, just launched the commercial/art house run of the film, which precedes any community campaign.
Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director ofColorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), one of the participating organizations in the July 10 community screening, talked about the value of the film in terms of women and maternal health, noting that the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world where maternal mortality is on the rise. “Women of color are experiencing an increase in pregnancy complications. On top of this tragic and unacceptable public health crisis, the bodies and pregnancies of marginalized communities are a target of unjust and discriminatory laws and policies.”
In an interview with Philanthropy Women, Baden noted that laws restricting abortion and other reproductive rights are often pushed through hostile state legislatures without input from the very women who will feel their impact most. “Anti-abortion legislators should – at the very least – listen to stories like those featured in Birthright and be forced to grapple with the consequences of using women’s healthcare to score political points.”
State legislatures are not the only problem. A fundraising appeal from Jodi Jacobson, publisher ofRewire, sent out July 19, reminds readers that Teresa Manning, who now runs the Office of Population Affairs at the CDC, does not support evidence-based health contraception. “[She] relies on junk science and falsehoods to advocate for anti-choice policies,” the Rewire appeal states. $286 million is at Manning’s disposal in federal family planning funds to low-income Americans. Decades of health progress for women are at stake.
When asked about how Birthright fit into the long history of women’s health films likeAfter Tiller andTrapped, director, writer, and executive producer Tamarkan was adamant that “Birthright is an overview. The issue is not abortion. It is about women’s bodily integrity.”
Additional theatrical screenings are in the works. Small Star Art House in York, Pennsylvania, is listed, as isGateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio.Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY is on the roster, too. None yet have dates. Other potential screenings are in the works in Lincoln, Nebraska: Dallas and Austin, Texas, and Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona.
If you want updates on the screenings, keep checking the Birthrightwebsite. If you want a screening in your community, simultaneously contact your local movie theatre and fill out the form on Birthright’s webpage. Make it happen. You’ll be glad you did. Women Make Movies is handling educational distribution for college campus campaigns.
“Fabulously,” was Shaber’s response when asked how the New York opening screenings went. “I think we are really lighting a match under people so they are connecting to an issue that they have not thought about enough.”
(Full disclosure, the author is a co-founder of Women Make Movies, the non-profit, educational feminist film organization.)
Editor’s Note: Betsy McKinney, Founder and CEO of It’s Time Network and author of this post, was recently invited to speak at an event in honor of Women’s History Month at the U.S. State Department. She gave an overview on the need for collective impact infrastructure and initiatives in the women’s sector, and explained the purpose of It’s Time Network and the Network City Program.
Everyone responded vigorously during the presentation when Betsy said that we need a collective impact structure that acts as an AARP for women, and that we can and should fund it ourselves as women over time. People also responded well to the need for shared measurement and the Women’s Well-Being Index. At the end, women from Malaysia, Nepal and Afghanistan asked how they can join the Network City Program. Betsy gave them copies of ITN’s Mayors Guide and they are eager to consider how they can also use the guide and recommendations.
After the unprecedented success of the Women’s Marches, everyone is asking, “What’s next?”
It’s time to build and fund women’s collective power at the city, state and national levels and beyond.
While writing postcards to members of Congress, donating to women’s organizations, participating in online petitions, and running for office are all critically important individual actions that woman can take, we need to consider long-term, collective action as well. Collective action requires that we connect in new ways to build common agendas, work together more effectively and track progress (and regression) in the areas that matter to us as women.
This work is not a sprint. It’s a marathon that we can “train” to achieve sustained impact in addition to short-term milestones. It’s time to build and fund network infrastructure at the local, state and national levels to support robust cross-sector collaboration and achieve the outcomes that are possible through collective impact work.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review popularized the theory of collective impact and notes that large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. Currently, people working in environmental issues are often separate from social and racial justice leaders and many organizations are still too isolated. That isolation is a result of both segmented issues and incentive structures that lead to competition for limited resources. Most organizations compete for funding from the same sources and find it hard to collaborate with other organizations even when they have common interests. Without a permanent structure for supporting collaboration within an issue area or even across issues, such efforts are often only temporary campaigns for one specific goal rather than sustained coordinations.
At It’s Time Network we are building a national Network City Program to create the capacity for collective action beginning at the local level. With two pilot cities, in San Francisco and Denver and as more cities join the network, the capacity for collective action can begin to scale to the state and national levels. Additionally, each city and or state has international organizations that can join the network, which strengthens our global connections as well.
The work ahead lies beyond simple partisan divides. People from every part of the political spectrum are waking up and exercising their civic muscles. It’s not just about women and women’s rights, either. It is pro-democracy, pro-“justice for all”, pro-equality, pro-inclusion, and pro-love and non-violence. It’s about building bridges. Women have an important role to play in healing divides, modeling cooperation, and leading truth and reconciliation processes. Women are actively building inclusive, compassionate communities that can work together.
While it’s imperative for women to respond to immediate concerns in our world, the next steps must also identify and establish what we want and how to achieve it.
The Mayors Guide to Accelerating Gender Equality is part of a dashboard of tools for our Network City Program that details solutions. The guide is a readily accessible “toolkit” that provides recommendations, resources, and a checklist of actions a city can take in 11 different issue areas to improve the lives of women and girls and to strengthen communities. It is a tool for sharing best practices from city to city, and currently, the guide is being used to build a common women’s agenda for Denver. This spring, It’s Time Network is partnering with the Denver Office on Women and Families and the Mayor of Denver to produce It’s Time 2017: Denver Gender Equity Summit on May 31st.
Getting clear about exactly what we want is important as we use data to understand the current status of women to inform any actions that we take. What is the current status of women? And how can we meaningfully compare our circumstances from one geography to another? The California Women’s Well-Being Index is an important new tool for comparing the status of women county by county across the state. Developing this tool and creating a Well-Being Index for every state is critical for using data to inform our work together. As we identify areas of greatest need in each state, strategic collective impact initiatives can be designed to engage diverse organizations and stakeholders, and to support collaboration across sectors and among non-profits, business, government, private donors and others. By being data-driven and with tools to measure goals and outcomes, we can achieve long term change and impact. The Network City Program taken to scale, will be a powerful organizing structure for women to use in every community to ground the immense power and passion that has arisen over the past few months.
Building and maintaining a robust national collective impact infrastructure requires transformative funding. This work has been designed, is being piloted and is ready to go to scale. While it’s critical to fund the further development of this program, it is equally important to ensure that the long term funding of this work is a “collective ownership model” and is not forever reliant upon outside funding.
It’s time for women to “own our power” and to own the infrastructure and services that support us. With an innovative funding model, It’s Time Network is pioneering the concept of “women’s collective economic independence.” We cannot rely long term upon the government, corporations, large foundations, or even large private donors. The initial support they give is essential to seed this work, and women can and will always work with these vital funding partners and allies. Yet, it’s critical for us as women to grow the number of women who become participants in the national network so we can build our micro-funding capacity. We can and must rely upon ourselves and build a culture of women’s collective independence from generation to generation.
The Women’s Future Fund at It’s Time Network is part of the ownership model for building women’s collective economic independence. Growing this unprecedented national, collective asset, is tied to the growth of the Network City Program to ensure a distributed decision making model with diverse women leaders at the grassroots (inclusive of women’s city or state foundations) determining the allocation of funds, city by city.
Women have an essential role to play in what’s next not just after the election, but in all aspects of decision making about our world. Anxiety is high as the global challenges seem daunting. As women, we must ground our efforts in stable, loving, creative and collaborative actions that demonstrate our ability to heal and transform our world. It’s time to build our partnerships, grow our collective capacity and promote a vision of a world that we know is possible.
Ten years into her signature philanthropic endeavor, Lumos, author J.K. Rowling has grown increasingly vocal about her disdain for developing world orphanages that do nothing to address the underlying needs of children and families.
Readers here at The Chronicle of Social Change know about the damage that child welfare systems can do to children, but perhaps even more damaging are money-driven orphanage systems, where children can suffer extreme neglect and lifetime attachment issues. And parents, often because of poverty, are deprived of the opportunity to raise their children.
“Globally, poverty is the no. 1 reason that children are institutionalized. Well-intentioned Westerners supporting orphanages perpetuate this highly damaging system and encourage the creation of more institutions as money magnets,” tweeted Rowling in late August, when expressing her fury at a voluntourism charity that was offering young adults the “CV-distinguishing” opportunity to volunteer in an orphanage in Moldova, where they could “play and interact” with children ”in desperate need of affection.”
The murder of two women joggers in the past week has focused new attention on sexual violence against women. Over the past few years, this issue has been on the agendas of several key sectors of society—including universities, which have grappled with campus sexual assaults; professional sports, where top players have stood accused of attacks; and the military, where rape is common.
Philanthropy is another sector paying attention, with new sources of funding appearing in recent years.
Last year, we mentioned that a documentary on campus sexual assault, The Hunting Ground, had inspired a funding effort that includes resources at NEO Philanthropy, an intermediary that works with both funders and nonprofits. It’s not clear how much money that effort has raised, or what these funds have been used for. What is clear that the film brought major attention to campus sexual assault, an issue that has drawn in other funders, too—most notably the Avon Foundation, as we’ve reported.
Do you ever wonder what motivates someone to give money? Obviously, the answer is “yes” if you’re a professional fundraiser. But those who give may also wonder what’s really causing them to reach for that checkbook.
Research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute sheds light on this area, particularly as it pertains to women at every level of society. Now, WPI has released a study showing for the first time that women are motivated by personal experience to give to causes that benefit women and girls specifically.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, it’s actually significant, useful information. Women’s tendency to donate money to specific causes based on experiences like having a child or discrimination suggests that philanthropy might take off in new directions as women become primary asset-holders in society and further increase their giving.
Like many who follow philanthropy, I pay attention to the Rockefellers. No family has done more to shape modern giving over the past century. But what are the Rockefellers doing these days to change the world?
Well, for one thing, as most of us have heard, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund took the major step not long ago of beginning to divest from fossil fuels—a move that received enormous attention given that the family’s wealth is famously derived from Standard Oil. Less well known is that the Rockefeller Family Fund is also divesting.
One member of the Rockefeller clan deeply involved in these issues is Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a fourth generation Rockefeller who previously served as a trustee and vice chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She is also President of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve in Maine.
Currently, Goodwin (that had originally been her middle name, after an ancestor on her mother’s side) is Co-Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. She is also a Research Associate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Director of Frontier Thinking in Sustainable Development and Human Well-Being, a digital Social Science Library that was created at Tufts for distribution to 100 low-income countries that have poor internet access.
We’ve written about Living Cities before, particularly its collaborative work with Bloomberg Philanthropies, and its partnership with the Citi Foundation to create the City Accelerator, a program that builds both local economies and government efficiency.
Now, Living Cities has announced a new Blended Catalyst Fund which will bring together $31 million in funding for distressed cities. This “impact investing debt fund” will address tough urban problems like affordable housing and homelessness, as well as catalyzing overall economic development and reducing poverty in the nation’s urban cores.
But what’s really going on here? What’s the impact of women’s leadership in philanthropy in terms of (a) where resources are actually going; and (b) how things are done in the philanthrosphere?
These questions are important to the sector, but they also link up with the larger perennial debate over just how much change occurs when women start calling the shots. Philanthropy offers an intriguing case study in this regard.
Our own impression from IP’s ongoing reporting in this area is that there are good reasons for all the excitement about women’s leadership in philanthropy. In fact, this leadership has mobilized new resources to advance gender equity and does seem to be affecting how philanthropy writ large operates.