I closed 2017 with the celebration of a life.
In December, Manuel Gutierrez, the former co-director of the OMG Center – now Equal Measure – passed far too early from this earth. Manuel was a friend, colleague, and mentor. His intrinsic love of learning, optimism, and empathy, and his fondness for the exploration of ideas, had an indelible impact on my professional and personal growth, and that of Equal Measure as an organization. During his life celebration, attended by so many family members, friends, and former co-workers, we recalled him as a compassionate intellectual, and I could not think of a more apt description for this remarkable man.
As we take our first strides into the new year, my memories of Manuel -wrapped in the fabric of optimism, empathy, learning, and mentorship -inspire my outlook for 2018 and beyond. While I acknowledge that many of the daunting, even frightening, forces that dominate our political and social landscape continue to loom, I choose to remain hopeful that social change can take hold – and grow.
We know that deep structural change takes time, and that evidence of this change can seem incremental. Yet I am encouraged by the measurable progress and success of our clients and partners in the field. I am inspired by the shifts we see across 21 communities in the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions’ Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund to reconnect young people to educational and career opportunities; and by StriveTogether and Lumina Foundation’s momentum in improving cradle to career educational outcomes in more than 150 cities and regions combined. I am heartened by the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation’s Get HYPE Philly!, the BUILD Health Challenge, and the HealthSpark Foundation’s progress in galvanizing healthier communities, and strengthening health systems and safety nets. Over the past three years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has successfully advanced sustainable two-generation solutions that have immediate impact on family economic stability and security. And the Irvine Foundation has built enduring multi-sector partnerships to ensure economic opportunity for youth and working families across entire regions in California. These efforts are not tinkering at the edges; they are redesigning entire systems, changing narratives and mindsets, shifting power and resources, bringing to the fore community priorities and assets, and seeing measurable progress.
In each of these endeavors – as well as in those I have not mentioned, but are equally important – I celebrate the combination of intellectual acuity, compassion, and resolve demonstrated by our clients and partners, despite an often-hostile national context. My Equal Measure colleagues and I see ourselves as allies and partners in these change efforts, with a vested stake in the outcomes.
My optimism for 2018 also stems from how Equal Measure is prepared to enter the year. Last fall, we launched a refined organizational strategy, what we call a Journey of Strategy, Learning, and Impact. At the core of this strategy is a commitment to deepen our impact with clients and partners, aligned with issues that we care deeply about. We want our work to translate clearly into the enduring program, policy, and systems changes that our clients seek. And we want – and need to be – part of the change that we seek. To do so in this socio-political landscape, Equal Measure will become bolder in how we engage with our clients as vested partners, more focused on learning and application, more direct in how we engage community stakeholders in our work, and more deliberate in how we support our partners’ capacity for greater impact, always guided by our unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Also fundamental to Equal Measure’s Journey of Strategy, Learning, and Impact is a commitment to strengthen the expertise and leadership of our team. I know that our clients and partners benefit from the knowledge -informed by a mosaic of lived experiences – that our team brings to every engagement. I am honored to work alongside these multi-talented and passionate seasoned professionals and next generation leaders in our sector. This year, we will continue to stretch and challenge ourselves. We will hone our skills in innovative methodologies and culturally responsive practices; explore new approaches to strengthening sector capacity, learning, strategy, and narrative change so that we can bring even more value to our projects; and expand the diversity of perspectives we offer our clients and the field in this ever-changing context.
Along with engaging in new ways with our clients and partners, and enhancing the strength and expertise of our team, Equal Measure will further sharpen our thought leadership, with the goal to make communities stronger, healthier, more equitable, and more inclusive. We will continue to lead conversations about the role of equity in philanthropic investments, and advance communication efforts and calls to action that support systems change in our clients’ cities, regions, and neighborhoods. And we will elevate our voice with strength and empathy when we witness political actions that tear at the pillars of our civil institutions and social policies we value so deeply.
That is why I choose to be hopeful about 2018. I believe we can celebrate the possible, honor the challenges, and together advance the change we all desire. Join us in the journey ahead!