Last Wednesday, the Council on Foundations interns took a trip to the Public Welfare Foundation (PWF), where we were hosted by three people. Candace C. Jones, president and CEO, Sarah Joy Albrecht, program analyst, and Alyssa Piccirilli, director of administration.
Each of our hosts gave a brief introduction on where they were from and how they got to where they are. Prior to working at PWF, Candace Jones served as the Senior Advisor at Chicago CRED, an organization that focuses on stopping gun violence in the Windy City. Sarah Albrecht is also from Illinois and has worked in a wide variety of places centered around serving the community. Alyssa Piccirilli has been employed by the PWF since 2010; her job includes human resources, office operations and preparation of the Foundation’s annual budget.
After their introduction, the three spoke about the organization’s role in helping the justice system to become fairer. As many know, the U.S. is known as the “incarceration nation” because it imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country. The connection between the United States’ nickname correlates directly with the three issues PWF targets the most: Criminal Justice, Youth Justice and Workers’ rights.
Once they finished talking about PWA’s activities, our group was able to ask a total of three questions due to limited time. Our detailed inquires were about solitary confinement under the age of 18, how the causes of adult and youth crime affect their daily work and how do [they] balance the normal Grantmaker request for metrics and concrete deliverables with the desire to effect lasting social change. The three answered us saying that the challenges the PWF faces are issues that philanthropy faces as a practice and a sector. [The PWF] sees its role as funding programs and entering spaces that may not be feasible for other groups and foundations.
After we finished up the conversation, the seven of us had the pleasure of touring their headquarters. Their complex is called the True Reformer Building. The structure has a very rich history; it was designed, financed, built and owned by the African-American community after Reconstruction. Over the years, it has been a home to many different organizations, including the DC Chapter of the National Negro Business League. The building was purchased by PWF in 1999, and since then they have completely remodeled it to look more modern and pristine.
Our tour was the closing act of visiting PWA. We want to thank them again for having us and taking the time to answer questions and show us around.