Strengthening Communities

It’s an ever-clear sky today. Just as it was in 2001. And yet ever-clear and jet trails slicing September blue-skies then are now reminders, important ones, of the events of 9/11 and the losses and learnings we have experienced since.

War and tragedy have always brought us together as a people, but we need more regular experiences that foster the understanding that we are in a common enterprise. When the Founders penned the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, they weren't just talking about an individual right, but a common undertaking that we help one another to achieve.

California's historic drought has us talking about access to water — who gets it, where to store it, how much it should cost — for the first time in 50 years. Many of us have taken water for granted and can use much less. At the same time, empty wells and desperate drilling should remind us how vulnerable many households are. Access to water is a human right, even in a drought.

In Pennsylvania, we’ve recently seen the failure of our state’s political leadership become a threat to many local nonprofits that provide much-needed assistance to our friends and neighbors. The governor and the state Legislature have not yet agreed on a budget, which has frozen funding for nonprofits that depend on those dollars. Some nonprofits are almost entirely dependent on state funding for their operations. Others operate with little or no state funds. Which organizations will be affected, and how badly they will be affected, will depend in part on how long the impasse in Harrisburg drags on. Nevertheless, in prior budget impasses, the challenges to local communities have been significant. When a state government fails its constituents, it is up to communities to sustain those in need. That’s where community foundations come in.

This morning, Council President and CEO Vikki Spruill helped launch a new platform on the Huffington Post that highlights important developments and leading thinkers on social innovation. The blog features thoughts from leaders such as Clara Miller of the F.B. Heron Foundation and Maria Rodale of the Rodale Institute.

This webinar discussed the role of a funder relative to the local community when working in place, and addressed additional challenges when initiating a place-based initiative. The webinar included lessons learned from The Aspen Institute and Neighborhood Funders Group’s Towards a Better Place Conference including how others have dealt with the various challenges involved in place-based grantmaking, and advice from the field on how to improve upon current practices.

Even as the high human, economic, environmental, and planetary costs of climate change come into sharper focus, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, tightening the timeframe for a transition to a low-carbon future. Climate change exacerbates growing pressures on life-sustaining resources, including freshwater, soil, and biodiversity. We all have a stake in efforts to mitigate the emissions that contribute to climate change and to increase adaptive capacity to cope with its effects.

Welcome to San Francisco! What a way to kick off a conference in such an amazing place! The Bay Area represents so much to so many. This community has incubated great iconoclasts -- leaders, like Harvey Milk, Clint Eastwood, and Maya Angelou. Some of the leading technology companies on the planet are here shaping how we interface with the world. The natural beauty of this region inspired a world-wide conservation effort, as well as the art of Ansel Adams and so many others.