1000 Residents Give Voice to New Vision and Direction for Brooklyn Community Foundation

 
 
Pictured: At left, Brooklyn Community Foundation President & CEO Cecilia Clarke presents the new strategy; Director of Community Leadership Tynesha McHarris (far right) interviews of panel of community leaders on key themes from Brooklyn Insights.

 
Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation released the findings of its six-month boroughwide community engagement project, Brooklyn Insights, alongside a new action plan for the Foundation’s grantmaking and special initiatives in Brooklyn. The announcement took place at an event of over 200 people this morning at the Brooklyn Museum.
 
Last January, the Foundation launched Brooklyn Insights in a unique effort to hold a dialogue across neighborhoods about Brooklyn’s future. Nearly 1,000 residents and local leaders participated in the process, sharing their concerns about challenges in their communities and sectors, as well as opportunities they see for positive change in a borough where nearly half of all residents are living in or near poverty. The project was launched as a key learning initiative under the Foundation’s new President and CEO Cecilia Clarke, who took the helm of the institution in September 2013.  
 
 
“As the first and only foundation for New York City’s largest and fastest growing borough, we felt it was imperative to be a bold force at this time of rapid change and uncertainty,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President Cecilia Clarke. “But to be truly effective, we knew we needed to go into neighborhoods, sit down with residents and leaders, and hear about their experiences and insights. We wanted to construct a fresh approach to supporting community-led change, led by the ideas and expertise of those who live here and work here.”
 
“This is the most exciting time in our five years as a community foundation,” said the Foundation’s Board Chair Alan Fishman. “We’re emboldened by the voices of a thousand Brooklynites pushing our work forward. The challenge is great, but the opportunities are greater. Brooklyn—with all of its amazing assets—is the perfect place to pilot new approaches and show that philanthropy and communities can work together to make a real, lasting impact.”  
 
The Brooklyn Insights Final Report (Download PDF; Project Website: www.BrooklynInsights.org) provides an overview of these conversations, and details five major themes that emerged in the course of the project: Neighborhood Cohesion, Youth, Criminal Justice, Immigrant Communities, and Racial Justice.
 
The report also outlines key statistics underscoring participants’ concerns, including surging economic inequality, a 10% rise in homelessness over the past year, a poverty rate of 35% for children in Brooklyn, an overwhelming disparity in the population of young people in juvenile detention facilities (95% black and Latino), and an influx of new immigrants with two in five Brooklyn residents now foreign-born.
 
“In nearly every Brooklyn Insights meeting, we heard about the dramatic pace of real estate development and gentrification around the borough,” adds Clarke. “The result has been greater fragmentation and inequality within and across neighborhoods, which is particularly acute in the lives of young people of color living in poverty, who are seen as both the greatest asset and vulnerability for the future of their communities.”
 
Viewing the five themes as levers of change, the Foundation has developed a new vision and mission for its work, and a new approach to funding community-based initiatives. In 2015, the Foundation will launch four new core programs, each of which will address barriers to equity for low income residents and people of color.
 
Through Invest in Youth, the largest of these efforts, the Foundation will focus on increasing opportunities and outcomes for young people by tackling issues related to juvenile justice, immigrant families, and youth leadership and development. Through the Focus on Neighborhoods initiative, the Foundation will foster local leadership and community strength, beginning in Crown Heights, where it recently moved its headquarters.
 
Additionally, the Foundation will launch a unique awards program—Brooklyn’s Best—to recognize the excellence and innovation of select local organizations each year. And a new Brooklyn Accelerator program will aim to tailor solutions and connections for nonprofits and donors, including a new incubator hub for budding organizations within the Foundation’s new offices.
 
The first of these new core programs will begin in early 2015, and each program will be led by a committee of the Foundation's board members, donors, community leaders, and experts in the sector. For more information, visit http://BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org/programs-impact/core-programs.  
 
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About Brooklyn Community Foundation

Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. Established in 2009 as the first and only charitable foundation for New York City’s largest borough, the Foundation has granted nearly $20 million in partnership with generous donors to address critical needs and advance innovative nonprofit programs across Brooklyn. In January 2014, the Foundation launched Brooklyn Insights, a comprehensive community engagement project designed to bring hundreds of residents and leaders together to discuss Brooklyn’s future and help develop a new, high impact approach for the Foundation grantmaking and special initiatives. Learn more at www.BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org.