Kicking Off Our Listening Tour Across Brooklyn
It feels like yesterday that I joined Brooklyn Community Foundation as President and CEO. But as it turns out, the month of May represents half a year working with this wonderful organization, our amazing team, and the people across Brooklyn that make this borough so great. As I continue to engage with so many of you, I always remind myself that in order for a leader to be effective, you have to be slow to speak—and quick to listen.
So far I’ve met with dozens of our supporters and donors, and by the end of the month, I’ll have met one-on-one with nearly 40 grantee partners—and aim to meet with all by the end of my first year. I’ve seen firsthand the creative energy and spirit of innovation that makes Brooklyn such a vibrant and dynamic place to work and live. As the song, Brooklyn’s In the House, reminds us: “Point blank we’re Brooklyn Superstars, the dominators, renovators, educators, populators, money makers, never fakers.”
Still, the unvarnished truth is that our challenges are many, with more on the horizon. Like you, I remain undeterred and unbowed in my commitment to a fair and just Brooklyn. And it’s undeniable that this change must come from within, from local leaders and grassroots organizations.
Launching the Brooklyn Community Foundation Listening Tour
For those of you who know us, you’ve seen how community engagement has been such an integral part of the Foundation’s DNA and has guided our strategy, dating all the way back to the 2014 Brooklyn Insights process.
In that same spirit of partnership, this month I kicked off a listening tour with plans to visit 10 neighborhoods across Brooklyn from May through June, including Canarsie, Brownsville, East New York, Sunset Park, Flatbush, Bushwick, Coney Island, and more. This effort reflects our focus on communities of color that have faced decades of neglect, marginalization, and oppression by racist and xenophobic systems and policies–yet remain vibrant centers of Brooklyn life, culture, history, and new ideas.
Our aim is to meet with at least 15 leaders in each neighborhood – small businesses owners, educators, parent advocates, faith leaders, and of course nonprofits. We’ve found that having these conversations are essential for connecting with Brooklynites who are making a difference across neighborhoods, block by block. And after two years of COVID isolation, these gatherings are especially powerful to reignite community connections and collaboration.
By the end of this process, I aim to have deepened our organizational knowledge of Brooklyn’s communities, increased awareness of the Foundation’s work and opportunities for partnership, and identified new ways we can invest in grassroots leaders and groups beyond our grantmaking.
What We’ve Heard So Far
We’ve already received heart-warming and instructive feedback from some of our meetings to date about what it means to be heard.
“I was humbled by the invitation and even more humbled by the organizations and minds that were also in attendance,” says Simone Muschett, a young nonprofit founder at our Canarsie meeting. ”It was filling to hear from like-minded individuals in our community – and I believe that I can partner with more than half of the attendees who were in the room.”
“I see hope, support, comradery and a bright future for our community, “ added Lucina Clark, executive director, My Time Inc “I pray we can build trust within the community as we engage with each other and thereby support our community,”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Alexis Aquino of the Brownsville Community Culinary Center (BCCC): “It was an honor to be in a room full of so many stakeholders dedicated to the work that makes Brownsville flourish. Many thanks to the Brooklyn Community Foundation for organizing such an incredible think tank. It’s our hope at BCCC that we can continue to host events like these that keep us connected!”
Pictured Above: Participants in the Brownsville Listening Tour
The key findings of these listening tours will be incorporated into our strategic planning work starting this summer as we draft the roadmap for the next five years of the Foundation.
We’ve found that having these conversations are essential for connecting with Brooklynites who are making a difference across neighborhoods, block by block. And after two years of COVID isolation, these gatherings are especially powerful to reignite community connections and collaboration.
Learn With Us
Since Brooklyn is so dynamic and always evolving, our plan is to conduct listening tours annually. It’s my sincere hope that by maintaining this kind of momentum, we can build and deepen authentic relationships, keep a pulse of what’s taking place in our borough, bring our elected officials together to share our findings, and continue to refine our strategic plan.
It goes without saying that as we’re writing the next chapter of Brooklyn Community Foundation, your partnership and support is essential. Please stay tuned for updates on this work, and don’t hesitate to get in touch to share your ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.