Ask a Poet: JANE HIRSHFIELD

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Jane Hirshfield HD photo (c) Curt Richter

(c) Curt Richter

Welcome to Ask a Poet, where each week we will present (in no particular order) a Q&A with a poet who will be coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival this October 20-23. Through these blogs, you’ll be able to get to know these poets a bit better in preparation for #DPF16! 

Now, let’s get to know Jane Hirshfield.

 


What are you reading?
Just now, two very different posthumously published books by poets we lost this year: C.D. Wright’s Shallcross and Jim Harrison’s Dead Man’s Float. I’ve recently finished Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, translated by Forrest Gander, and also rereading several translated collections by another great poet who died this year, the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson.

When did you first discover poetry?  What poets made you want to write poetry?
When I was eight years old, I bought my first self-chosen book– a Peter Pauper Press edition of Japanese haiku, found on a wire rotating rack at the front of a stationary store on First Avenue in New York City. I can no longer guess what experience I, a child of sidewalks and brick, took from those poems, their speech made of blossoms and frogs and trees. But those poems were a life-door I slipped through and never looked back.

What is something you have recently discovered about poetry?
Even the already-known becomes in newly-read words a new discovery. Partly that’s because poems hold things you can’t quite remember—things that slip through the mind and heart as soon as you aren’t fully present inside them. I suppose it’s like any other kind of sustenance. You can’t actually remember a sandwich or a bowl of ice cream. They can only be known on the tongue. Yet you take them in, and they become you; you say them to others, and they become in that moment the listener’s own heart and mind, knowledge and life. That’s what the Dodge Festival does: it gives its attendees word-world after word-world after word-world to live in, and recognize as their own lived-in life.

With all the other demands and distractions in life, how do you make time for poetry?
Ours is an age that tramples silence, privacy, interiority. Some reasons for these outward pressures are incontrovertible and noble. The need to address the threat to the living planet’s biological continuance. The need to refind and create in larger ways any sense of mutuality and shared fate. These are crises that cannot be solved except in the realms of communal conversation, communal action.  They are pressing, unignorable, exigent. Other forces that distract from and consume our inwardness are less noble. Exhaustion. The harshness of current economic life for so many. The seemingly-endless shouting meant to drown thoughtfulness and the seemingly-endless, frivolous, deliberately addictive seductions of shallow entertainment.

Seriousness is scoffed at, compassion defined as weakness, the vulnerability of an open heart called foolish. How do we make time for poetry, amid such demands? For me, the question is more, “How can anyone not?” When shouting exhausts itself, poetry is language that stays on, listens, renews. Poetry is a way we can notice that the blunt can sometimes be changed only by the subtle—the small collaborations of water and gravity that carve out of rock walls a canyon of vertiginous depth. Poetry is antidote to the loneliness of generic groupings; it is the way we become able to see and feel our shared humanness, our shared existence with all other existence, without losing the particularity and scent of the single, unrepeatable, individual life.

Time in any case isn’t “made,” it is always here. What we do with it isn’t always ours to choose.  But when it is, a starving person will not turn away from wanting food. Poems are the pemmican of the soul: a sustenance intensified, portable, lasting. It takes only a few quick seconds to take in a poem. Yet in those few moments a whole day can be altered, and everything in it we might go on to do and say can be altered as well.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.
I haven’t a single most-favorite experience, there are so many—among them, reading one year to 3,000 people in the old Dodge Festival’s huge white tent, while beyond that lofting fabric it rained so relentlessly the whole weekend felt more an aquarium than terrestrial life.

Still, here is a more recent one. This May, I was in Svalbard, in the world’s northernmost inhabited town, where the world’s agricultural DNA is stored in a Global Seed Vault. That arctic island is felt to be the safest storage place on earth—difficult to reach and out of war zones, in a place beyond any reason for war, in the permafrost of a high mountain glacier, above two hundred years of the worst imaginable sea level rise.

I was there for a meeting of people from many countries on behalf of the environment—economists, historians, political leaders, a group founding an eco-village in China. Our closing session was held outside the entrance to the Seed Vault, a striking architectural doorway that can be seen here:  http://tinyurl.com/j8k5nv9  

Before the final remarks, the group was given some time to simply take in this place for a while, knowing what lay unseen within the snow-covered hill. I slipped off to the side by myself, and read the Seed Vault itself three poems—one by the Korean poet Ko Un, “Snow”; one by the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen, “Letter to Earth”; and one of my own. How could such an act make any difference? It cannot.  I had earlier in the meeting read poems to the gathered group, knowing that also could not be weighed for any practical effect. Yet I wanted to bring this ephemeral offering to this site made against disaster, to the 24-hour unremitting brightness of the summer arctic, to the snow and rock, and to what they sheltered in year-round, unseen seclusion. Poems are also the stored DNA of existence, a way that life’s accumulated knowledge can be saved past its own duration, to nourish others. It was an offering of one kind of seed to another.


Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Beauty (Knopf, 2015), long-listed for the National Book Award; Come, Thief (Knopf, 2011); After (HarperCollins, 2006); and Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the editor and co-translator of four books presenting the work of world poets from the deep past, and author of two essay collections, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (Knopf, 2015) and Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperCollins, 1997). Her many honors include the California Book Award, the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Orion, Paris Review, Poetry, and eight editions of The Best American Poetry. A current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she was the 2016 Mohr Visiting Poet at Stanford University.

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Stay updated on the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival as information becomes available!

#DPF16

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Sustainable Jersey: In a zombie apocalypse, it’s good to know where your food comes from

Posted on by Sustainable Jersey

SJ JPS High Garden

The John P. Stevens High School Greenhouse opens a world of opportunities in Edison.

 

Laura Holborow begins the food science unit in the biology class she teaches at John P. Stevens High School the same way, by asking, “Where does your food come from?”

Students answer, ‘the supermarket’,” said Holborow, an environmental science and biology teacher at the Edison Township school. “I’m on a mission to teach where food comes from, before it gets to the store. To pique student interest, I like to mention that knowing how to grow food is a key survival skill in the event of a zombie apocalypse,” she added with a laugh.

SJ JPS Garden 1

Holborow is a member of a creative team of sustainably-minded individuals who have brought a greenhouse project to John P. Stevens High School. The project was made possible through a partnership between Edison Township, Edison Township Public Schools and the John P. Stevens High School located in Middlesex County, New Jersey.

Much like a traditional barn raising, the greenhouse has brought out the best in this community. The 30-foot by 60-foot greenhouse was constructed with the support and participation of teachers, school administrators, school district and township staff, residents, students, funders and community group members.

The greenhouse has five raised growing beds including one that meets ADA accessibility needs. It is equipped with running water, electricity, a hydroponics system and drip irrigation. Outside the greenhouse, an additional eight growing beds are overflowing with organic vegetables, spices and flowers.

Meredith J. Quick, assistant principal at John P. Stevens High School and a greenhouse team member explained, “In the not too distant past, families had a much stronger and healthier connection with their food. With the addition of this greenhouse we provide a learning environment that allows students to actively participate and fully understand where food comes from, and so much more.”

Assistant Principal Quick is no stranger to food production; she grew up on an 800-head dairy farm in Somerset, New Jersey.

SJ JPS Garden 2

Beware of Falling Cucumbers and Disappearing Strawberries: For many of the students, this is the first time they have used a shovel or watched the growth of a rampant cucumber vine like the one that has stretched to the greenhouse roof. The students like to speculate on the odds of being hit by a falling cucumber. One student was waiting for the carrots to grow, but she was not seeing any visible progress. She was surprised to learn that carrots grow underground.

Assistant Principal Quick said, “The strawberries disappear fast around here but it’s ok. I love that the kids are excited about the produce and I encourage them to enjoy the strawberries.”

Beyond the feat of funding and constructing the greenhouse, the educational applications of the project are also impressive. The greenhouse will provide a cross curricular opportunity to grow food that all of the 2,300 students will use in cooking classes, investigate in scientific studies and share with the community.

SJ JPS Garden3

Worm Wigwams to Genetics for the Environmental Science and Biology Classes: Students in environmental science classes will study the process of photosynthesis in action, collect water from rain barrels to water the plants and facilitate and implement the use of worm wigwams in the cafeteria for students and staff to reduce waste. The worm wigwams will turn garbage into fertile soil that will be used in the greenhouse.

Biology students will analyze various aspects of genetics, photosynthesis and biodiversity. Students will investigate inheritance trends by planting “Wisconsin Fast Plants” for a hands-on approach to genetics, conduct experiments to further understand the process of photosynthesis and cross pollinate plants to explore how traits are passed through generations.

Farm to Table Learning for the Culinary Arts Classes: The culinary arts classes will experience the farm to table concept by growing the produce and spices they will use in their cooking. Local farmers will teach students a variety of farming techniques to encourage a more plentiful yield of fruits and vegetables. To help support the greenhouse, students will cook with the produce, creating breads, pies and salads to sell to the community.

SJ JPS Garden 4

Greenhouse Maintenance and Farm Stand Operation by the Students in the Multiply Disabled Program: “The students in our Multiply Disabled program have been involved in the project since we broke ground,” said John P. Stevens Special Education Teacher and Greenhouse Team Member, Marissa Freeman. “They’ve planted, pruned, weeded, watered, harvested and as of last week, sold the greenhouse produce at the John P. Stevens Farm Stand. I could never have imagined that I would be a part of a greenhouse project. It’s a phenomenal effort that opens new doors for how we teach.”

The students in the Multiply Disabled program will assist with maintaining the greenhouse and operating the farm stand. Working closely with the community and their peers, counting money and advertising, maintaining budgets and financing, as well as keeping inventory of products will provide students the opportunity to practice life skills in real-life settings.

In addition, the greenhouse produce will be used by the ShopRite Supermarket Careers program at Edison High School, a self-sustaining supermarket run by students with disabilities. The high school art department is designing a logo for the farm stand and the students in the Multiply Disabled program plan to use the designs to create apparel and accessories to be worn by farm stand employees and marketed to community members.

Sharing the Harvest: When the team realized that the greenhouse would yield more produce than the high school could consume, the group shifted the learning goal to focus on how the students could influence the health and wellness in the local community.

In the new school year, the team will focus on bringing free and affordable produce and education about farm-to-table eating to the community at large. They are putting together a program for Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program funding and applying for grants to get the program started. The goal is for families that receive Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program services through the state of New Jersey to receive weekly free produce, community members to have access to organic produce at a low cost and for excess produce to be donated directly to local food pantries.

Grant Writing and Fundraising: The greenhouse project is being funded through events, grants and donations. In the past year, fundraising and donations totaled $17,000 and awarded grants totaled $22,000. The project was strengthened when Edison Township partnered with the Edison Township Public School District to find funding. Chris Mazauskas, Edison Township’s resource development officer, collaborated with Assistant Principal Meredith Quick to write grants and develop the coalition of partners.

Chris Mazauskas, in addition to leading and founding the Edison Sustainable Jersey Green Team, explained that he has a personal connection to the greenhouse; he said, “My father was a first generation Lithuanian-American who was raised on a farm near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. When I was growing up in Irvington, he worked hard as a warehouseman and truck driver for Budweiser in Newark. We always had a big garden and he instilled in me the importance of tending the yield. I want the students to experience what I had growing up–a connection to and appreciation of home-grown vegetables, herbs and fruit.”

Mazauskas led the proposal effort that resulted in Edison Township receiving a $20,000 Sustainable Jersey Small Grant funded by the PSEG Foundation. This grant provided momentum and funded a major piece of the greenhouse project.

The John P. Stevens school community including the Classes of 2013 and 2014 and the Edison Parent Teacher Organization raised $15,000 in donations. Fiskars Corporation provided a grant to pay for gardening tools. BASF Corporation provided a grant for supplies and the Kean University Horticulture Program donated seedlings and organic fertilizer. The full funders list is located here.

The list of community supporters, includes: Edison Clean Communities Program, Edison Township Environmental Commission, Edison Sustainable Jersey Green Team, Edison Open Space Advisory Commission, Edison Greenways Group, Edison Wetlands Association, Rutgers University Horticultural Therapy Program, Edison Township Public Schools, Triple C Farms, Liberty Farm, Kean University Horticultural Program, the John P. Stevens Students for Environmental Awareness and the John P. Stevens National Honor Society.

The Edison Clean Communities Program and the Edison Township Environmental Commission were among the first partners and financial supporters of the project; both organizations made $1,000 donations.

>>To donate to the John P. Stevens Greenhouse, go to: JPS Greenhouse

Also, the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Small Grants program will be announcing new grant opportunities this year, so dream big, develop your partners and sign-up for Sustainable Jersey for Schools updates to get the latest news on available grants.


Donna Drewes

Donna Drewes

For more about Sustainable Jersey:

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Posted in Community Building, Education, Environment, Food & Food Systems, Green Ideas, Sustainable Jersey | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Thinking About a Merger? Good Reasons to Get Legal Advice at the Start

Posted on by Dodge

one to one metuchen

 

So you’re thinking about a merger.

Your board and staff meet with the other board and management, decide that the benefits of combining are substantial, and are ready to move on to next steps. You are working with a merger consultant; you don’t need a lawyer yet, right? They’ll just slow things down and make risk-averse board members unnecessarily worried. Let’s bring them in when we’re ready to “paper” the deal.

Think again. A good legal team will help you make informed decisions, avoid unnecessary steps, and facilitate reaching your mutual goals.

The reasons behind nonprofit mergers are as varied as reasons for any business.  Organizations with complementary missions combine to improve the efficiency and scope of services they are able to provide together rather than separately. Or, organizations delivering similar services to the same served community (e.g., shelter for transitionally homeless) might combine to improve their collaboration in delivering needed services while eliminating their competition for funding sources.

Whatever the reasons for considering a merger, the process of organizing the legal and practical aspects of combining two or more nonprofit organizations involves hard work and often unfamiliar requirements.

But nonprofits often tell us that they “don’t need a lawyer yet,” sometimes followed by an explanation of why they think a lawyer will stifle the process or overly formalize mutually beneficial discussions. But our experience has been that involving lawyers from the start results in better outcomes and smoother transitions. In fact, many of the legal tasks can be accomplished during the business negotiations, thus paving the way to a quicker and smoother conclusion.

Pro Bono Partnership recently assisted a number of New Jersey literacy organizations to merge to form Literacy New Jersey.

Independent teams of volunteer lawyers that Pro Bono Partnership recruited advised eight of the nine merging literacy organizations, so that their boards and staff could understand the implications of the decision on their specific constituency and region.

“It was our job to define how we wanted the merger to proceed,” said Jessica Tomkins, Literacy New Jersey’s COO. “For each of us, it was important that the merger negotiations were collaborative, inclusive, and positive and that they would set the tone for the culture of our new organization. The legal teams were there to help each nonprofit implement that vision by translating those values into a set of legal steps and documents.”

These nonprofits got attorneys involved early in the process, to ensure that not only were the right business decisions considered, but also that the legal pieces would be ready when the actual merger occurred.

“The lawyers helped us keep the process moving forward,” Jessica said. “While we were busy meeting to design our new organization, our lawyers were working with each other on a parallel track, collecting and reviewing due diligence documents and handling other legal aspects.”

Most importantly, Literacy New Jersey is now able to bring more and better literacy services to people throughout New Jersey! Literacy New Jersey noted that the pro bono legal assistance allowed the project to succeed since none of the organizations possessed the legal expertise or could afford the legal costs.

The bottom line is, there are a lot of issues to consider and address in any potential merger. Lawyers will not slow it down, or “mess it up” with unreasonable demands! A good team of lawyers will work with the organizations to make sure that the vision of a unified, efficient, and effective entity is achieved.

>> For more information on mergers, please see our New Jersey Nonprofit Merger FAQs in the Dodge Technical Assistance Resource Library.


20160108_Nancy_025cNancy Eberhardt is New Jersey director of Pro Bono Partnership and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Pro Bono Partnership provides free business and transactional legal services to nonprofits serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Learn more here.

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What Good Would You Do with $100 Million? Join us Thursday for our next Twitter Chat

Posted on by Meghan Jambor

100 Million Twitter Chat

Join us at 2 p.m. Thursday for a LIVE #BetterNJ Twitter chat to imagine the good you’d do with $100 million right here in the Garden State.

The MacArthur Foundation will award $100 million to an organization to solve a critical problem as part of its #100andchange challenge. It’s open to organizations working in any field anywhere.

So what issue would you tackle? Would it be ending homelessness through the arts? Cleaning up our waterways? Ensuring every child has access to the arts in their schools? Making your local library a hub for community?

Join the conversation and maybe you’ll spark an idea or meet a partner to work with when your organization is selected as the $100 million winner.

#BetterNJ Twitter Chat – What Would You Do With $100 Million?
Thursday, July 21, 2016
2:00 – 3:00 PM

We want to know:

  • What problem would you solve?
  • Is $100 million enough to do so?
  • Who would be your dream partner(s)?
  • What would success look like?
  • If you were the winner, how would you get started?

The 100 and Change challenge is open to any organization working anywhere. Applicants must identify both the problem they are trying to solve, as well as their proposed solution.

To be considered, grant seekers have until Sept. 2 to register and until Oct. 3 to submit a detailed proposal. A panel of experts from across sectors will choose finalists next summer.

According to the challenge rules:

  • No single field or problem area is designated; proposals from any sector are encouraged.
  • Proposals should articulate both the problem and the proposed solution, and must have a charitable purpose.
  • Competitive proposals will be meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible.

Why is the Dodge Foundation hosting a Twitter chat?

Simply, Twitter chats are about connecting and learning. It’s an easy way to hit pause in your work day from where ever you are and share ideas and best practices with peers from across the state.

Moreover, you never know what connections you’ll make or who’s reading, and it’s a great way to try out new tools and ways to reach your audiences.

All are welcome to join the chat. The more voices, the better the conversation!

Tips for Participating in a Twitter Chat:

  • Use Twitter to follow #betternj — or better yet, try Tchat.io at http://www.tchat.io/
  • Don’t be afraid to jump in!
  • Always use #betternj in your tweet
  • When the moderator asks the first question, it will begin with “Q1”. Be sure to respond by beginning your answer with “A1” and so on…
  • Chat with other participants by replying directing to them and RT if you’re digging their responses
  • Include a “.” in front of an @ like so [.@] if you want your tweet to show up in all feeds
  • Feel free to dip in and out of the chat
  • Be polite and positive
  • Follow up with people after the chat and keep the conversations going!

Set a reminder on your calendar to join us. We hope to see you on Twitter at 2 p.m. Thursday as @grdodge!

So, what could you do with $100 million?


 

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Meghan Jambor is the Dodge Foundation’s communications manager. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanJambor.  


 

Posted in #BetterNJ Twitter Chat, News & Announcements, Philanthropy, Twitter chat | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ask a Poet: ALICIA OSTRIKER

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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AliciaOstrikerWelcome to Ask a Poet, where each week we will present (in no particular order) a Q&A with a poet who will be coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival this October 20-23. Through these blogs, you’ll be able to get to know these poets a bit better in preparation for #DPF16! 

Now, let’s get to know Alicia Ostriker.

 

When did you first discover poetry?  What poets made you want to write poetry?  My mom was an English major who wrote poetry herself, and read poetry to me from the time I was born.  She poured Shakespeare, Browning and Tennyson into my tender ears so poetry was never a foreign language to me.  I was doomed – I mean, destined.  But my mom wrote in traditional forms and I write mostly in open forms, which I convinced her to do also.  That was a hard job.  And I never got her to read the poets who were most important to me–Whitman, Blake, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Ginsberg, lucille clifton, Adrienne Rich…

What is the role of poetry in the twenty first century?  Same as every other century.  Muriel Rukeyser says “Breathe in experience.  Breathe out poetry.”  Too bad it’s not that easy.

Tell us about your favorite experience reading for an audience.   I opened once for Allen Ginsberg at the Seattle Bumbershoot Festival, in a huge auditorium, packed to the rafters, even though B.B. King was performing at the same time at the opposite end of the festival grounds.  I was a bit terrified, but the audience not only applauded, they kept applauding and had me come back for an encore.  Talk about thrilling…

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?  Not really, though I’ve had people walk out when I’ve read poems that were too “graphic” for them, dealing with pregnancy and childbirth, or poems questioning religion.

What is a misconception about poetry that bothers you? Why?  The Hallmark-driven idea that poetry should be pretty and nice bugs me.  The idea that poetry should rhyme irritates me.  The idea that poetry should not rhyme irritates me equally.  So does the notion that “real” poetry should be difficult.  In fact, whenever any person or group lays down the law that poetry “should” do some particular thing, I want to run in the opposite direction.  Beware the Poetry Police.

 Richard Hugo said we’ve written every poem we ever loved.  He was particularly proud of having written Yeats’ “Easter, 1916.”  What great poem are you proud of having written?  Now that you ask, I’m pretty proud of having written “Antony and Cleopatra” and “King Lear.”

 


Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. She is the author of more than ten collections of poetry, including The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America. In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University’s low-residency poetry MFA program. She divides her time between New York City and Princeton, New Jersey.

 

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Stay updated on the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival as information becomes available!

#DPF16

Dodge Poetry Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | dodgepoetry.org

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The Fund for New Jersey: Taking Aim at Climate Change — There’s a Seat at the Table for Place-Based Funders

Posted on by Kiki Jamieson, President, The Fund for New Jersey

climate

 

Taking on climate change is a daunting challenge for any institution, let alone a small place-based foundation in a state with no coal-fired power plants.

So when I learned that the focus of Council on Foundations’ annual conference was climate change, I was delighted. At The Fund for New Jersey, we learned firsthand the dramatic effects of a warming climate in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy — the intensity of which scientists predict may become an annual occurrence at the Jersey Shore by mid-century — ripped through our home state. In responding to this disaster, we looked at the bigger picture and began making grants for climate work to ensure New Jersey is prepared for the changes to come.

I felt eager to share our experiences and what we learned with grantmakers from across the country and around the world at the April conference. I proposed and organized a panel highlighting how foundations of all types and sizes could make a difference in meeting the challenge of climate change.

I invited national leaders to join the discussion: Nicola Hedge, Environmental Initiatives director at The San Diego Foundation; Mary Skelton Roberts, senior program officer for Climate at the Boston-based Barr Foundation; and Scott Cooper, CEO of RE-AMP Network, a Midwest collaborative of foundations and non-profits. Our shared goal was to encourage other place-based foundations to join us in supporting climate change work.

The examples are inspiring.

Since 2003, the San Diego Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the nation, has been working to address climate change issues. After devastating wildfires ravaged the region, the foundation launched a climate initiative in 2007 to catalyze regional action to reduce emissions and build more resilient communities.

Over the last decade, it has invested about $3 million to bring about change. The coalition connects scientists with technical experts in local government, brings together public safety and disaster professionals, and funded a San Diego Bay sea-level rise adaptation strategy. Today, 18 cities have emissions inventories and two thirds of them have adopted or are developing climate action plans. The San Diego Foundation’s leadership helped philanthropy make real change.

A $1.6 billion family foundation in Boston, the Barr Foundation has made a significant commitment to climate issues over the past 16 years. They aimed to help 20 percent of the commercial and industrial building owners in Boston reduce their emissions by a total of 80 percent, an effort led by a green-ribbon commission of private sector leaders who implemented best practices in their buildings. Others quickly followed their example.

Barr also focused on transportation, working to ensure that communities are built with the resources people need available close to home such as access to public transit, and that are climate resistant. Bostonians experienced a vivid wake-up call in 2015 when a massive snow storm dumped 109 inches and the transportation system stood still. Barr continues to work with the city and key stakeholders to develop smart policies that encourage walking, bike-sharing, and other forms of mobility that can ease travel in the most challenging circumstances.

The RE-AMP Network offers yet another approach. Spanning eight states in the upper Midwest, its members include more than 15 funders and more than 150 non-profit partners aiming for 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across eight states by 2030 in the energy sector and by 2050 in the entire system. The network pursues action on many fronts, including encouraging funders to support closing coal plants, the largest polluters in the Midwest. RE-AMP sees its value as providing a learning community across the Midwest by supporting local, place-based work that can lead to scalable solutions.

At The Fund for New Jersey, we started by doing what philanthropy does best: we convened our environmental grantees and other experts for advice. Unanimously, they concluded that climate change was the most important environmental issue we could work on. And after conducting extensive research to learn what other foundations in the U.S. and the world were doing, we knew we needed to encourage new policy approaches centered on carbon mitigation and greenhouse gas reduction.

You can read more about what we learned in a white paper on The Fund’s website.

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Photo credit: Ted Kerwin / Creative Commons

With particular greenhouse gas problems created by New Jersey’s on-road transportation systems and the threats of building new gas pipelines across the state, we focused our attention on issues The Fund’s grantmaking could have the biggest impact.

These include:

  1. Climate action planning
  2. Transition to clean energy, more energy efficiency, and decoupling (so utility companies can be rewarded for reducing their energy usage)
  3. Expanding public transportation and electric vehicles
  4. Making homes and businesses greener; and
  5. Building public support

Because we were starting fresh, we chose to take a broad approach, providing grants in multiple areas to see what work we could catalyze.

For example, we paired a planning group with the Urban Mayors’ Association to help municipalities begin carbon mitigation planning. We helped faith-based groups in non-white communities educate and empower their members to get active on climate issues. We catalyzed research on public transit and other ways to reduce greenhouse gases while advancing the economy. And we supported the development of a broad coalition working to stop gas pipeline construction on sensitive lands.

We’ve been encouraging our grantees to take risks, find new partners, and develop pilot initiatives.

The good news: New Jersey leaders are developing innovative ways to make our state cleaner and greener, as they are also working to improve public health, create jobs in a green economy, and build stronger and more equitable communities.

Much work remains to be done, but The Fund and our partners continue to move forward, knowing that it takes time and patience to make change. We are learning that even small foundations can contribute for the good of the planet and all of us who live here.


 

kikiKiki Jamieson is the President of The Fund for New Jersey, a private, independent foundation that works to improve the quality of public policy decision-making on the most significant issues affecting the people of New Jersey and our region. The Fund is a member of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 120 funding organizations working in New Jersey.

Photo at top courtesy Stephen Melkisethlan / Creative Commons

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Art Pride NJ: Measuring the Arts — A One, Two Punch

Posted on by Ann Marie Miller

ArtMatters

 

How do we value the arts?  How do we measure their impact and make that measurement count?

On a personal level, we know the breathtaking power of a masterpiece, the exhilaration of a standing ovation, and the joy and sometimes emotional anguish of immersion in drama, dance, and music. We know firsthand how art teaches compassion, empathy, and cultural understanding; how it memorializes and celebrates what’s important in our world; how it gives us rightful pride and identity. These powers to transfix, transport, and transform are intrinsic impacts that live in our hearts and minds, our souls and our stories.

But we also know that the arts have concrete, instrumental impact on so much of t
he world around us and on what we value in the quality of our lives and success of our communities: quality education and healthcare, vibrant downtowns, jobs, recovery, better senior living, kids at risk, and on and on. While the arts almost invisibly connect to so much of the civic agenda, they have real quantifiable impacts.

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This week nonprofit arts organizations around the state will receive a request from Americans for the Arts to complete a survey that will provide a clear picture of the economic impact of their work. As part of the national Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Study, completed every five years, ArtPride NJ is joining 18 other states to learn more about the return on investment in the arts.

Five local partners in New Jersey — Cape May, Cumberland, Mercer, Morris counties and Newark — are joining over 330 other local studies happening throughout our nation. In addition to data about the direct spending by arts groups (salaries, fringe benefits, rentals, supplies and other purchases), audience members throughout the state are completing simple surveys at performances and exhibitions throughout 2016.

The result of this massive effort for New Jersey will be a comprehensive picture of how arts groups and patrons spend dollars and the trail that spending takes in our economy, available early next summer. The last such study in New Jersey was conducted in 2008 and is the most often requested piece of information in ArtPride NJ’s online arts advocacy toolkit.

Why do we even need this information? Don’t we already know such truths as arts education is critical to sound education and student success in the workplace of tomorrow, one that values critical thinking skills, creativity and teamwork? Haven’t we heard personal stories of the transformative power of art to help those who are overcoming critical illness, addiction, depression, and disenfranchisement? Why aren’t these stories enough? Don’t numbers sort of miss the bigger point?

little-girl-dancing-painting-ballerinaI ask this almost daily, because compelling stories flood my e-mail inbox in great number. But I must remind myself that it’s MY inbox, and that I may have a somewhat skewed perspective considering promoting the arts has been my life’s work. Economic impact may tell only part of the story of how the arts have positive and powerful effect on our lives and communities; but, it’s critical in making the case to policy and decision makers in government, philanthropy, and business.

In these arenas performance measurement is calculated in direct relationship to investment, and priority is placed on outcomes that are tangible and measurable. To compete with all the other vital issues making claim upon public and private resources, and often bedeviling decision makers, we must make our case. Making that case, and equipping others to do so are at the very core of ArtPride’s mission.

We have learned from hard-fought victories (and losses) that economic impact numbers really do matter. When they’re strong and credible they open doors, and eyes. Although they’re rarely the determining factor, when coupled with compelling stories to illustrate them, they provide heft to the argument and instill confidence (and sometimes courage) to the investor.

And that’s basically the bottom line.

Stealing the title from recent Data Arts workshops in New Jersey, Data + Stories=Impact, and that impact directly affects resource allocation. It’s time for new numbers to gird our growing body of empirical evidence and make our case even stronger.

>>If you receive the invitation by email to complete the organizational survey, please meet the Aug. 5 deadline.

If you didn’t receive the invitation and would like to be part of this important study, either by completing the online survey or by surveying audience members at an upcoming performance, please contact the ArtPride office.


annmarie1-150x150Ann Marie Miller is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ArtPride New Jersey and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Email her at amiller@artpridenj.com. Click here to visit ArtPride’s website.

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Ask a Poet: ARTHUR SZE

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

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Arthur Sze

Welcome to Ask a Poet, where each week we will present (in no particular order) a Q&A with a poet who will be coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival this October 20-23. Through these blogs, you’ll be able to get to know these poets a bit better in preparation for #DPF16! 

Without further ado, let’s get to know Arthur Sze.

 

What are you reading?

I am currently reading Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them. This collection presents the poems that Emily Dickinson wrote out by hand and sewed into packets. Everyone in high school reads, or has read, individual poems by her, but it is worth looking at the larger context. When I read the poems in the order in which she bound them, I experience how the short poems interact with each other and create a much larger and more vibrant work.

When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write poetry?

I didn’t discover poetry until rather late. In fact, my first encounters with poetry were very negative: in junior high school, I remember cringing when the teacher asked everyone to look for the hidden symbolism of the albatross in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In high school, I was good at math and science and applied to MIT and was accepted. In my freshman year, bored in a large lecture class, I opened my notebook to a blank page and wrote some phrases down. Later I took those phrases and wrote my first poem. Soon I was writing all of the time. In my sophomore year, I took a poetry workshop with Denise Levertov. She introduced me to the poems of Robert Creeley, Gary Snyder, and Galway Kinnell. Those poets, along with Denise, excited me and made me want to continue.

Tell us about any personal habits, rituals, ceremonies, superstitions that are part of your writing practice.

I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico and have a writing studio with lots of windows. I like to write early in the morning when the night sky transitions into dawn, and I also like to fill a thermos with coffee the evening before (it saves time in the morning!).

When was the moment that you thought, “I can do this,” about poetry?

I don’t think I had a moment where I thought, “I can do this.” Instead, I had a moment when I realized, “I need to do this.” At MIT, when I was writing almost every day, I slowly recognized that my pursuit of math and science came from outside (parental expectation), whereas the poems I was writing came from deep inside me. After my sophomore year, I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley and created a self-directed major in poetry.

How important is accessibility of meaning? Should a reader have to work hard to “solve” the poem?

I believe poems have many layers and meanings and that a reader just needs to be open to discover and appreciate the poem on its own terms. One doesn’t “solve” a poem in the way that one would solve a mathematical equation. Instead, a reader engages with the sound and rhythm, with imagery, and experiences the movement of language in the body before comprehending it in the mind. A good poem can be read and reread with increasing pleasure and insight. It shouldn’t be toil or torment; instead, a poem—simple or complex—earns a reader’s attention by gaining power and resonance with repeated readings. Too much time is spent on the issue of accessibility. Poems want to communicate, but they may require some or enormous effort—and the amount of effort doesn’t correlate with how good a poem is. To circle back to my first response, Emily Dickinson didn’t write poems to be as accessible as possible; she wrote the poems she needed to write. And we, as readers, are lucky she persevered. Some of her poems are of course more “accessible” than others on a first or second reading, but, by developing and not compromising her vision, she created a body of work that enlarges and deepens our experience and understanding of the world.


 

Arthur Sze is the author of nine books of poetry, including Compass Rose (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); The Ginkgo Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); Quipu (Copper Canyon Press, 2005); The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1998); and Archipelago (Copper Canyon Press, 1995). He is also a celebrated translator from the Chinese, and released The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (Copper Canyon Press) in 2001. His honors include an American Book Award, a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Western States
Book Award for Translation, three grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and fellowships from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2013, he was awarded the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers magazine. Sze was elected
Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2012. He was the first poet laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives.

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Stay updated on the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival as information becomes available!

#DPF16

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Free Press: During Election Season, We Need News That Puts People First

Posted on by Fiona Morgan, Free Press

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In every community, there are people who care about the place they live in and work to make it better, and people who despair over their prospects for the future. There are people who run the show and people who feel ignored, dismissed, belittled and rejected.

When people lack opportunities to give meaningful input on decisions that determine their future, they lose faith in the democratic process. They’re wary of election-year appeals from political candidates — the very people they feel have abandoned them.

The way journalists cover politics and policy often contributes to this failure. When reporters focus exclusively on insiders and experts, they perpetuate a system in which Very Important People talk at the rest of us. The knowledge and experiences of “regular” people rarely informs these discussions.

That’s the kind of “journalism” people are most exposed to. And it’s very different from the kind of journalism democracy needs to survive. The gulf between them is a big problem if you believe, as I do, that the best hope for journalism’s future lies in public support.

Free Press’ News Voices: New Jersey project has been working to change that dynamic by connecting community members and the journalists who serve them to better understand their common interests and complementary roles. We want to encourage newsrooms not just to turn to experts for answers but to turn to the public for questions. Our ultimate hope is to create a constituency for journalism, a public motivated to advocate for open government, press freedom and local reporting. This will happen only if people feel that journalism represents them and supports their interests.

“Engaging all demographics to identify the most important issues to the community and use their input to frame media coverage. There is a great diversity of stories and interests in our community and they deserve to be heard. The inclusion of underrepresented individuals in this process is essential. Opening this dialogue helps articulate community needs and demonstrates the media’s value of these communities, which will in turn enhance the trust between the community and the media. This helps the community feel more engaged/empowered in the news/media, influencing them to become involved in the election.”

News Voices works at the local level, in individual cities and towns, and we meet people face to face. We talk about what’s going on in neighborhoods and local institutions to name and address each community’s challenges. We work at the human scale, the scale at which people can discuss their lived experiences. Journalism at the local level depends on understanding those experiences and giving people the information they need to participate in their communities.

When people put down their smartphones and sit across from neighbors they don’t know, they have the chance to truly listen. Doing that makes people realize what goals and struggles they share, and how their efforts in the community are, intentionally or not, interconnected. Face-to-face listening doesn’t just make people feel heard; it also develops a sense of mutual accountability. That’s one reason it’s important for reporters to sit at the same table with the people they serve.

After a full year of events and groundwork, News Voices is now moving toward the next phase: fostering relationships and nurturing projects in each community, linking these local networks across the state and building the constituency for journalism and press freedom — in New Jersey and beyond. To do that, we’re reaching out to people doing journalism-engagement work across the country to see what we can learn from their efforts.

A project in Ohio has provided an opportunity for us to share what we’ve learned and to see how another model can move toward similar goals.

Citizen Participation via CC_opensource.com

As a swing state, Ohio is the site of intense political campaigning, which includes an onslaught of political advertising — much of it negative. Informed Citizen Akron is bringing together a select group of residents for substantive, informed discussions of the issues at stake in this year’s election. The goal: putting the public at the center of the political conversation.

Informed Citizen Akron is a joint endeavor of the Jefferson Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit that works toward democratic solutions through civic discourse, and Your Vote Ohio, a collaboration of Ohio media institutions including newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. The project uses the citizens-jury model, drawing on a set number of people who represent the community socioeconomically, racially and politically and engaging them for three days of conversation and deliberation. Statewide polling on the issues most important to Ohioans informs the entire process.

Doug Oplinger, managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and one of the project’s leaders, is concerned that the public is losing trust in journalism. He says that the people the media should serve are skeptical that there are reporters who truly want to help their communities.

“I have always been a reporter who believes that I’m most empowered by understanding the people I need to represent,” he told me. But his experiences talking to reporters, civic groups and others over the last several years have made him aware of a deep disconnect between the work reporters do and the image the public has of that work.

Informed Citizen Akron puts people at the center of the political conversation, and invites them to think about how the media could better represent their voices.

That very idea was a surprise to many participants, said Andrew Rockaway of the Jefferson Center.

“The biggest realizations people had were that media organizations see themselves as having responsibility to the community, and that they want to serve the needs of the community, which was not the sense people had going in of what the media’s role is,” Rockaway said. “Participants also really didn’t know what the job entails and what the realities were of being a journalist or the challenges journalists have to face.

“People see news organizations as black boxes, which is the problem in a lot of respects. It was good for people in newsrooms to see that they’re not doing a good job of communicating what the organization does and what the mission is.”

Across the board, regardless of cultural or socioeconomic background, people involved in this project were enthusiastic about the possibility of weighing in on how journalism could better include their perspectives. Project organizers invited speakers from across the country to present ideas to the jurors. Southern Methodist University Professor Jake Batsell described strategies for engaged journalism, while Michelle Ferrier talked about her research for the Media Deserts Project. Engaged journalism projects across the country — including News Voices, Hearken and Groundsource — gave examples of tools, methods and philosophies, which informed the engagement strategies the citizens’ jury recommended in its report.

The jury proposed organizing information to make it more accessible, fact-checking statements from candidates and officials, creating interactive features like news quizzes to engage readers, using text messaging to reach broader and younger audiences, and treating news as a conversation between readers and journalists.

At the top of their list was a recommendation that gets to the heart of work News Voices is doing in communities across New Jersey:

Engaging all demographics to identify the most important issues to the community and use their input to frame media coverage. There is a great diversity of stories and interests in our community and they deserve to be heard. The inclusion of underrepresented individuals in this process is essential. Opening this dialogue helps articulate community needs and demonstrates the media’s value of these communities, which will in turn enhance the trust between the community and the media. This helps the community feel more engaged/empowered in the news/media, influencing them to become involved in the election.

The newsrooms across Ohio that sent reporters to participate in Informed Citizen Akron — including Oplinger and one of his reporter colleagues — have committed to heeding the jury’s recommendations and delivering coverage that’s responsive to community concerns.

“We will not allow candidates to come into Ohio and dictate the issues,” Oplinger said. “We’ll write stories so that Ohioans see themselves in the democratic process represented by the news media. We’ll go to the candidates and say, no, you stop. This is what Ohioans say.”

News that represents the people it serves: That’s the news democracy needs.


 

Fiona Morgan

Fiona Morgan is Free Press’ Journalism Director and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. She works with Mike Rispoli to oversee News Voices: New Jersey, a Dodge-funded Free Press initiative designed to create conversation and respond to the needs of both journalists and residents.

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Arts Ed Now: Seasons of Love — An Art and Music Mural Project

Posted on by Alison Wallace, Arts Ed Now

A few years ago, I found myself in a new situation as an art educator. After seven years of teaching high school art, I was embarking upon a new adventure: middle school. Here I was, several years into my career, learning the nuances of both a new school district as well as a new age group… not to mention new courses to teach. In addition to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade general art classes, my predecessor had begun a Mural Arts class at Marlboro Middle School.

That first year, I quite literally fell into teaching this course. The students and the mural themes had been chosen prior to my employment. Rough drafts of designs had been sketched. The murals were designed around inspirational words, and that year’s words were Imagine and Reach. Throughout the year, we learned painting techniques, designed our murals, and painted our hearts out. Serendipitously, the choir teacher that year had chosen John Lennon’s Imagine to sing at our school’s 8th grade graduation. My principal came to me with a fabulous idea. Because the murals were on canvas, they could be easily transported. What if the Imagine mural was displayed at graduation? Would I be okay with that? Of course, I loved the idea.

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Imagine, Acrylic on Canvas, 12’ x 4’, 2013

Having the mural correspond to the song our choir teacher chose was, in all honesty, a happy accident. It was great to have our students recognized at graduation as well as visually support the 8th grade graduation choir. The graduation performance gained new meaning for both our choir and art students. This experience got me thinking … what if we had actually planned this? How could we have merged both our music and art programs to create a cohesive artistic display at our 8th grade graduation? How might this impact the students’ perceptions of both the mural as well as their graduation performance?

This year proved the perfect time for us to try this out. I had a supportive administration and a music department open to brainstorming possible collaborations with me. We began with a discussion of possible songs. I gave the possible song choices to my mural arts students and we chose Seasons of Love from the Broadway musical Rent by Jonathan Larson.

We are a 1:1 Chromebook district, so students from both the Mural Arts Class and 8th Grade Choir Classes used their Chromebooks to aid in the creative process. First, students searched images and saved those they felt related to the song. Next, they shared these images with me through Google Docs.   The live documents enabled student and teacher collaboration in many ways. Most importantly, choir students who I did not see in class were still able to contribute and discuss ideas with me. After many ideas were compiled, Mural students were asked to complete the task of finalizing a design. I wanted them to contemplate the following questions, all inspired by the song and this cooperative task: What is friendship? What does it mean to celebrate your friends and focus on the good things in your life? What are some images that the song invokes? How can you “measure your life in love?” How can you celebrate your friendships, from simple experiences together to meaningful ones? And lastly, how can we successfully merge all of these ideas to create one cohesive and unified piece of art?

It was decided that each panel would visually represent one of the four seasons. The technical work of creating the mural was done by mural art students.

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The mural in progress.

Groups met two days per week for approximately 50 minute classes. This entire process took about three months to complete. This was the culminating project of the Mural Arts class, who had all been working on the technical skills needed for large scale painting since the beginning of the school year.

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The completed mural. Acrylic on Canvas, 12’ x 4’, 2016.

Although transporting and hanging the completed mural at graduation took a little skill and planning on the part of our administration and custodial staff, it was hung prior to the ceremony directly next to the graduation chorus.

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The mural on display at graduation and next to our 8th Grade Graduation Chorus.

This collaboration proved meaningful to all students. Choir students, even those not directly involved in the design, were more motivated to perform knowing that the mural students were creating a painting inspired by their performance. Mural art students were inspired knowing that their painting would proudly hang next to the choir as they sang the words of its inspiration. All students involved exhibited higher order thinking skills as they found deeper meaning and imagery in a song’s lyrics.

Through the creation of the mural as well as our choir’s performance, we quite literally brought art and music together. Students raised their voices and their paintbrushes, making connections both in and out of the classroom.


Alison Wallace is an art educator with experience teaching K-12 art in several districts and private settings. Currently she is an art teacher at Marlboro Middle School where she teaches General Art and an admissions-based Mural Art class to select 8th grade students. In addition, she works with the school’s special needs population and integrates art education with social skills instruction. During the summer, she is both the assistant director and creative arts specialist at HI-STEP, a therapeutic summer program for children with special needs.

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Jersey Water Works: 10 Great Ideas for New Jersey’s Water Infrastructure

Posted on by Chris Sturm, New Jersey Future

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New Jersey Delegation Gathers National Best Practices from One Water Summit

Innovative ways to integrate water management, reduce costs, partner and build broad public support were all on tap at  the U.S. Water Alliance’s second annual One Water Summit, on June 8-10 in Atlanta.

Through coordination by Jersey Water Works, the cross-sector collaborative focused on upgrading New Jersey’s aging and inadequate water infrastructure, 13 representatives from New Jersey who comprised the state’s delegation explored these new opportunities.  They joined 15 other state and regional delegations and overall, 450 water practitioners from across the country.

The New Jersey delegates were particularly inspired by the following successful approaches, which they collectively offer for consideration in the Garden State:

  1. Emory University’s WaterHub reclamation and reuse facility. This campus-scale system won a U.S. Water Alliance U.S. Water Prize as the first system of its kind to be installed in the United States. The project utilizes eco-engineering processes to clean waste water for future non-potable uses. It is capable of recycling up to 400,000 gallons per day — nearly 40 percent of Emory’s total campus water needs, reducing use of Atlanta’s municipal water supply by up to 146 million gallons annually. The system creates a more resilient campus, mitigates risk by generating an alternative water supply for critical heating and cooling operations, and provides significant cost savings. WaterHub was constructed at no capital expense to the university since water savings are used to defray the construction cost of the facility.
  2. San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s contracts with community-based organizations to deliver projects. The commission contracts with community organizations that hire community members to do the recruiting, training, management and payroll for various projects, especially green-infrastructure projects – a strategy that provides jobs, training and a sense of community ownership in the neighborhood improvements.
  3. The City of Syracuse’s social-media hashtag #FixOurPipes, which it uses to underscore the negative impacts any time a piece of water infrastructure fails. The hashtag has now spread beyond Syracuse, and serves to make visible on an ongoing basis the critical role water infrastructure plays in community health, safety and commerce.
  4. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s strategic communications plan. Utility speakers at the Communications Bootcamp session described their approach to community engagement and public relations using a strategic communications plan so that all interested parties – customers, media, elected officials, educators and students – understand clearly how investments in water infrastructure will benefit the community and why they are important. The goal is well-informed consumers who feel a sense of personal responsibility for the quality of their water and water infrastructure. As representatives from NEORSD pointed out in detail, the increasing challenges associated with rate changes, failing infrastructure and an image problem necessitate effective communications that build support for project investments.
  5. Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ WaterFirst recognition program. Delegations shared how they advance the best and most innovative ideas for bringing their water infrastructure into the 21st century, including Georgia’s WaterFirst program, which offers planning and assessment assistance, learning opportunities to improve water stewardship, and finally, designation as a WaterFirst community, an award of excellence.
  6. Peer-to-peer exchanges. New Orleans has convened an Urban Waters Series, at which they asked speakers from other cities to share their experiences, and then representatives from New Orleans visited Milwaukee, Austin, and Philadelphia. Representatives from Atlanta have visited Philadelphia as part of a similar exchange. Jersey Water Works members are already contemplating a plan to bring representatives from several jurisdictions to Philadelphia, where Philadelphia Water and the Trust for Public Land could share examples of what is working with green infrastructure partnerships and showcase on-the-ground examples highlighting what works.
  7. Low-income customer assistance programs. One of the biggest obstacles facing utilities seeking rate increases is addressing low-income residents who cannot afford to pay more than their current rates. Speakers from Detroit, Northeast Ohio and the NAACP described approaches that allow utilities to raise new revenues from rate increases while helping low-income customers pay for water.
  8. Diversified institutions that get everyone involved. Citizen advisory boards and citizen representation on utility boards were among the tactics highlighted to engage the community in water infrastructure planning and decision-making.
  9. Atlanta’s circulation of drinking water quality reports. Several delegates were impressed with how proactively other jurisdictions shared required documents such as drinking water quality reports and waterbody quality reports. (In New Jersey drinking water quality reports must be made available, but typically little effort is made to publicize them.) In addition to proactive information distribution, some utilities have a well-established education program, so that their customers understand the information in the reports, know why it’s important, and know what action if any they should take (including with local and state elected leaders).
  10. Philadelphia’s Stormwater Management Incentives Program, which provides grants to help defray the cost for commercial customers and contractors who want to design and install stormwater best management practices. The grants go directly to non-residential property owners who construct stormwater retrofit projects, which reduce stormwater pollution to the city’s sewer and surrounding waterways and enhance water quality.

In addition to learning about state-of-the-art water infrastructure solutions from other jurisdictions, three New Jersey delegates — Drew Curtis of the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark; Michele Putnam from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; and Margaret Waldock of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation — shared their work during panel sessions at which they were speakers.

Delegates also explored partnerships with each other for projects back at home. This kind of collaboration happened naturally because of the broad cross-section of invested stakeholders represented: NJDEP regulators, a city water and sewer utility, community development organizations, environmental organizations, foundations and Jersey Water Works’ backbone staff.  One great idea for next year?  Start recruiting delegates earlier, in order to include more people!

For more information on any of these sessions or speakers, please visit the One Water Summit website.


staff_njf_chris2Chris Sturm directs New Jersey Future’s water programs to upgrade urban water infrastructure, mainstream green infrastructure, and facilitate Jersey Water Works. Jersey Water Works is a collaborative effort of many diverse organizations and individuals who embrace the common purpose of transforming New Jersey’s water infrastructure. For more information on Jersey Water Works, click here

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ArtPride New Jersey: The Arts AND … Movement

Posted on by Stephanie Carr, ArtPride NJ Program Manager

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Lessons Learned at #AFTACON2016

For nearly 60 years, Americans for the Arts has convened an annual convention for arts and community leaders to network and discuss strategies for building stronger towns, counties, and cities through the arts. As our professional field has grown, so has this gathering.

This year’s Annual Convention explored the role of the arts in creating and sustaining healthy, vibrant, equitable communities, and I’m proud to say that New Jersey was definitely in the house.

The biggest theme of this year’s convention mirrored ArtPride’s  June 2 Thrive conference in discussions about diversity and inclusion. The arts are such a diverse field with participants from every race, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, and ability, however, it almost seems that we’ve forgotten that diversity needs to be represented on the staff and boards of arts organizations as well.

Right now, as our country changes, demographics shift and communities are in flux, it is important to respectfully continue the dialogue.

How do organizations expand the executive pipeline?

How do organizations speak to new audiences?

How can arts organizations reflect the true diverse nature of America?

How can organizations embrace a culture of inclusivity without condescension?

It is critical that we give ourselves the time and permission to have these potentially uncomfortable conversations, and it is absolutely imperative that we take time to simply listen.

The Arts AND … Movement

Another theme of the convention that I am particularly fond of, is “The Arts AND ……” As a community, the arts are continuously forced to prove their value and one of the most compelling arguments is that the arts can and do collaborate and support almost any other sector. So along with the beneficial economic impact of the arts, arts organizations are natural partners in education, healthcare, veteran and military services, and a multitude of other social services. That tiny little preposition “and” makes a huge difference in how our creative sector is perceived and moves forward.

Too often during budget season legislators and policy makers see the arts as an added expense, a luxury, a line item that is taking valuable resources from more critical causes, and it is our job as arts advocates to remind them that the argument is never “The Arts OR …“, it is always “The Arts AND …

  • The Arts AND Healthcare can address serious issues like mental health and aging, explore the stigma around pain relief and opioid addiction, be utilized in preventative care, and play a pivotal role in palliative and end-of-life care.
  • The Arts AND Education can develop creative leaders, increase empathy, strengthen relationships, and open paths to self-discovery.
  • The Arts AND Veteran/Military Services can tackle difficult transitions, ease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and allow veterans and active-duty military to cultivate the friendships and relationships they need in times of crisis and throughout post military life.
  • The Arts AND Business can revitalize neighborhoods, develop innovative spaces, and re-energize declining Main Streets.
  • The Arts AND Developers/Planning Committees can build beautiful spaces, create wonderfully livable communities, and curate rich cultural landscapes.

The list goes on and on and, for arts organizations and artists, “The Arts AND …” can open up new revenue streams, provide learning and teaching opportunities, expand visions, and encourage those diverse and inclusive collaborations as our world changes.

For an advocacy organization like ArtPride NJ, “The Arts AND …” is a dream come true. Collaborations between the arts and other sectors open up doors to legislators whose priorities don’t always seem aligned with our own. These partnerships allow us to reach across aisles and beyond parties to share moving stories with elected officials who don’t normally consider arts related legislation. These relationships provide opportunities to highlight the best of the creative sector in a new context.

BUT  (a slightly more scary tiny little preposition) BUT before you jump on “The Arts AND …” bandwagon, I encourage you to be sure that you and your organization have the capacity, resources, determination, and passion for this cross-sector work. It is not particularly easy work.

With each partner there is a new vocabulary, a new protocol, a new hurdle … and a new chance for an incredibly rewarding experience. With each project there is a shift in priorities, a necessary flexibility, the potential for rejection … and the potential for inspirational success. While every arts organization and artist is a valuable asset to the community not all are cut out for “The Arts AND …” work. And that’s OK! Even better than OK, honestly.

It is critical to recognize your organizational capacity and accept that some potential collaborations diverge from your mission. Self-reflection ensures that arts organizations do their best work, be the best they can be with current resources, and also provides a base for strategic planning that can include successful cross-sector work.


Stephanie Carr is a program manager at ArtPride New Jersey. To learn more about ArtPride New Jersey, click here

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NJ Platform: Growing Stories from the Grassroots in South Jersey

Posted on by Milena Velis, Media Mobilizing Project

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At Media Mobilizing Project, we always say movements begin with the telling of untold stories. Based in Philadelphia for 10 years, we’ve begun branching out into South Jersey — mainly Camden and Atlantic City — to build a broader community of grassroots leaders who can tell their own stories, and to amplify voices that aren’t being heard in local media.

Here’s how we’re applying our core principles of media-based organizing in the Garden State:

Listen:

The first for us is to get a grounded understanding of a community’s problems, and of the community’s solutions to overcoming them. This is one of our core practices — listening to regular poor and working people who are doing good in their community — the unsung experts and unsung heroes.

In the past year, we’ve marched with immigrants fighting for the right to drive, we’ve gone to countless community town halls and city government meetings. Through old-fashioned relationship building, we found the organizers, artists, faith leaders, service providers, educators, and others on the front lines, we asked them to connect us to more grassroots leaders, and we sat down for dozens of one-on-one conversations.

Amplify:

From this process we learned a few things: Just like Philadelphia, South Jersey is full of brilliant individuals working for change in their communities whose voices never make it onto the local news.

In order to lift up the stories of unheard communities, we launched NJ Platform this spring. NJ Platform is an online place to speak out on the key issues impacting the lives of working people in Atlantic City and Camden. We’re looking for guest bloggers who want to contribute to the conversation.

Perhaps the biggest story happening right now in South Jersey is the impending state takeover of Atlantic City. As negotiations unfold, the decisions made will impact the lives of thousands of local residents. Privatizing the city’s water supply is one cost-cutting measures that’s been proposed, despite the cautionary tale that Flint, Michigan provides for the country.

In the midst of the negotiations and ongoing uncertainty about AC’s future, we set out to amplify the voices of long-time residents involved in community work. Here’s just one of the many brilliant people we’ve met — the people who should be listened to — AC artist and local resident Belinda Manning talking about who should be taken into account in the ongoing negotiations over her city’s fiscal future.

Educate & Network:

We know that change only happens when people learn and work together, and communities have the chance to break their isolation. That’s why we bring the connections we make back to the community, creating spaces for people to network and to learn from each other.

At our Media Institutes, we share the best practices we’ve learned about how to use storytelling and media technologies for social change. We also make space to learn from participants, the community of storytellers and activists we are building together.

Here’s what participants in our last Media Institute outside Atlantic City had to say about the experience:

  • “It’s great to learn what other community members are doing to empower their communities”
  • “It was very useful for an intro to storytelling — and for building trust and shared skills in community”
  • “The diversity among participants created an opportunity to hear a variety of views and opinions”

The relationship building, education and networking we’ve done so far is a foundation for more storytelling projects to come.

Stay tuned for an upcoming short documentary about the community behind a recent production of the play “Growing up in the other Atlantic City,” tracing the past and present of AC’s African American community through the stories of the play’s actors.


MMP

Milena Velis is Media Production Director at Media Mobilizing Project. Milena trains and supports MMP movement media makers, and coordinates the production of MMP news reports, documentary projects, and other media telling the untold stories of everyday people building a movement for our human rights. To learn more about Media Mobilizing Project’s NJ 

Photo at top: Participants at our Atlantic City Media Institute discuss media and communications strategies for grassroots social change.

Posted in Grantee Spotlight, Informed Communities, Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Random Acts of Art & Community: Join us Thursday for our next #BetterNJ Twitter chat

Posted on by Meghan Jambor, Dodge Communications Manager

Art and Community Twitter Chat

 

Join us at 2 p.m. Thursday for a LIVE #BetterNJ discussion on Twitter about Random Acts of Art & Community happening right here in New Jersey.

Think flash mobs, participatory art projects, or impromptu music performances on the street. You may think public displays of art like this just happen, but often, there’s an arts organization and a plan behind this inspiring work.

#BetterNJ Twitter Chat – Random Acts of Art and Community
Thursday, June 23, 2016
2:00 – 3:00 PM

During the second installment of our #BetterNJ Twitter chat series, we’ll talk to some of the creative people working at nonprofits who put community at the center of their work. Participants, who work in communities across the Garden State, include: CoLAB Arts, Gallery Aferro, Ironbound Community Corporation, Morris Arts, Noyes Museum of Art, Perkins Center for the Arts, and Victory Hall.

Learn about some random acts of art and community they’ve orchestrated, find out where public art is happening in our communities, and what kind of dream projects you might see happen near where you live.

We know many of you share our belief in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together. How participating in a shared communal experience like public art can transform the way you see your own creative self and make you feel more invested in your community.

Why is the Dodge Foundation hosting a Twitter chat? Simply, Twitter chats are about connecting and learning. It’s an easy way to hit pause in your work day from where ever you are and share ideas and best practices with peers from across the state. Moreover, you never know what connections you’ll make or who’s reading, and, if you’re like me, you get excited when you try out new tools and ways to reach new audiences.

All are welcome to join the chat. The more voices, the better the conversation!

Tips for Participating in a Twitter Chat:

  • Use Twitter to follow #betternj — or better yet, try Tchat.io at http://www.tchat.io/
  • Don’t be afraid to jump in!
  • Always use #betternj in your tweet
  • Use the Q1/A1, Q2/A2 format when you respond to the moderator’s questions
  • Chat with other participants by replying directing to them and RT if you’re digging their responses
  • Include a “.” in front of an @ if you want your tweet to show up in all feeds
  • Feel free to dip in and out of the chat
  • Be polite and positive
  • Follow up with people after the chat and keep the conversations going

Set a reminder on your calendar to join us. I’ll see you on Twitter at 2 p.m. Thursday as @grdodge!


 

140602_dodgeMeghan Jambor is the Dodge Foundation’s communications manager. Follow her on Twitter @MeghanJambor

Posted in Arts, Arts Ed Now, Community Building, News & Announcements | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Tips to Help Your Organization Comply with the DOL’s Revised White Collar Regulations

Posted on by Christine Michelle Duffy, Pro Bono Partnership

 clock

 

A note to readers: On Wednesday June 22, Pro Bono Partnership will release a second employment law update on the recent U.S. Department of Labor changes to the rules governing white collar workers.  For the benefit of readers of this blog, following is an abbreviated version of the update and a link to the full article.

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published revised regulations governing the minimum salary that must be paid to “white collar” employees for those employees to be exempt from an entitlement to overtime (OT) pay for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. Last week, Pro Bono Partnership posted an overview of the major changes made by the DOL, which will go into effect on Dec. 1, 2016.

In this post, we offer employers a brief overview of some considerations and strategies for addressing the new federal minimum weekly salary level of $913 ($47,476 annualized) for employees who are employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional (EAP) capacity. Readers can review the longer version of this overview before they develop their action plans.

The first thing an employer needs to do is identify and evaluate all of its positions that are currently classified as exempt and compensated below the new minimum salary level. Then, the employer must decide whether to raise their salaries to at least $47,476 or reclassify them as nonexempt.

The Exempt Option

If the employer wants to keep one or more employees exempt from OT, it will need to increase their salary to at least $47,476. This would be a good time to also verify that the current actual duties of all exempt employees — as opposed to what their job descriptions say their duties are — still warrant that they be so classified. If job descriptions are inaccurate, they should be updated.

The Nonexempt Option

An important consideration will be the number of hours an employee who earns less than $913 a week actually works each week. If an employee never works more than 40 hours in a week, the employee would not be entitled to overtime. Converting this employee to nonexempt would be cost neutral. But note that with exempt employees always connected to e-mail and office servers, it may be difficult for employers to accurately measure the true number of hours an employee has been regularly working.

If the decision is made to reclassify an employee as nonexempt, then the employer will need to consider strategies for managing potential OT costs.

Options include:

  • Keeping the same total annual wages by backing into an hourly rate that would allow the employee to earn the same amount when OT pay is factored in. Here is a formula: (Current weekly salary) / (40 hours + (OT Hours x 1.5)).
  • Keeping the same total annual wages by treating the employee as a salaried nonexempt employee. The DOL has special rules relating to paying nonexempt employees on a salaried basis.
  • Reducing the employee’s workload so that the employee will not work more than 40 hours and either distributing the extra work to employees who are not at risk of going over 40 hours a week or hiring a second employee to pick up some or all of the extra work.
  • Determining the overall fiscal impact of having to pay additional compensation as OT and possibly reducing fringe benefits and/or eliminating or delaying pay increases, discretionary bonuses, and promotions.

Other Issues

Implementing the DOL changes has the potential to cause morale and legal issues, such as (1) potentially distorted salary bands; (2) two employees doing the same job, one of whom is classified as exempt and the other as nonexempt; and (3) employees seeking union representation.

Additionally, employers will need to train the newly nonexempt employees about the nonprofit’s timesheet policies, as most if not all of them will not be accustomed to recording hours worked and not working overtime without express permission from their managers. Work from home or the beach will now also be compensable time; hours that these employees will need to track. Employers should also audit the timekeeping practices of these employees to ensure that they are following proper procedures.

Communicating the Changes

Employees will have lots of questions. And employees generally have a protected right to discuss among themselves their terms and conditions of employment, including compensation.

It is important for nonprofits to recognize the employees’ concerns.  For those employees who will be reclassified as nonexempt, employers should consider preparing talking points for managers about the changes, to help explain, in a consistent manner, the reason for the changes, and how the changes will impact, if at all, the employees’ compensation, benefits, and opportunities for career advancement.  Give as much notice as possible to affected employees—at least 30 days would be ideal.

Questions?

New Jersey nonprofits should call me at 973-240-6955,  ext. 303. Connecticut and New York nonprofits should reach out to my White Plains counterpart, Jennifer Grudnowski, at 914- 328-0674, ext. 335.


Christine Michelle Duffy cropped
Christine Michelle Duffy is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership, in its Parsippany office, and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog.  Christine provides labor and employment legal advice for the Partnership’s clients in New Jersey.

Posted in Pro Bono Partnership, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
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