Pages tagged "Blog"
Originally published on Medium on December 3, 2020.
by Fay Walker
Small businesses employ almost half of workers across the country, and many are the retail and service businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. From February to April, the number of active small business owners dropped by 22 percent (PDF). Despite limited federal support through the CARES Act in March 2020, small businesses continue to struggle (PDF), and local elected officials and economic development organizations are grappling with how to best support them through the pandemic. To do this, local leaders need to collect real-time data about what specific challenges their small businesses are facing.
Because Black-, Latinx-, Native-, and Asian-owned businesses are seeing higher closure rates than white-owned ones, leaders also need to hear directly from these business owners to work toward an equitable economic recovery.
For most places, equitable recovery means collecting data directly from small businesses. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Small Business Administration are not disaggregated or recent enough to inform the real-time crisis facing the small business sector today. The limited sources and challenges of small-area business data are described in a recent guide from the Urban Institute on monitoring neighborhood change and displacement.
Two grantees of the Using Data to Inform Local Decisions on COVID-19 Response & Recovery grant program, Catalyst Miami and the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI), recognized this challenge and designed projects to collect data directly from small businesses to better understand the needs of their communities’ small businesses.
The LPHI is focusing on Jefferson Parish, which has been hard hit by COVID-19 and related unemployment. One in 20 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Jefferson Parish, and the unemployment rate is 9 percent, exceeding the rate for the rest of the state. The LPHI will survey employees about their employment status, workplace environments, and economic stability to better target support. The LPHI will also interview employers, to explore how COVID-19 is affecting small businesses, what resources are needed to reopen safely, and what worker training is needed.
Catalyst Miami is working with the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency to identify businesses that serve low-income communities and are owned by people of color with incomes below 80 percent of area median income. One in 12 people have tested positive in the surrounding county, and the North Miami unemployment rate in 2018 (latest available for cities) was 9 percent, 1.4 times the state level and likely to be higher since the pandemic. Catalyst and its partners are surveying business owners to learn what North Miami’s small businesses need and to determine useful benchmarks for small business resiliency.
Catalyst Miami intends to use their data to help businesses better access technical assistance and to direct relief funds. The LPHI will share their findings with the Jefferson Parish Council District 3 office to build a more effective response to the immediate and long-term needs stemming from the pandemic.
Localities can take action with policy tools, such as providing businesses with access to funding and reforming zoning and permitting, to benefit small businesses and the communities relying on them. However, firsthand accounts from small business owners remain important to understanding which policies will address the challenges specific to each place. Catalyst Miami and the LPHI have already learned from one another by sharing surveys and lessons on gathering data from small business owners. Other places can also draw inspiration from these projects on how data-informed business assistance and supportive policy can guide equitable economic response and recovery in their local contexts.
We thank Ahmed Mori of Catalyst Miami and Barrie Black from the Louisiana Public Health Institute for their contributions to this blog post. The two organizations are grantees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Using Data to Inform Local Decisions on COVID-19 Response & Recovery program.
By Dr. Mary
Everyone is on a journey at some point in their lives. As I approach 50 this year, I reflect on my life and ask what have I done? I have five degrees including a doctorate but feel I have not reached my full potential.
What have I really accomplished? What have I contributed to my community? What am I going to leave between the dash of 1969 and ---? What legacy will I leave for my children?
So, this year I have embarked on a journey to “find myself.” Several times I have asked myself: ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ It seems I know more of what I don’t want, than what I want. What is my passion and my purpose in life? I want to know, ‘what was I sent on Earth to do? What has the Creator gifted me to do’?
One of the first things I did was fast and pray. At the time, I was teaching elementary school and was miserable. I kept looking for alternate employment before I left but found nothing, and the more I prayed it seemed the worse things got on the job; I finally took a leap of faith and quit.
I began putting things in place to begin my practice, all the while thinking there has got to be more that I’m supposed to do. I am currently an entertainment writer but that I do as a side gig; I love my work but still want more. I have taken many one-day workshops, read self-help books, spoken to life coaches, attended a wellness conference and completed the CLEAR program. The CLEAR program is one thing that brought about an ‘aha’ moment.
CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment Advocacy and Resiliency) Miami is a Climate Resilience Leadership program which “provides graduates with a groundwork to become climate resilience educators, leaders, and innovators in their own communities and beyond.” When I first heard about this program --- that it was 10 weeks, free dinner and project at the end -- I said, ‘oh no, not for me’. I am not interested in climate change although I believe it is real, but after a couple weeks of being unemployed, I thought why not, it’s something to do and I may just learn something.
CLEAR is a part of Catalyst Miami which was founded by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava as the Human Services Coalition. Its “defining role is to identify and launch innovative community building strategies.” Their vision is “A just and equitable society in which all communities thrive.” Their mission statement is, “To identify and collectively solve issues adversely affecting low-wealth communities throughout Miami-Dade County.”
CLEAR Miami has been one of the most rewarding trainings for me. I have never thought about climate/social change but as the weeks went on I felt myself falling in love with social change. I have always been interested in helping the community and done several volunteer jobs, but CLEAR is helping me take it to the next level.
One of its requirements is to develop a program and present it at the end of the course. The project I am designing involves incarcerated individuals and while it is in the infancy stages, it gets more exciting as the time goes by. It’s too early to say I’ve found the answers to my questions, but I have made great progress. Going outside my comfort zone led me to a place I would not otherwise be unable to conceive.
If you are like me and feel that there is more to life than where you are currently be patient with yourself. Trust the process, take the time to explore, go outside of your comfort zone, be open. There are many books, coaches, counselors and psychologist who will help. Choose a path that’s best for you, and as Nike says, ‘Just Do It’. It is such a rewarding feeling to think, ‘this feels right’, or get that ‘Aha!’ moment.
Don’t settle for less. Life is short and we only have one life to live. Live yours!
This article first appeared in I Am Queen magazine in October 2019.
As millions across the country denounce the senseless killings of Black people at the hands of police, George Floyd among the most recent, and racial injustice in our national institutions, Catalyst Miami stands with our Black brothers and sisters in unequivocal solidarity. We are horrified by these acts of injustice – tragedies that are painfully familiar. Our Black communities have long suffered the downstream effects of racism, and most recently the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. We grieve with our Black friends, colleagues and fellow citizens; moreover, we wholeheartedly commit to turning our collective grief into action.
We will continue investing our time, energy and resources in our Black communities, who have been historically marginalized. We will keep seeking out ways to create more equity and opportunity. We will work hard to achieve policy changes that address systemic injustices and hold people of color back. And we will continue showing up and speaking out in defense of the intrinsic value of Black lives, until we are all treated with equal dignity and respect.
It’s going to take all of us to dismantle the deep-rooted racism that has existed since this country’s founding and create a more just world. We must openly and intently listen to the lived experiences of our Black brothers and sisters. And we must actively confront and challenge any racism we witness in our daily lives. The moment is now to stand up, demand change, and speak the inarguable truth that Black lives matter.
A Call to Allies:
Non-Black people have a responsibility to find and act in ways that support and advance racial justice. Allies must take action to end the visible and invisible racism in our communities. Here’s a list of anti-racist resources, shared by FIU, and here is Medium's 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Below is our list of 7 things you can do - now and long-term - most of which were shared by Paul Carrick Brunson:
- Donate. – Check out organizations like the Minnesota Freedom Fund, who are bailing out protestors and providing supplies on the ground. Also, the National Bail Fund Network has a full directory of bail funds by state.
- Attend a protest or march. – There are peaceful protests scheduled around the world. We understand people’s caution about taking to the streets, especially since we’re still going through a pandemic. For anyone who can do so safely, we encourage you to show up.
- Educate yourself. – Remember to not expect or task your Black colleagues and community members to teach you right now. In addition to Paul’s top 10 reads (and videos) on U.S. and British racism, we recommend How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
- Vote (not just in federal elections). – At the ballot is where we can most effectively create change. Find out when your local elections are. As President Obama said, “The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.” Also, hold lawmakers responsible through calls.
- Buy from Black-owned businesses. – Invest in Black-owned businesses. As Paul says, “Political power follows economic power. Not sure where to start? SBO has a directory of Black Owned Businesses.” Check out supportblackowned.com/help/faq for inspiration.
- Make your long-term strategy. – How can you make a long-term impact or affect change? Can you mentor a young person, or volunteer? Can you support an organization that works to advance racial equity and justice? Make the effort to do something meaningful over a long period.
Looking for more ways to take action? Check out Medium's 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.
Housing Justice is Climate Justice
WE ARE CURRENTLY FACING A HEALTH EMERGENCY
Since MARCH 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has greatly disrupted the daily life, employment, business, and health of Miami-Dade County residents. This pandemic has placed all of our citizens in harm’s way and is quickly becoming an economic crisis for many households. this emergency has and will continue to exacerbate the housing crisis that residents of South Florida have been fighting against for years.
Miami-Dade County’s low-income and working class residents need immediate assistance, as well as long-term solutions. This is not the first time Miami-Dade County has faced such a challenge, and it will not be the last. For example, due to climate change’s impacts on rising temperatures, mosquito-borne diseases will become more prevalent in South Florida. Therefore, we demand the rapid implementation of the recommendations outlined in this report.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
In July 2019, over 75 Miami-Dade County residents represented their neighborhoods at the Miami Housing & Energy Justice Congress, where over 40 demands related to neighborhood development and energy justice were voiced. This kicked off a seven month revision process collecting public feedback through community meetings. As a result, the Housing Justice in the Face of Climate Change Report was collaboratively developed by over 200 Miami-Dade County residents and stakeholders.
At its core, the Miami Climate Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals working to prioritize climate justice in South Florida. The Miami Climate Alliance seeks to achieve equity in resilience by building urgency around community well-being, strengthening networks of community members and organizations, raising awareness of climate change and sea level rise as threats to all forms of justice, and directly supporting those working to implement solutions in frontline neighborhoods now.
...disproportionately impact the financial wellbeing of Black and Hispanic families
Originally by JPMorgan Chase Institute
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to ripple through households and communities, the JPMorgan Chase Institute has released new research on racial gaps in financial outcomes, as well as how families of different racial groups weather fluctuations in income. The report and accompanying academic paper highlight some of the ways in which COVID-19 may disproportionately impact the financial wellbeing of Black and Hispanic families by offering a new lens into how families respond to income fluctuations across racial groups. An accompanying Insight, also released today, further explores the report findings in light of the current COVID-19 context, as many families are now experiencing income drops and layoffs and receiving stimulus checks.
The report, developed over the past two years, leverages a novel de-identified data source — administrative banking data paired with self-reported race information for 1.8 million families in Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana and shows there are large racial gaps in take-home income and liquid assets that persist across age, income, gender, and geography.
This research also offers a new lens into how families of different racial groups respond to income fluctuations, an event that is especially prevalent now due to business closures and layoffs. It also examines the impact of tax refunds on spending—a payment that could look similar to the direct payment that many American taxpayers expect to receive as a result of the federal CARES Act.
1. The racial gap in financial assets makes Black and Hispanic families more vulnerable to fluctuations in income. If Black, Hispanic, and White families all had the same levels of liquid assets, we might expect to see almost no racial differences in their spending response to involuntary job loss, payroll fluctuations, or the arrival of the tax refund.
Job Loss: After involuntary job loss, Black and Hispanic families cut their everyday spending (e.g. groceries, household products) more than White families. For every dollar lost in income, Black families cut spending by 46 cents and Hispanic families cut spending by 43 cents, whereas White families cut spending by only 28 cents.
Payroll fluctuations: In a companion academic paper, we examine the path of families’ spending when their employer raises or lowers pay for all employees. In the face of employer-driven payroll changes, Black families alter consumption by 50 percent more than White families, and Hispanic families by 20 percent more than White families.
Tax Refund: Black and Hispanic families increase their spending to a greater extent when they receive a tax refund. In addition, families of all racial groups spend their tax refunds similarly in that they withdraw more cash, spend more on durables, and make larger credit card payments.
Importantly, across all three of these illustrations – involuntary job loss, payroll fluctuations, and the arrival of the tax refund—racial differences in the spending response largely disappear when we account for racial gaps in liquid assets.
2. There are large racial gaps in take-home income and liquid assets that persist across age, income, gender, and geography.
- Take-home income - For every dollar the median White family earns, the median Black family earns just 71 cents, and the median Hispanic family earns 74 cents.
- Liquid assets - Racial gaps in liquid assets are twice as large as gaps in income. For every dollar of liquid assets held by White families, the median Black family has just 32 cents, and the median Hispanic family just 47 cents. Even among families with similar incomes, for every dollar in liquid assets White families have, Black families have roughly 50 cents and Hispanic families have roughly 70 cents.
- Age - Racial gaps in liquid assets are larger for older account holders. For White families, liquid assets increase by five-fold between the ages of 18-24 and 65+. Among Black families they increase just three-fold and among Hispanic families, they actually fall with age after peaking among 35-44 year olds.
- Geography - Across Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida, financial outcomes vary the most among Hispanic families and least among Black families. Black-White gaps are largest in Louisiana, and Hispanic-White gaps are largest in Florida.
As the U.S. continues to manage the spread of COVID-19, policymakers, non-profits, and business leaders need to be especially attentive to policies that support lower-income and Black and Hispanic families who may be disproportionately impacted financially. For more, read the full report here.
April 7, 2020
By: Tate Williams
AN EMERGENCY SHELTER CENTER DURING HURRICANE HARVEY/DURMICHELMOND/SHUTTERSTOCK
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, some uncanny parallels have emerged between the acute threat before us and the longer-term crisis of climate change. One particular concept that has struck me as starkly relevant during this global health crisis is that of resilience.
Loosely defined as a community’s ability to withstand shocks and stresses, resilience is a niche interest within climate philanthropy, often related to infrastructure and readiness for climate impacts like storms and flooding. But resilience is also about closing systemic vulnerabilities and inequities, many of which have been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic. The current health crisis has underscored the need to make communities better prepared and more equitable under a status quo with more frequent disasters.
To get a better sense of where the public health crisis and the climate crisis intersect, and what lessons we might learn from both going forward, I reached out to Shamar Bibbins, senior program officer at the Kresge Foundation, who works directly at the nexus of health, climate and community.
“We like to say that climate change is a threat multiplier, that it affects everything. Climate change is a public health issue, it’s an economic issue, it’s a poverty issue, it’s a social justice issue,” Bibbins says. “As this pandemic just keeps unfolding, we’re seeing the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our systems.”
Kresge was an early funder of climate resilience in cities, and Bibbins has played a lead role in foundation initiatives focused on community-led approaches to resilience and reducing inequality in public health during climate change. I called Bibbins to discuss how the current health crisis might inform future resilience funding, and what Kresge’s learned about helping communities become stronger in the face of profound threats.
Climate Change and COVID-19
Funders, advocates and activists alike are grappling right now with how the global health crisis and climate change might interact and overlap as both play out—in particular, how to prevent COVID-19 from overshadowing the climate threat.
There have been some concrete connections, such as the debate over a $2 trillion relief package, and how plans for future infrastructure and stimulus spending might contribute to a stronger, post-carbon economy. At the same time, even the status quo needs defending as the Trump administration waives EPA regulations and rolls back auto emissions rules in the fog of pandemic.
Bibbins is quick to point out that there’s a lot of uncertainty right now as the situation evolves, but the climate advocates and funders, including her team at Kresge, are having a lot of discussions about how climate action fits into COVID-19 response. That means striking the right balance of responding to the immediate crisis, without neglecting climate impacts that are still happening. Kresge’s trying to learn what that might look like from its partners—as one public health grantee recently said to Bibbins, “Wildfire season is just around the corner.”
“They're the ones who reminded us that we have to be thinking about these things in tandem and holistically,” she says. In fact, many of the populations and systems that are now heavily strained are also the subject of climate resilience efforts.
Resilience is a field that has been around for a while in climate circles, and a set of funders has made it a high priority. The Rockefeller Foundation has been a leader, although it abruptly ended its huge 100 Resilient Cities initiative last year (some elements continue and a new nonprofit has spun off). We’ve also seen community foundations and local donors engage with climate resilience, realizing the danger of flooding, storms, wildfires and other impacts. Kresge was another early champion of philanthropic support for resilience, with an emphasis on supporting vulnerable communities in cities.
Resilience is kind of a fuzzy concept, and while it sometimes entails straightforward measures like flood prevention or green infrastructure, it’s often a more intersectional field that aims to address any number of societal threats. For Kresge, that includes combating inequality and strengthening social bonds.
One major resilience initiative that Kresge recently wrapped up was Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity (CRUO), which funded 15 community nonprofits across the U.S. for five years to ensure resilience planning is meeting the needs of low-income communities. Another especially relevant initiative, Climate Change, Health and Equity, similarly backs grassroots groups, along with public health institutions and practitioners, to serve as leaders in climate and resilience efforts.
Bibbins identifies a few key points where the COVID-19 pandemic might inform climate resilience, and the broader need to strengthen and support communities.
Urgent Action and a Long Game
Discussing one of the biggest lessons at the intersection of the pandemic and climate change, Bibbins references a recent interview by Elizabeth Sawin, co-director of Climate Interactive, who points out that if you wait until you can see the threat, it’s too late.
“The U.S. was slow to respond to coronavirus despite very early warnings and signals that were made by many public health experts across the country that we would be unprepared for a pandemic like this. And true enough, look where we are,” Bibbins says.
For her, that underscores the urgency of the work that climate funders and advocates are doing right now. “I just feel our work is so much more critical than ever.”
But it also says something important about how foundations support the people working on the ground. Acute threats often spur funders to react to needs in the moment, and in important ways, but the strengthening of underlying systems takes a long time.
“Advocates have been telling philanthropists this for a very long time—we need long-term funding, consistent funding, flexible funding, because it’s long-term work,” Bibbins says.
Communities need the resources and flexibility to respond to crises, but also to pass and implement the policies necessary to mitigate and be ready for them in advance. Bibbins points out that in the course of Kresge’s community nonprofit funding through CRUO, it became very clear that the team needed to be thinking about the full life cycle of policies, including the critical rollout of new regulations and spending. Six of the groups from the five-year CRUO initiative are still Kresge grantees through the foundation’s new climate and health initiative, continuing aspects of the climate resilience work they started.
“These organizations who are up against so many things need long-term, flexible funding to be able to shift, to be able to adapt, to be able to not only win a policy, but to be able to actually work on the equitable implementation of it,” Bibbins says.
Community Ties, Leadership, and Expertise
The hyper-local tools and relationships people are developing during the COVID-19 crisis have mirrored past responses to climate impacts and will likely be important to withstanding future threats. In fact, one element of Kresge’s definition of climate resilience is “social cohesion and inclusion.”
Bibbins recalls, for example, that after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, ad hoc response efforts among residents and local organizations sought to meet local needs in low-income neighborhoods and public housing where people were not getting the official support they needed.
“So organizations kind of were scrambling, and they became the first responders for many of these people,” she says.
One study documented that the lower-income neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, for example, relied on strong social ties among community members, anchored by local nonprofit Red Hook Initiative, to meet residents’ needs during Sandy’s aftermath. Bibbins says that kind of neighbor-to-neighbor-level emergency response influenced grantees funded through Kresge’s CRUO initiative when it formed in 2014, including Catalyst Miami, which worked with a coalition of groups to create a Community Emergency Operations Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Similar volunteer first responders and community support networks emerged during Puerto Rico’s recent hurricanes and subsequent earthquakes, supported by local foundations and nonprofits. In response to COVID-19, with travel restricted and access to supplies and care limited, comparable neighborhood mutual aid efforts have popped up across the country, responding to immediate needs and facilitating exchanges of resources.
Bibbins says one thing Kresge is thinking about is how this social connectivity in difficult times might be ramped up by philanthropy and government. One of the core tenets of Kresge’s resilience funding is the idea of lifting up the overlooked expertise of people in communities.
“As money continues to go into supporting community networks and grassroots work, we're finding, oh wait, these folks actually know what they’re talking about. They’re experts because they have lived experience,” she says.
But the foundation also supports building capacity in local government, and has learned that connecting government to the grassroots can build resilience in exciting ways.
“The community has all of this knowledge and all of these assets and all of these relationships,” she says. So when the city is doing emergency response planning for the future, “it feels like there’s a really important way to connect back to all of those resources and assets that the community already has been doing in their own right.”
Interconnected Issues, Underlying Inequality
Another major lesson COVID-19 has driven home is that so many of the societal threats we are up against are interconnected, with deep racial and economic inequities underlying them. Certainly, she says, more funding for resilience is needed to prepare for emergencies.
“But more important than that, I think that philanthropy—whether you’re a climate funder, whether you’re a human service funder—we need to think about our solution sets in a much more comprehensive, holistic and cross-sectoral way,” she says.
Just as climate change acts as a threat multiplier, straining every other system, COVID-19 has had similar cross-cutting impacts, and the weaknesses they exploit are often the same.
For example, Bibbins points out, populations hit hard by COVID-19 often overlap with populations already struggling with poverty, heat island effects, air and water pollution and pre-existing respiratory problems.
Indeed, a New York Times analysis found that low-income neighborhoods of New York City are being hit the hardest by the pandemic. Early data in other cities is showing that communities of color are experiencing alarmingly disproportionate numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19. Research has found that respiratory viruses, asthma and air pollution can compound to increase the risk of serious symptoms, even among children. Meanwhile, the crisis has also shone a spotlight on weaknesses in the social safety net by exposing how people without access to healthcare and worker benefits are at greater risk.
Bibbins worries that once we get through the COVID-19 crisis, society will simply move on to the next threat that arises without examining the vulnerabilities that exacerbate these impacts.
“I just feel like it’s so critically important that we use this opportunity to really deepen our understanding of how the historical and institutional racism and inequity impact policy and planning across all levels,” she says.
“More than ever, we really need to acknowledge that, we need to address it, and we need to make sure our policies that we’re putting forth seek to correct those structural inequities that affect climate change, that affect COVID-19, and any other environment or public health crisis.”
This story originally appeared in Inside Philanthropy
On Tuesday, February 4, 2020, a group of dedicated community members and Catalyst Miami staff set off on an 8-hour bus ride to the state capital to meet with senators and representatives from their districts. Since 1997, Catalyst Miami has taken a delegation of community advocates to Dade Days—a two-day event held during the annual Florida Legislative Session where organizations and individuals from across Miami-Dade County have the opportunity to elevate community needs and potential solutions.
Prior to each annual trip, the organization identifies key issue areas and provides trainings for participants. This year, we decided to shake things up a little! In the months leading up to the trip, Catalyst Miami brought on five previous Dade Days attendees as community Ambassadors to engage state legislators locally, participate in policy coalitions, help set our policy agenda, and serve as mentors to new participants. This was our first time meeting with legislators in their home offices before the start of session! Vincent Adderly, Travis Lowery, Janielle Murphy, Jeanette Ruiz, and Alecia Tramel did an amazing job as inaugural Ambassadors for Catalyst to the Capital.
In addition to the five Ambassadors, six Fellows—all first-time participants—joined us in preparing for Dade Days. Fellows included Dorian Christful, Alexandra Genard, Debra Davis, Tashia Mesidor, Liliam Rojas, and Patricia Ruiz. We also had Danielle Dubuc on behalf of Be Strong International, Inc as a community partner. Everyone participated in trainings on the legislative process and our three focus areas: climate resilience, affordable housing, and healthcare. In collaboration with other local groups, such as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the New Florida Majority, we identified over 20 bills to track and highlight throughout the session.
This year in Tallahassee, we met with 14 legislators and the Chief Resilience Officer for Florida, Julia Nesheiwat. Community members shared their personal stories and connection to many of the bills heard in committees and on the floor. There was a lot of rich discussion about the ways community members, organizations, and policymakers could work together to help improve the health, wealth, and overall quality of life of our neighborhoods.
It was an exciting and successful Catalyst to the Capital trip! The commitment and passion of each participant was contagious and for some, this is just the beginning of their journey in advocacy and community leadership. Until next year!
By Santiago Bunce
As many of our clients and supporters know, Catalyst Miami is currently in the midst of adopting a new neighborhood-based, resilience-oriented approach to our on-the-ground work. What may be less apparent is that these external shifts also necessitate internal ones: as our programming evolves, our evaluative process must too. In the next few paragraphs, you’ll learn how we’re confronting this challenge—one common to many organizations—by developing our own unique methodology. It’s a methodology that we hope will benefit not only our organization, but also our constituents and other partners in this work.
Founded in 1995 by members of the local League of Women Voters, Catalyst Miami originally set out to address how the Clinton Administration’s welfare reforms might impact low-wealth families. Since that time, Catalyst has grown into a nonprofit that provides direct services to individuals and families across a wide range of issues, including health, wealth, community leadership, youth development, and climate resilience. Aware that systems and policy changes are needed to promote and generate equity and well-being, and that partner organizations are equally engaged in building prosperity, Catalyst also began establishing interventions at the meso- and macro-levels—through capacity building and policy and advocacy work, respectively—to enhance the results of micro-level direct services. Today, we have over 30 different programs and engagement efforts.
To capture the aggregated results of our work across such a diverse set of programs and engagements, we needed to identify how to benchmark outcomes across programs and then, how to aggregate micro-, meso-, and macro-level outcomes. To further complicate the task, we also had to determine how to do this across varied issue areas and communities, and for programs that serve different, yet related purposes. Recognizing that others have confronted similar problems before, we explored various solutions, including the Center for Urban Futures’ “person-centered approach" , which tracks the progress of individual constituents across key evaluative dimensions. Just as with the CUF program, the more precise and tailored we can design metrics to be, the better the programmatic adjustments and interventions overall.
Starting this year, Catalyst will begin identifying and tracking Milestone Moments. These moments signify outcomes that demonstrate meaningful changes in an individual’s, family’s, or community’s day-to-day life—changes that provide more stable footing for those we serve and a step toward greater goals. We plan to contextualize these Milestone Moments as much as possible. For example, $1,000 saved by someone making $20,000 a year is more significant than the same amount saved by someone making $40,000. The goal is to tailor our analysis to what is relevant and meaningful to each individual, while still tracking data cumulatively. Perhaps most importantly, Milestone Moments will be based on research, literature, and data that demonstrate that if certain outcomes occur, doors open to other economic, health, and civic improvements in a person’s life.
So what do Milestone Moments look like in practice? A few examples we are working on include measurements related to wealth, health, and policy changes. When considering credit scores, for example, we want to position clients to increase their score overall, but we also know that a score ranked as “Good” means greater access to capital, higher likelihood of approval for loans, and lower interest rates. By benchmarking to the FICO 8 and 9 score for “Good” at 661, and VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 score for “Good” at 670 , we can track who is hitting the Milestone Moment and staying there.
As a financial metric, household savings offer another milestone opportunity, and one that is highly dependent on families’ distinct circumstances. Savings give a read on financial stability because they relate to liquid-asset poverty, or having insufficient savings to survive three months in the absence of income. In Florida, the liquid-asset poverty rate is 48%  and in the City of Miami it’s about 67% . Therefore, to determine the Milestone Moment and whether or not it has been achieved, our financial coaches can determine the monthly expenses a household incurs and calculate the necessary total to transition out of liquid-asset poverty. This number will vary for every family, but the successful outcome—sufficient savings to cover three months-worth of expenses—remains the same.
Other Milestone Moments are less complicated to measure. For example, enrolling in affordable medical insurance and maintaining coverage is a Milestone Moment for health. For civic participation, data suggests that voting in local elections means people are more likely to contact local officials, stay informed in local affairs, and volunteer —all of which generates greater community connection and commitment. As a result, voting in a local election for the first time is a Milestone Moment. Finally, policy wins at municipal levels, such as establishing a minimum wage that matches a local living wage, represent Milestone Moments for constituents who directly benefit.
Tracking Milestone Moments will yield important benefits. First, by aggregating results across programs and departments, we’ll be able to see more clearly the overall results of the organization’s collective work. This will create a greater sense of connection and understanding among staff and departments. In addition, by tracking and aggregating Milestone Moments as each program participant and partner organization engages with Catalyst, we’ll gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of our work. Second, as we drill down on the data, we will be able to identify which programs—or which combination of programs, services, and advocacy—result in the most sustainable and consistent Milestone Moments. Third, this new methodology will allow us to standardize and benchmark key measures of the outcomes we seek, thus giving us clear, incremental goalposts that will help us better position our clients for success. Equally important, we’ll be able to better advocate for policy and systems changes that will perpetuate positive impact. Finally, the Milestone Moments methodology will force us to remain vigilant and aware of the changes occurring across issue areas and how benchmarks evolve.
To be clear, prosperity does not result solely from an individual’s work alone, or their participation in direct service programs provided by Catalyst and/or others. While direct services provide opportunities for stability, macro-level change to address the historical inequity and unfair policies, systems, and structures that perpetuate poverty and serve as gatekeepers to prosperity, are equally, if not more important.
We’re excited for this Milestone Moment approach and are eager to learn. How else have you tailored and aggregated outcomes? What other models exist? What other individual and community-level changes do you regard as meaningful in an individual’s life, and thus worthy of recognition as Milestone Moment? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank you to Sue Gallagher, Chief Innovation Officer of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, who reviewed and contributed to this post.
 Leadership for a Networked World. “All In: The Story of Joseph Jones, Jr., The Center for Urban Families, and Their Mission to Dismantle Poverty”. 2018
After graduating from our 2019 CLEAR program, high-school chemistry teacher Lauren Johnson was so energized by what she learned that she decided to share that knowledge with her 6 classes. For her fellowship project, she created a three-part workshop to teach them about disaster preparedness and resilience. "Before CLEAR Miami, I was concerned about the physical and emotional effects of climate change, but did not know how to implement and affect change within my community," Johnson said. "CLEAR taught me that no voice is too small to affect change, which is how I was able to enact a hurricane disaster preparedness workshop to my 150 students through the CLEAR fellowship."
During the first workshop session, the students were visited by a renowned meteorologist from FIU, Erik Salna, who presented to all classes about hurricane science and disaster preparedness. Some students recognized him from TV!
During the second workshop session, Lauren brought in a guest from the American Red Cross, Kamalah Fletcher. Kamalah detailed her work in emergencies and helped the students analyze their individual communities through asset-mapping to determine if their community is ready for a hurricane.
The students also participated in a Resilience Circle, a group share moment where each student tossed a ball of yarn to each other as they shared stories of emergencies in their lives and how they overcame them. “The connections the yarn formed demonstrated that we all share similar stories, and when we stay connected, we can overcome anything,” said Lauren.
During the last hurricane workshop session, students conducted disaster preparedness skits and received kits to prepare them for emergencies.
Lauren did a phenomenal job creating an educational, fun curriculum and facilitating an open space for sharing and curiosity. Most importantly, 150 high-schoolers are now better equipped to handle emergencies and build resilience when they occur. "I am forever grateful for the resources and opportunities CLEAR Miami gave me," she said, "especially since it helped me realize my passion of the social impacts of climate change, which I am pursuing in graduate school this fall."
By Santra Denis, Chief Program Officer
Catalyst Miami will join forces with the Florida International University (FIU) Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) and its NeighborhoodHELP™ (Health Education Learning Program), as well as with the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center (SLSC), The Miami Foundation (TMF), and Florida Clinicians for Climate Action (FCCA) to offer expertise and connections critical to navigating climate change’s complexities and community/political dynamics.
Miami-Dade County is ripe with opportunities to influence climate resilience and health policy. The groundwork for taking advantage of these opportunities has also been laid, with robust coalitions already active. By amplifying the connections between health/wellness and climate change, we hope to galvanize increased community mobilization and additional system-level reform. We are eager to plan how to maximize all the current possibilities for change.
Although Miami is internationally known as ground-zero for climate change, climate change’s impacts may feel far away for local residents. However, we have evidence that when health concerns are incorporated into local climate policy, we see significant movement in both grassroots advocacy and grasstops response. Through this initiative we will create a strategy to 1) tie climate resilience initiatives necessary for the survival of our region beyond the end of the century to long-ignored health inequities, and amplify these issues to the general public, 2) expand the number of climate & health advocates equipped to create and influence equity-centered policy, including low wealth residents, and health professionals, 3) identify key policies and systems changes centered on community priorities that would result in present-day and future resilience and health equity improvements for low wealth individuals and families in Miami’s urban core.
Kresge Foundation awards $100,000 grant to Catalyst Miami
to build climate resilience, improve health
The Kresge Foundation has awarded Catalyst Miami a $100,000 grant to advance policy solutions aimed at improving climate resilience and equitably reducing health risks in low-income communities. Catalyst Miami is one of 15 community-based nonprofits nationwide receiving grant funding as part of the planning phase of Kresge’s Climate Change, Health and Equity initiative.
With this funding, Catalyst Miami will work with partners from multiple other disciplines and sectors to develop multi-year work plans that address community-defined health and climate priorities.
“Climate change is impacting people in real ways – today. The good news is that community leaders across the country are making smart choices about how they can combat climate change while improving people’s lives and well-being," Lois DeBacker, managing director of the foundation’s Environment Program, said. “Our newly awarded grants will help more communities proactively tackle the health risks that climate change introduces or exacerbate.”
Following the one-year planning phase, Kresge will award multi-year grants to up to 12 planning grant recipients. The organizations will be supported by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which serves as the national program office for the planning phase of the community-based strategy of the Climate Change, Health & Equity initiative. ISC's mission is to help communities around the world address environmental, economic and social challenges to build a better future shaped and shared by all.
For more information on the Climate Change, Health & Equity initiative, visit
About The Kresge Foundation:
The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit kresge.org.