As I near the end of my maternity leave and prepare to return to work, I am filled with tremendous gratitude for the work I get to do and the people I get to work with. I feel so fortunate to believe in what I do and to be learning new things all the time.
I thought I’d close this year with a short wrap-up of some of my most memorable projects from 2019.
As a new mom, I can’t imagine the pain and anxiety caused by not being able to care for your baby, but it’s a reality for thousands of families in Baltimore. In my work with Share Baby, Baltimore’s first and only diaper bank and baby pantry, I learned that low-income families are short an average of 50 diapers per month and that diaper need is associated with maternal depression, child abuse and health risks for the child. This year I wrote grants and grant reports, thanked donors, and solicited corporate donations and sponsorships on Share Baby’s behalf. It wasn’t difficult work—Share Baby is focused and strategic, and the need is so compelling. Share Baby works through a network of nearly 50 community organizations that reach deep into under-served neighborhoods and distributed its one-millionth diaper in early 2019.
Annie E. Casey Foundation
I was thrilled to work with The Annie E. Casey Foundation to introduce and profile its newest class of Children and Family Fellows. It was a dream to interview these 15 dynamic and diverse leaders working on equity issues for children and young adults all across the country. As they shared with me their deeply personal stories of homelessness, migration and discrimination, it was clear just how powerful it is to ensure that those working on the front lines of equity share the lived experiences of the people whose voices they are amplifying. The hardest part of my job was fitting their stories into 175 words each.
The Learning Agenda
This year, I had the pleasure of collaborating with my former colleagues from the National Summer Learning Association at The Learning Agenda on a variety of projects. I am grateful for the unique opportunity they gave me to contribute to the Barr Foundation’s Wider Learning Ecosystem by researching and writing On the Road to Sustainable School Change: Stories from the Ground. I reviewed literature to identify four common barriers to sustainable school change and 16 research-based strategies to overcome those barriers. Instead of just listing strategies that might not be realistic, I interviewed school change leaders and captured their firsthand, candid stories of how they did it to bring the strategies to life.
Due East Partners
Due East Partners is another consulting firm that I have the pleasure of sub-contracting with on a wide range of issues, from saving independent journalism to supporting adoptive families and preserving maritime heritage. This year, they invited me to help capture the stories of first responders, frontline staff and survivors of domestic violence through a series of focus groups as part of the Maryland Safe Futures Collaborative, a collective impact effort working to create shared data and indicators in a system riddled with gaps. I felt so privileged to listen to judges, police officers, nurses and survivors share multiple, connected perspectives on intimate partner violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking, and most importantly, capture their actionable solutions and ideas for changing both behavior and outcomes.
It has been an exciting couple of years working with Hello Neighbor’s talented Founder and CEO as she grows and scales her mission to welcome and support recently resettled refugee and immigrant families to Pittsburgh. In 2019, we expanded beyond the organization’s core refugee family mentoring program to design and fundraise for a variety of complementary programs for women’s health, new moms, refugee enterprises and interfaith programming. Hello Neighbor even launched a national leadership network of similar organizations from cities across the country. My biggest takeaway from my work with Hello Neighbor so far is just how isolated refugees can be—even years after resettlement—and what a big difference even small gestures to welcome them can make.
The Maryland Book Bank
The Maryland Book Bank continued to be an important client and community anchor for me this year. This year, they invested in a more comprehensive annual report, and we developed and executed a Millionth Book Giveaway that engaged the whole community in selecting the heralded titles (Donavan’s Word Jar and All Are Welcome) and rewarded two schools with copies of the books through celebratory events. We also raised new philanthropic and corporate dollars and deepened our relationships with existing funders and individual donors.
International Arts and Mind Lab
Finally, I continued to do interesting and important work for my first client, the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. IAM Lab is building a research base and global community focused on the role of the arts in health, well-being and learning. This year, I helped The Straz Center for Performing Arts write a progress report on its programming for veterans in the Tampa Bay area, including storytelling, dance and visual arts programs. I also helped to design and implement the evaluation for One Book Baltimore, write a case study of the Guitar for Parkinson’s Disease program and blog about some of IAM Lab’s great events.
There are too may great projects to mention! This year I also enjoyed:
- helping Bikemore develop a new strategic plan.
- conducting research for Baltimore’s Promise and Brain Futures.
- developing knowledge products on summer learning for the Wallace Foundation.
- advising School Colors as it grows its mission to provide free school uniforms in Baltimore.
- fundraising for the Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Program.
I am closing this year with a heart full of gratitude for my clients and collaborators and eager anticipation of what’s to come in 2020. Oh, and a visual from the best work I’ve ever done- Henry T. Lohnes. Have a very happy new year.