news@Northeastern – The power of local philanthropy

by Joe O’Connell

Know Your Place: Unleashing the Power of Local Philanthropy

Lisa A. Wong, mayor of Fitchburg, Mass., spoke at the 2014 Social Impact Conference in the Curry Student Center Ballroom on Friday. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Rebecca Riccio, director of the Social Impact Lab at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, was recently asked to jus­tify the prac­tice of local phil­an­thropy in the United States when a dollar can go so much fur­ther in other countries.

In response, Riccio acknowl­edged the math behind that state­ment but empha­sized that local phil­an­thropy is much more than just a trans­ac­tional equa­tion. “I see local phil­an­thropy as a deeply held value, a trust, that is not just about money, but about engaging in and taking respon­si­bil­i­ties for our com­mu­ni­ties,” Riccio said.

Riccio shared this thought with the 230 people in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room who attended Northeastern’s third annual Social Impact Con­fer­ence on Monday. Atten­dees included non­profit leaders, pol­i­cy­makers and gov­ern­ment offi­cials, social entre­pre­neurs, researchers, stu­dents, and fac­ulty. This year’s con­fer­ence, “Know Your Place: Unleashing the Power of Local Phil­an­thropy,” was pre­sented by the Social Impact Lab in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Asso­ci­ated Grant Makers and the Alliance for Non­profit Man­age­ment. It was spon­sored by the Arthur K. Watson Char­i­table Trust.

The con­fer­ence focused on cel­e­brating how local phil­an­thropy helps cities and towns achieve their aspi­ra­tions, and it explored inno­v­a­tive approaches to grant making, problem solving, and collaboration.

This year marked the first time the con­fer­ence was pre­sented under the aus­pices of the Social Impact Lab. Launched ear­lier this year, the lab serves as a learning and inno­va­tion hub and empowers aspiring social change agents to think, work, and col­lab­o­rate across disciplines.

“Today as we cel­e­brate local phil­an­thropy, I think we must also accept the respon­si­bility to con­tin­u­ally learn how to do it better,” Riccio said in opening remarks. “We can start by rethinking what we mean by local.”

Lisa Wong, mayor of Fitch­burg, deliv­ered the conference’s keynote address, in which she high­lighted how local phil­an­thropy has ben­e­fited the Mass­a­chu­setts city of about 40,000 residents.

“I think the chal­lenge all of us here have is how do we get people to have that con­cen­trated focus on these issues so we can work together to get some­thing done,” Wong said.

One example Wong gave of local philanthropy’s ben­e­fits in her city was Animal Care and Edu­ca­tion, a volunteer-​​run pro­gram that started in 2011 to edu­cate chil­dren about domestic and sexual vio­lence. The pro­gram brings ani­mals into class­rooms as part of an effort to teach stu­dents about good and bad behavior when taking care of pets.

“We are teaching every kid what is right and what is wrong,” Wong explained, “and almost imme­di­ately, the number of kids who reported domestic and sexual vio­lence increased dra­mat­i­cally. That means we inter­vened, and we were able to save a number of kids.”

In addi­tion, Wong said there have been so many vol­un­teer signups and dona­tions for Animal Care and Edu­ca­tion that the city was able to open an animal shelter that now helps meet the needs of other animal shel­ters in the cen­tral Mass­a­chu­setts area.

- See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/04/local-philanthropy/#sthash.q26kQ63x.dpuf

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