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MMT's Next Generation
Topics: CEO Messages
Today marks the first day of the "Next Generation" at Meyer Memorial Trust. Many of you have been following our progress since April when we announced decisions resulting from our strategic planning process over the past year. The first program changes go into effect today, and are revealed on our updated website.
Now that MMT has turned 25, we have reached the next generation in our evolution, including transition and changes in our trustees, staff and how we approach our work. Like many new generations coming of age, we look for new and better ways to build on the past. We enter this phase with optimism, energized and with a refreshed outlook and approach to our work. More than ever, we see ourselves as better prepared to serve the next generation…and the next, and the next...
MMT is investing more in the long-term future of Oregon and southwest Washington. While each of our strategic initiatives has immediate and short term measurable goals and objectives that will let us see progress along the way, many of the initiative efforts won’t be finished for some time.
--Willamette River Basin restoration is a decades-long task that will extend well beyond the present generation. Addressing it will involve systemic changes in agriculture, forestry, waste management, and environmental education. We look forward to defining where the Trust can best lead and support this work that is so critical to the quality of life in the Willamette Basin.
--Improving public education and lifting student achievement is ongoing work where the rewards may not fully be seen for a generation or more. Through this initiative, MMT is working to contribute to a strong system that will be a foundation for future generations. Chalkboard Project adds a new impartial and research-based voice to this important conversation.
--The need for affordable housing is so great in our region, it will take time and significant private and public resources to have a meaningful impact. But because stable housing goes a long way in preparing future generations for successful lives, it has to be an important focus for our region's future. We are committed to increasing the funds available for affordable housing and to assisting the community development corporations across the region that are working diligently to increase affordable housing and related services.
In addition, we're making some long term investments in our Responsive Grants program.
--Nonprofit capacity building and technical assistance grants programs provide us with strategies to invest in nonprofits so they will be strong enough to endure and provide service for future generations. We also intend to invest in growing future leaders in the nonprofit world. We expect to see increased leverage in our grants program and we will be developing rigorous evaluation systems to measure results.
--Grassroots Grants are an important way we invest in smaller and more grassroots organizations, which represent the bulk of the region's nonprofits and will for future generations.
Today our Initial Inquiries process reopens. We invite you to explore our new grant programs, calendar and guidelines. Please keep watching our website for more changes in the months ahead, as we finish implementing all the decisions that have grown out of our strategic plan.
As always, we encourage your candid comments, ideas and suggestions.
Posted by: Robert Bole | September 19, 2007 10:17 PM
Thank you for moving MMT in new and exciting ways. I look forward to seeing the fruits from the direction the Board, you and your staff are taking with what I would term philanthropic activism.
Do you have a set of clear goals in mind for these areas. I can understand why you selected certain areas for investment, but what should Oregon look like in five to ten years after Meyer's investment? How do you hope to shape government, private sector, nonprofit and even other philanthropic efforts through Meyer's work?
Lastly, I am interested in any further thoughts around your Responsive Grants area. Is the intention to introduce a type of "outcome" funding orientation in this grant making?
Posted by: jonathan | September 23, 2007 06:29 AM
It seems to me that K-12 education, the Willamette Basin, and affordable housing are as close to the core of our region's needs as any foci can be. I wonder, though, if the public education piece might be broadly enough interpreted to include the feeding and healthcare of our school-age children (especially in view of our great national failures in these areas)?
Posted by: Doug Stamm | September 25, 2007 11:51 AM
Rob, thanks for your thoughtful questions; I'm responding separately below.
"Do you have a set of clear goals in mind for these areas. I can understand why you selected certain areas for investment, but what should Oregon look like in five to ten years after Meyer's investment? How do you hope to shape government, private sector, nonprofit and even other philanthropic efforts through Meyer's work?"
With regard to your inquiry concerning our initiatives: We absolutely must hold the Trust and our partners accountable to specific outcomes and goals. Given the intractable nature of the issues we've targeted, "progress" will be evaluated by milestones on an incremental basis. This will tell us if Meyer's engagement and investment is making a meaningful difference.
-- With respect to the Quality K-12 initiative, we are committed through the Chalkboard Project to help lift student achievement in Oregon to become one of the top ten in the country. Success with our high school reform effort with OSSI will be measured by our ability to close the achievement gap and raise overall graduation rates, as well as creating model schools that could be replicated in part or whole in other parts of Oregon.
-- The Affordable Housing initiative strategies will have specific outcomes focused on the increase of new and preserved affordable housing stock.
-- While we are at the early stages of developing our Willamette River strategy, we will also include incremental goals and outcomes that we hope to announce early in 2008.
In all three initiatives we are intent on partnering with all appropriate levels of government, the private sector and non-profits (who are already doing the work on the ground), as well as rallying foundation funding to these areas. Meyer's role will also vary in each instance—from partner, to funder, to catalyst, to leader—based on the input and evaluation we receive from the field, and the voids that we might be able to fill in a meaningful way.
"Lastly, I am interested in any further thoughts around your Responsive Grants area. Is the intention to introduce a type of "outcome" funding orientation in this grant making?"
From a historical perspective, it was challenging as a pure general purpose, high volume, responsive foundation to engage in meaningful evaluation. We have always focused our program team's work on upfront due diligence and then monitored the progress of our grants primarily through grantee self reporting. We will continue to rely heavily on our program officers' due diligence and research, but our trustees will also be looking more for specific "outcomes" that assist us in determining whether Meyer Trust funds are being put to their highest and best use. So, yes; anticipate that our trustees will be more "outcomes" oriented and as we move deeper into this "next generation" of the Meyer Trust, we plan to take a very close look at the role outcomes and evaluation should play in our responsive grantmaking.
Posted by: Jo Ann Mazzarella | October 25, 2007 11:10 AM
Meyer Memorial Trust’s new initiative appears to be based on a clear vision of the significant long-term effort it takes to bring about true change. However, at the same time we applaud your thoughtful changes, we must mourn the demise of the Teacher Initiative Program. Surely it is partially the fault of those of us in the field who had come to take this opportunity for granted and who didn’t tell you loudly and often enough how much it was appreciated by teachers and how good it was for students. Having been in the Eugene Grants Office for 16 years, I had the opportunity to assist, encourage, and celebrate the success of the Meyer TI projects of many 4J teachers. From the school science camp that was able to include less fortunate students, to the kindergarteners who were able to use fun posters and objects to learn phonics, to the school that was able to install a wildlife refuge on their school grounds, Meyer Teacher Initiative Grants have supported learning in significant ways that continue long after the grant funding is over.
Furthermore, these grants energized teachers to do something creative and new at a time when other more conventional sources of funding were meager and school districts could not afford to fund even small innovative efforts. They instilled a spirit of hope in teachers who sometimes felt unappreciated and even, under attack by the larger society. The TI grants were often the first grant a teacher had ever written, and for some teachers, success with this grant gave them the confidence to write other bigger more difficult grants that served even more students.
So this is a very belated and inadequate thank you for the program for these many years. Was it a “silver bullet” that solved all the problems of education in Oregon? No, but if anyone wonders if it made a difference, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” It made a difference in increased learning for students and increased motivation and satisfaction for teachers. And if anyone wonders if Oregon teachers would appreciate a similar program in the future, that is also, without a doubt, true.
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