Tawanna Black of the Northside Funders
Marina Lyon, former foundation executive,
Ann Mulholland of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners
Invite foundations to the table
A Civic Caucus
Review of Minnesota’s Public
Interview January 27, 2017
current or former foundation executives advise the Civic Caucus
to ask foundations to send someone to the table to participate
in deliberations over improving Minnesota's public-policy
process for studying and resolving community problems and over
other public-policy issues.
Former foundation executive Marina
Lyon believes the person a foundation sends to participate in
public-policy deliberations should not come as a representative
of the foundation, but as someone who might have a different
experience from other people already at the table. She notes
that foundations have become much more involved in public policy
Tawanna Black of the Northside Funders
Group advises the Civic Caucus not to underestimate the power of
foundations to bring a different lens to policymakers about the
interconnection among issues. And she says working with
corporate philanthropy is a way to weave in private-sector
Ann Mulholland of Minnesota
Philanthropy Partners believes philanthropy should be involved
in three areas of need: (1) addressing basic needs, like food
and shelter; (2) teaching people how to prevent big,
catastrophic issues from happening in their lives; and (3)
dealing with root causes of problems. She also expresses deep
concern over protecting our democracy by ensuring freedom of the
press, freedom of speech, and freedom to gather and protest.
is executive director of the Northside Funders Group, a
collaborative of 20 corporate, community, and private
foundations and public-sector investors. The members are
committed to aligning investments to catalyze comprehensive,
sustainable change in North Minneapolis.
Black's diverse career destinations
have had one common theme. She's been the chosen leader to build
consensus among individuals, organizations and companies with
varied backgrounds, experiences and motivations, so they can
move toward one common vision with extraordinary results. She
comes to the Northside Funders Group with over 15 years of
groundbreaking work transforming organizations and communities
in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Black also lends her expertise to
several boards. She is president of the Minneapolis-St. Paul
chapter of The Links, Inc., and a trustee of the Women's
Foundation of Minnesota. She was named, in 2016, one of the
nation's Top 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial gaps
by Living Cities; in 2017, one of Twin Cities Business
Magazine's 100 People to Know; and, in 2017, one of
Minnesota Business Magazine's Real Power 50.
Marina Lyon is head of content
for Grow, a financial technology company based in San Francisco.
She directed the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Family Foundation and
the community involvement and giving of Marquette Financial
Companies from 1998 to December 2015. Between 1998 and 2002, she
also directed the work of the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.
Prior to joining the Pohlad
Foundation, Lyon worked at Piper Jaffray Companies as director,
Foundations and Government Relations; at the McKnight Foundation
as a program officer; and at the Citizens League as a
researcher. She has B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of
Ann Mulholland is vice
president of community impact for Minnesota Philanthropy
Partners, a philanthropic network that includes The Saint Paul
Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation. In this role, she
works to ensure that Minnesota Philanthropy Partners' resources
support nonprofit organizations and community efforts that build
community capacity. She also strives to partner and lead on
priority community issues.
Prior to joining Minnesota
Philanthropy Partners in 2010, Mulholland spent five years
serving as Saint Paul's deputy mayor.
She serves on a number of community
boards and initiatives, including The Saint Paul Promise
Neighborhood, Generation Next, East Metro Strong, Minneapolis
Saint Paul Workforce Innovation Network, MinneMinds, The Nature
Conservancy and the Minnesota Wild Foundation. She has a B.A.
from Indiana University in telecommunications and political
Since September 2015, the Civic Caucus
has been undertaking a review of
the quality of Minnesota's past,
present and future public-policy process for anticipating,
defining and resolving major community problems. On Nov. 27,
2016, the Caucus issued its report based on that review,
Looking Back, Thinking Ahead: Strengthening Minnesota's
Civic Caucus interviewed Tawanna Black, Marina Lyon and Ann
Mulholland to hear their reactions to the report and their ideas
on how to implement its recommendations.
All three have been interviewed
previously by the Civic Caucus. See Black's Aug. 19, 2016,
Civic Caucus report
on improving Minnesota's public-policy process is the right way
to go, especially on the process.
Former foundation executive Marina
Lyon praised the report and suggested several possible
Things are very different from the 1980s, when Lyon worked
at the Citizens League. Foundations have become much more
involved in public policy themselves, she said. "We're in a
different time, with very different leadership--and not just
at the national level."
A lot of people get into policy because they have one
thing that matters to them and that seems to rise above all.
"I don't know how many generalists there are, but I still am a
huge fan of them," she said. People are inundated with
information today. "So, it's even more important to have
people come and be willing to put aside whatever it is they
came with and listen."
So many foundations are very involved in policymaking and
trying to be involved in other aspects of it, Lyon said.
"That's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. But their voice
maybe should be at the table." Perhaps the Civic Caucus, she
suggested, should ask foundations to send someone to the table
to participate--not as their representative, but as someone
who might have a different experience. But there should be one
degree of separation. People shouldn't come representing the
foundations, because that would limit their participation.
Most of the foundations wouldn't want that, either.
There are people from diverse organizations who have some
experience in public
affairs. "Having them experience the Citizen's League's process
would be a very
good thing," she said. "And it would bring different voices to
the table at the same
Partner with a group like
Minnesota-based organization that has now expanded to five
other states. Founded in 2000, it makes college admission and
success possible for low-income students through an intensive
curriculum of coaching and support.
"They help an enormous group of very diverse, very bright
students," Lyon said, "and many go to colleges around here."
She suggested inviting the
group's founder and CEO, Jim McCorkell, to the Civic
Caucus to get more information about the organization. "A
separate group of college students could certainly
add to the process," Lyon said. "It would give an entirely
Lyon noted the importance of the Citizens League board's
involvement when she worked there. And she said the League's
program committee process was central: developing the charge
to the study committee, being very specific about what issues
the League was trying to get at.
Tawanna Black's opening remarks.
Don't underestimate the power of
foundations to bring a different lens to policymakers about the
interconnection among issues.
Tawanna Black of the Northside
Funders Group said that's true because grantmakers change their
focus areas often. "A funder today that's focused on education
and economics might be focused on arts and health in five or
seven years," she said. "While for grantees that can be bad,
what it can mean for the partnership between the philanthropic
sector and the public sector is a lot of information and being
able to see the connections among areas that on the ground can
seem very different and disparate. For a grantmaker, it can seem
like there are a lot of connection points."
Working on the Northside with
low-income people, Black said, it's obvious that their lives are
not in silos. "They don't experience health and unemployment
separately. The issues are connected. They don't experience
education, workforce and unemployment separately. They don't
experience the barriers of transportation and food separately.
They experience those things together, so you need to solve for
them at the same time."
Foundations often have deep knowledge
bases about the intersection of these issues and solutions, she
continued. "They have seen nonprofits solve them together.
They've seen churches and faith groups solve for those things
together. They have different perspectives, because often the
public sector has not been pushed to solve problems together,
across departments or across geographical boundaries from cities
to counties to states. Because of their resources, the public
sector can afford to solve them in silos. There are massive
departments that have been allowed to solve problems with
massive layers for a long time."
She advised the Civic Caucus to think
about the knowledge that foundations could bring to the table.
Foundations have the ability to bring
resources for applied research to department heads and to staff,
who often have to implement the strategies, the policies, and
the goals that policymakers have decided. Black noted that
Gov. Mark Dayton established a goal that the workforce of the
State of Minnesota should reflect the diversity of the state's
population. "He created a Diversity and Inclusion Council and
staff positions, but no one knew what it would actually take to
achieve that or if it was even possible," she said.
She said through funding from the
McKnight Foundation and MSPWin (a regional workforce funders
collaborative), consulting teams from the Carlson School at the
University of Minnesota are working with the Diversity and
Inclusion Council to help advance workforce goals. "The team
came back quickly with a lot of excellent data that has helped
make the goal tangible," Black said. "That's a resource
foundations have at our fingertips all the time, but we often
don't think of making it accessible to the public sector or
think that the public sector needs it or has the capacity to act
on it in real time."
The Civic Caucus could challenge
foundations to better leverage their resources in financial,
social and intellectual capital as integrated resources within
and alongside the public sector, she said. "We have these
resources and often deploy them for nonprofit organizations. But
in this era, as many federal and state resources that have been
available to address these issues are likely to shrink, those
are opportunities that philanthropy can bring to bear."
How do you give a seat at the table to
folks who often don't have one? Black said it's important
for philanthropy to have a seat, because foundations have
learned some things. "Government initiatives often have a
seven-year or 10-year horizon," she said, "where foundations
often make a two-year or three-year commitment, so there's an
opportunity to bridge that gap. There's also an opportunity for
philanthropy to identify people to be engaged in that work who
otherwise wouldn't know how to get to the table."
Black called the equity appropriation
the Legislature made last year "two steps forward and three
steps to the left." Even though it resulted in some good
allocations to good programs, "we're not in a better position as
a state to address the devastating racial and economic
inequities than we were before those investments, especially
when you consider the number of grant programs that were
discontinued in communities of color and the structure of
She asked how the philanthropic and
public sectors can partner in ways to build new relationships
and build stronger coalitions that last beyond a legislative
cycle. "I think that's something there's an appetite for," she
"Corporate philanthropy is a way to
weave in private-sector leaders," Black continued. "I didn't see
as much of that noted in your report's recommendations. You
should think about the diversity within the field of
philanthropy. Don't forget the corporate sector and their
ability to engage in ways that are different and unique from the
community and family foundations." More and more, companies are
trying to connect their corporate goals to their corporate
foundations. As examples, she cited the health-related
foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield and investments in
workforce development and small business development by Xcel
Ann Mulholland's opening remarks.
Our very democracy is at risk.
According to Ann Mulholland of
Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, we're at a unique moment. "The
basis of how public policy is made is at risk," she said.
"Citizen participation is at risk, as shown in situations like
having voice when there's a debate at the Capitol over who pays
for public safety at a protest. If there was ever a moment to
pause and reflect on where you have been, where you are going
and where you're putting your energy, it's now. It's time to get
grounded in democracy again."
We all need to spend time and energy
in root causes. Mulholland agrees with that notion from the
Civic Caucus report. She said there are a time and a place for
(1) dealing with basic needs, such as food and shelter; (2)
teaching and informing folks how to "swim"--how to prevent big,
catastrophic issues from happening in their lives; and (3)
dealing with root causes.
"That's where the Civic Caucus is
deeply rooted," she continued, "and I appreciate that you're in
that space. We, as a foundation, believe that we have a role in
all three of those spaces." She said we shouldn't write off
victims of a system that hasn't been serving them so that
they've ended up in a very challenging place. Dealing with basic
needs is important.
It is important that philanthropy be
involved in all three areas of need.
Mulholland said there is merit in
building stronger and better food shelves that are more
culturally appropriate. They must get the right kind of food in
the right way to the people who need it most. "There is merit in
philanthropy being in and remaining in that space of addressing
basic needs," she said.
And there is merit in requests like
those from College Possible,
and many other organizations that are teaching, mentoring and
working hard to eliminate disparities in opportunity by lifting
people up and helping them find a better path, she continued.
And finally, there is merit in systems
change, like the work to reform our outdated workforce system.
"At MSPWin (a funders collaborative), we are supporting a
legislative agenda that would align the state's Workforce
Development Fund toward outcomes rather than programs," she
said. "We should be thinking about targeting those funds to
support those who are in need of work with specific training for
the jobs our community needs to fill--that is, what the market
is looking for. Shouldn't we bring those two things closer
together and redesign how our Workforce Development Fund is
The Census is vital. Mulholland
said we ought not ignore the upcoming Census, because public
policy, public resources and representation are driven by the
outcomes of the Census. "That it is all going online should not
be lost on any of us," she said. "There are positives and
negatives to that. I have great fears about communities that may
be left out. We need to pay attention and be sure we are
supporting efforts to get full participation."
Questions and Discussion.
Are there cases where a small group of
people has changed public policy and made a difference in
society? An interviewer asked that question. Mulholland
cited the example of the City of Saint Paul revising last fall
the makeup of the Civilian Review Board that monitors the Police
Department. Following the revision, no police officers serve on
She said at first, the votes for the
revision weren't there on the Saint Paul City Council. A small
group of citizens organized at the neighborhood level and was
able to convince two members of the City Council, both of whom
had been endorsed by the police union, to change their votes, so
the revision passed.
Lyon brought up new rules in the
securities industry about putting client interests first and
eliminating conflicts of interests on corporate boards. Now
people are calling for removing conflicts of interests on all
kinds of boards, whether private or public. A former Citizens
League researcher, Lyon said that was a hallmark of the Citizens
League in earlier times. "We didn't allow that on League study
committees," she said. "It didn't happen." People with special
interests on a topic weren't allowed on study committees.
Instead, the committees brought them in as resource people to
speak to the committees. The Citizens League wanted people to
come to the study committees with open minds to listen and
Lyon said the Citizens League is a bit
different now. Now, it likes having people with expertise in
issues on the study committees to build consensus. "I can't
disagree with that," she said, "but their credibility is hurt in
the long term. The process the Citizens League used to have was
much more authentic and much more real. You can find lots of
people without conflicts who are willing to sit at the table."
Black cited the example of MN Girls
Are Not for Sale, a Minnesota Women's Foundation campaign to
stop sex trafficking in Minnesota. The Women's Foundation
stepped up and put money up for a five-year campaign. "This is a
great example of a foundation stepping in and challenging the
state to meet the foundation's investment," Black said. "Police
departments across the state are proactively arresting people
who are sex traffickers because of this foundation's work."
Are there existing groups that are
sufficiently diverse, comprised of generalists without special
interests, and getting at root causes, not symptoms? An
interviewer asked that question, saying the speakers had laid
out those three conditions for the kind of group that might
really make an impact on public policy. Is it the business
community or the academic community? Who comes closest?
Lyon responded that she'd "have to
think long and hard about a group where you could find all three
of those conditions." She said perhaps the Humphrey School of
Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota would be willing
to propose something with those elements.
Mulholland said the Itasca Project has
tried to meet those conditions, especially in its earliest days,
but it probably hasn't met the condition of having sufficient
diversity. She also named the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood.
"It's made up of people who are among those most impacted and is
focused on root causes," she said. But she wondered if those
people would be considered generalists.
Home life for the majority of American
kids is seriously defective in healthy growth physically,
emotionally and intellectually. An interviewer made that
remark and said these deficiencies have driven up the costs of
primary and secondary education. He said the Minneapolis School
District is spending $20,000 per student this year. The
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (formerly MnSCU)
spends one-fourth of its instructional budget teaching remedial
"What goes on at home is considered
private," the interviewer said, "and then we have to pick up the
pieces. The schools can't go back to root causes and we can't
hold them accountable for making a difference other than just
giving them more money."
He said the University of Minnesota
"does not deliver the goods. We just give it the money and hope
for the best. There's no accountability. We're almost falling
behind while the world is moving ahead in destructive ways."
Black responded by saying, "It's one
by one. It's each human being. I don't need a program or a law
passed to tell me I need to care differently. I just need to do
it. At some point, we stop expecting 'them' to change and
realize the change can start with one individual caring enough
to engage with a parent and help him or her approach a child's
education in a different way." Black said this also means that a
parent has the ability to approach a teacher and encourage that
teacher to approach educating children differently.
There are some programs that are
starting to change that, she said, like the Northside
Achievement Zone. "They're intervening with parents and teaching
them they have to do some things differently. Some things have
to shift at home and at school." She said there's also a problem
with teacher bias. Teachers who expect poor performance of
certain kids and then teach to that expectation must be taught
how to recognize that bias and shift their expectations.
Lyon agreed and said there's not a
policy solution to the problem. Often you're dealing with a
system that's protecting its organization and its members, who
are going to do anything to stop something that doesn't serve
Mulholland said she doesn't think the
issue is about parenting alone. "Some of the root causes of
what's happening in K-12 education have nothing to do with
parenting, but rather conditions parents are dealing with," she
said. "When there are 16,000 Minnesota children who are
precariously housed or homeless, I wouldn't advise a parent to
put education first. I would advise that parent to put housing
first. When parents are struggling with housing and a good job,
it's impossible to put what happens in the school day first."
She noted that Saint Paul's Promise
Neighborhood was given an additional 50 vouchers for rental
housing. When the organization tracked the families, it found
that one child went from being two grades behind in reading to
two grades above in one school year. The child went from missing
50 to 60 school days in a year to less than 11, because he had a
bed to sleep in.
"If you want to focus on root causes,
I wouldn't start with the parents alone," Mulholland said. "I
would look at the conditions parents are facing. We have to ask
ourselves, 'What are the conditions we're accepting as a
A big issue is the allocation of
resources at every level. An interviewer made that comment
and said there is also institutional lag and institutional
inertia. "We have large higher education institutions acting
without much regard for what's going on in the community," he
said. "They want to protect what they have."
The University of Minnesota and
Minnesota State put in budget requests to the Legislature
without any reference to public schools or to any kind of
partnership, he said. "School districts are looking only at
their own district. At what point do they consider the whole
community? That's where some external organizing should take
place--to put pressure on those institutions and the Legislature
to consider more the community interest."
Mulholland responded that positive
things are happening in both the Saint Paul and Minneapolis
school districts. She said there is an aging teaching force in
Saint Paul and a need to recruit teachers who represent the
district's students, who are incredibly diverse and speak 80
To aid with finding such teachers, she
said, the Saint Paul District has partnered with the University
of St. Thomas. The district identified 25 of its own employees,
who are very diverse and represent the district's students. The
25 employees are going through a teaching program at St. Thomas,
where they get scholarships and extra support. When they
complete the program, the district will immediately hire them as
Mulholland said the University of
Minnesota is doing the same thing with the Minneapolis School
District. "Those are the moments where our higher education
institutions are paying attention and they're acting like their
customers are the K-12 systems," she said. "That just gives me
How do we show people that democracy
works in the current political climate? An interviewer asked
that question and said he's afraid that "people have given up on
democracy." Mulholland responded that key issues are
participation in democracy, voice, the ability to protest, the
ability to be heard and the importance of the Census and how it
drives public policy.
She feels the first page of the
summary in the Civic Caucus Report made it sound like the change
in demographics in Minnesota is a negative. "I believe it's a
positive. We are a better community and we are a better country
because of the richness of the people who live here. You need to
embrace that. It's not about being tolerant; it's about
embracing and hearing people differently. How people communicate
and talk is different today. Protests are as much a part of
democracy as anything else." She said when you hear debates at
the state Capitol and at the federal level about limiting rights
of protests and speech, "you should be scared and shaking in
The protests at the Fourth Precinct
police station in Minneapolis over the police shooting of Jamar
Clark and the protests over the police shooting of Philando
Castile were "needed and appropriate and just," Mulholland said.
"The day we put limits on the rights of protesting, we are no
longer the United States of America and the State of
Minnesota--no matter who's doing that protesting and whether we
agree with them or not. I think that is at risk today, more than
Is Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's
Zone a good model to follow? Responding to that interviewer
question, Lyon said she believes the reason Canada has had the
success he has had--in addition to having enormous amounts of
money--is that he had a captive audience in a public housing
project. "In many ways, he and the staff could control the
environment," she said.
She said the Northside Achievement
Zone (NAZ) in Minneapolis has faced a very different set of
circumstances. In the Harlem project, there was no housing
problem, since the participants lived in public housing. There
is much more mobility among NAZ participants, so there is more
turnover of kids in the program.
Having a stretch goal you'll never
reach is not a bad thing. Lyon gave that response to an
interviewer's question about whether producing goals--such as
eliminating homelessness--is helping or hindering public-policy
efforts. Lyon spoke of her 10 years on the Minnesota Housing
Finance Agency (MHFA) board. "We could spend all the money that
agency has and it won't end homelessness," she said. "There are
things we can't end. We can make strides, but we can't end them.
I think it's important to get people with mental illness or drug
addictions off the street. There are existing programs that
She said Cathy ten Broeke, State
Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, is trying to make use
of money and services that are already out there.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,