The holiday season is about family for many of us. I look forward to it all year because I can spend time with my own extended family – celebrating traditions, enjoying meals and simply being together.
It’s also a time when I reflect on the central role families have played in Marguerite Casey Foundation’s mission and work over the past year. This year, I spent time with so many inspiring families, from students in Baltimore and grassroots leaders in Orlando to Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty in Seattle and families fighting for justice in California’s Inland Empire, to name only a few.
I often say low-income families stand at the heart of our work. They lead it, drive it and fuel it. This year and every year, our work at the Foundation began with listening to families and acting on what they told us.
This approach is woven throughout everything we do. The National Family Platform reflects the range of interrelated issues that low-income families face because they drafted the platform back in 2007. It recognizes that low-income families do not live single-issue lives. Over the years, we have updated the platform based on what we’ve learned from listening to families, and it guides our work today.
The platform is part of the Foundation’s strategy of movement building led by low-income families. We work to foster conditions for families to lead and work with cornerstone organizations across issues, race, ethnicity, regions and egos, as networks for sustained systems change.
In 2019, the Foundation remained unwavering in its commitment to a model that has families at its heart – a model that supports a movement from the ground up. It is a truly grassroots approach that supports families, organizations and advocates without directing them, and empowers them instead of giving them ever-shifting mandates. As always, our work this year was about investing in people, not programs, for broad social and economic equity. It was based on trust and the understanding that every family has value.
Once considered radical, the Foundation’s movement-building model with families in the lead is not only viable now, it’s critical to creating a just and equitable society where no family lives in poverty.
This year, I was also grateful for another family – fellow leaders in philanthropy and movement building, allies and peers around the country – who offered support during one of the more trying times in my career.
This holiday season let’s celebrate all families, our own and everyone who shows us that change for families and by families is possible. From all of us at Marguerite Casey Foundation, I wish you a happy and restful holiday season.