2020 was a tumultuous year. A year-and-a-half after the onset of the pandemic, a long-overdue reckoning about systemic racism and an economic downturn — what can the nonprofit and social impact sector take away as lessons?
In July 2020, Generocity launched its TRACE (Toward Response and Community Equity) Project, tracking how and where the region’s government, philanthropic, civic and private sector was working toward a more just recovery. The project came to a close at the end of July 2021.
During that time, North Philadelphia native and veteran journalist Lynnette Hazelton dove deep weekly, into stories documenting shortfalls and solutions to the unprecedented challenges the region experienced — speaking to those on the ground scrambling to provide services to communities hit hard by three crises at once, as well as those at top challenged to confront the impacts in new ways.
And on a quarterly basis, more than 100 leaders of philanthropic, civic, nonprofit and community organizations were asked to provide their assessment of efforts along the lines of public health, community engagement and economic recovery — through the lens of racial equity. These “report cards” offer a glimpse of the efficacy of measures taken across sectors for the full year of the project.
The resulting 30-page report — “Until Next Time: Lessons From a Year of Crisis, Reckoning and Disruption” — is a community and service journalism snapshot of the past 18 months in the Philadelphia region, pointing toward the solutions, changes and collaborations necessary for the nonprofit and civic sectors going forward.
- Improve philanthropic flexibility — Funders should provide multi-year unrestricted grants, streamline and simplify paperwork (many advocate for a common application used by all), and solicit and act on grantee feedback.
- Support bold, innovative experiments — Crisis gives permission to tackle intractable problems in new ways. Too often we call for big new ideas, but we’re quick to detract from them. Give them support and time. Otherwise the result is many small isolated efforts.
- Benchmark against peer cities — Without context on what is working and what is not, leaders risk losing the motivation and focus to solve real problems. We need a firm handle on tested solutions.
- Consider digital access as foundational — Inequitable digital access is part of the crisis that undercut the effectiveness of myriad emergency measures. This is not one issue but relevant to all.
- Be more precise with the region’s diversity — Crisis relief and aid for those with language, cultural, mobility and financial literacy barriers require considerable focus.