The Jewish Federation’s Changemaker Challenge searches for projects that will make a positive difference and address some of L.A.’s greatest challenges. Last year, seven organizations won and, in addition to the partnership funding they received, the executive director from each organization participated in a Federation-hosted, five-month leadership development and capacity building training cohort facilitated by Executive Service Corps of Southern California. As the recipients approached the completion of the program, they shared their thoughts on the program and offered advice for those considering applying for ChangeMaker 2018-19.
Denise McCain-Tharnstrom is the Founder and President of Our Children LA, an organization that uses technology and mobile applications to help improve the lives of housing-insecure children in Los Angeles County. Our Children LA sought to use funding to add new features to the What I Need (WIN) app, which connects homeless and vulnerable youth to free or low-cost services nationwide. McCain-Tharnstrom reflected on one of the program’s strengths:
“The Federation offers unique support for smaller nonprofits — not only in offering needed fiscal support for our programming, but also by recognizing the need to work with us to build our capacity. The Federation program is structured in such a way that it honors the time demands on EDs of smaller organizations. The learning model is well-suited for organizations with a small staff or committed team of regular volunteers.”
Laura Zachar is the Executive Director of Reading Partners. Reading Partners pairs a student with a tutor who helps the student improve his or her reading skills. Reading Partners used the funding to solve one of their biggest issues: the time it took to get their volunteers background checked and cleared. As a result, the funds helped them purchase a Livescan machine, which sped up the background checking process and got volunteers cleared sooner. Zachar spoke about the strengths of the leadership development program:
“I was very excited for the Executive Service Corps portion of this grant application, particularly because our organization is limited in funds for professional development programs. This is an opportunity for both the ED and other members of the leadership team to participate in this program free of charge.”
Jared Seide is the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Council, an organization that works to give everyone a voice by training communities to lead “Council Circles,” which bring people together and provide them with a space to share their experiences. Center for Council applied to the Federation’s Changemaker Challenge to launch ‘Cops and Communities: Circling Up.” This program brings L.A. law enforcement officers and community activists together to discuss how to improve community-police relations. Seide looked back on one of the highlights from the Changemaker Challenge:
“I have been excited to gather with fellow local leaders and learn about their work and organizations, share best practices, develop a deeper understanding of our shared commitments to making the world a more connected and flourishing place in which to live and work, and explore how our efforts and programs converge and complement each other. This is a great opportunity to develop relationships and explore potential collaboration amongst a cohort of kindred spirits leading dynamic organizations committed to the social good. There is so much to learn and explore and so few opportunities in our busy lives to connect, reflect, and unpack our shared challenges. It’s wonderful to be able to do so.”
Kaile Shilling is the Executive Director of The Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network (AIYN), an interdisciplinary collaborative that provides exceptional arts programming to build resiliency and wellness, eliminate recidivism, and transform the juvenile justice system. As a winner of the ChangeMaker Challenge, AIYN was able to expand their shared database system, enabling them to create a holistic view of the young people they serve — capturing different contacts by member organizations and allowing them to track clients from pre-release through transition. Kaile had this to say about the cohort experience:
“We’re always excited to learn more — as a Network organization, we’re constantly balancing and mingling different leadership styles and different priorities, and we’re constantly needing to check in on shared vision. We’re also growing quickly, so we’re hopeful the capacity building support will be particularly valuable during this time of change and growth.”
David Roman of South Central Family Health Center, an organization providing access to quality and affordable health care to the diverse communities of South Los Angeles, participated in the ChangeMaker Challenge to assist SCFH in redesigning a curriculum to help patients bridge the health literacy gap. David had this to say about his participation in the cohort:
“The ChangeMaker capacity building cohort provides me with an opportunity to understand how other organizational leaders, facing similar challenges, develop the skills necessary to expand and change direction. I love listening to the experiences of my fellow cohort members. I learn so much from their experiences and feel like I am not alone in the challenges that I am confronting. If you have an interest in learning from other organizational leaders about how to strengthen your own leadership skills and have the humility to ask for and provide others with help, then you must apply for the ChangeMaker Challenge.”
In the spirit of tikkun olam — healing the world — The Jewish Federation is searching for innovative ideas that will make Los Angeles a better place for us all. If yours is chosen, we’ll make it happen together! Just submit your entry in our ChangeMaker Challenge by Friday, August 31st, and we’ll take care of the hard part.