Twelve months ago, I began my leadership of the Meyer Foundation and spent my first several months listening to and learning from many of you about the critical issues facing our community. As I shared earlier this year, your thoughts and insights have provided important context as I’ve reflected on Meyer’s role in this community, and have laid the groundwork for the strategic planning process we launched in December. Thank you again for your time, candor, and passion for this region and all its residents.
Several themes emerged during our conversations, but one message surfaced as an overarching challenge: even though our community leads the country in income and educational attainment, too many of our neighbors are struggling just to get by.
Growing disparities in income and opportunity challenge the social fabric and economic vitality of our region. We also heard – and we know from decades of work in this community – that these challenges disproportionately impact communities of color, and are rooted in a long history of inequality.
Even though my conversations with you emphasized these pressing challenges, I also encountered an infectious optimism and a deeply held commitment to social justice. Many of you expressed hope and a belief that our community has enormous strengths to meet these needs. I left each meeting inspired and motivated to work for real and lasting change.
So the question is: what will it take to make progress on these challenges? The answer, I truly believe, lies in a genuine commitment to working together.
During our planning process, our board and staff have been thinking more broadly about what Meyer’s role should be in addressing these community needs. We continue to believe that supporting community-based nonprofits is an effective strategy for promoting positive social change, and that capacity-building investments are critical to helping organizations expand their reach and increase their impact.
We also believe that we must engage multiple sectors and people in the community – new and different voices – in addition to our nonprofit partners to develop solutions that result in lasting change. In response to your feedback, we are committed, where possible and appropriate, to using our voice to amplify community challenges and solutions, and to being a convener that brings diverse groups of stakeholders together.
What we have learned from your input is that our community’s most urgent priorities include stable and affordable housing, improved educational attainment for youth and adults, better employment opportunities, and financial stability for our region’s economically vulnerable families. These issues are interconnected and intersect with many of Meyer’s longstanding investments in the community.
As we continue our planning process, our next task is to better understand the dynamics of these interconnected areas and to identify specific strategies and opportunities for Meyer to play a more active role in moving the needle on these complex and entrenched regional challenges. Our task is to align Meyer’s strategic direction with the community’s shared vision for social change.
Once again, we need your input as we enter the next phase of developing our strategy. What kinds of solutions have the best chance to make a long-term difference? What kinds of partnerships merit exploration? What role can the Meyer Foundation play in changing the status quo?
To that end, we plan to reach out to you to explore these questions and share ideas that will further inform our decisions and direction. We will host these conversations over the summer and will be in touch again soon with information on how to participate. We plan to conclude our planning process and begin implementation in late fall.
Thank you for your patience and input as we chart a new course for the Meyer Foundation. In the words of John Gardner, “What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” Together, I am confident we will make great strides in creating an equitable Greater Washington community in which economically vulnerable people thrive.