Happy New Year!
Over the holidays, I took some time to reflect on my first nine months at the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. It has been an incredible journey thus far. I am extremely thankful for the work I have been able to do, the relationships I have cultivated and the conversations I have participated in that have enriched my life both personally and professionally. And while much has happened in our country, within this state, and at the Foundation since my last update, it is the people of North Carolina, the positive stories I hear, and the important work folks are doing that keeps me hopeful and inspired for the future.
As you might recall, in May 2016, the Foundation embarked on a yearlong strategic assessment to better understand the trends and changes happening across the state, as well as to examine our approach to our work in order to best serve North Carolina communities moving forward. As part of this assessment, the Foundation launched a statewide listening and learning tour called Mo Wants to Know, where Trustees, staff, ZSR's Community Leadership Council and I are meeting with local leaders and community members to hear directly from them about these trends and changes, as well as successes and opportunities that lie ahead.
We have spent much of the fall traveling across North Carolina as part of our statewide tour. We’ve visited places that have exhibited some of the big picture trends that we are hoping to learn more about and shed light on such as aging, urbanization and the growth in populations of people of color. Because we cannot visit all 100 counties, we have selected a handful of places to give us a better sense of similar trends that might be emerging in other parts of the state or with which other communities might be grappling with. So far, we have come away with a strong sense of place as well as a deep appreciation of the commitment that each individual we talked with has for improving the quality of life for future generations and the determination they have for making their community a thriving place to live and work.
Staff and one member of ZSR’s Community Leadership Council have shared their reflections on a few of these big picture trends from some of the communities we visited, including: Rockingham County, Jackson County and the Qualla Boundary, Union County and Onslow County. In our next update, we will share reflections from our visits to Greenville-Pitt County, Northeastern NC, Mecklenburg and Wake Counties.
Because we value all perspectives, yet cannot reach everyone, we have established an online portal where we are encouraging all North Carolinians to send us ideas about their own communities and our state’s future. The question we are posing is: What are your game changing ideas and innovative solutions that the Foundation can explore in order to make North Carolina a better place? Thoughts and ideas can be submitted by going to the Foundation’s homepage, www.zsr.org, or by visiting our Facebook and Twitter page and using the hashtags #MoWantsToKnow and #EnvisionNC.
In November 2016, Trustees also came together to select the recipients of the Foundation’s Fall 2016 Grant Awards. ZSR awarded 183 grants totaling $8.8 million to organizations across the state. This also included a grant that Trustees made to three North Carolina food banks to assist the victims of Hurricane Matthew. It is such an honor for the Foundation to support so many visionary and hardworking groups that work on behalf of the residents of North Carolina.
In November, with bittersweet emotion, we also announced that our Environment Program Officer, Hawley Truax, would be resigning from the Foundation at the end of 2016 to take a position as the Southeast Regional Director for Environmental Defense Fund. While it is never easy to see an extremely valuable team member move on, this is an incredible opportunity and a new challenge for Hawley – and one which we could not be more thrilled to see him leading.
We are very pleased to announce that our Second Year Fellow, Allie Garrett, transitioned out of her role on January 1, 2017, and will now lead the Environment portfolio on an interim basis as an Associate Program Officer.
Allie has been an invaluable member of our team and a true leader. She has worked across all five focus areas and, alongside of me, co-leads the Democracy portfolio. She has been instrumental in helping the Foundation develop and strengthen its internal processes and has worked extensively with funders across North Carolina to expand the Foundation’s Non-Profit Internship Program. Allie and I will continue to co-lead the Democracy portfolio for the duration of our strategic assessment process.
We want to reiterate that Hawley’s departure is not an indication of any decisions on the part of the Foundation as to what the future will hold. At this point, we are not sure where we will land come May 2017, when we release our new strategic vision. We do know, however, that ZSR will continue to adhere to its values and dedicate itself to the people of North Carolina by building a more equitable, sustainable and vibrant state.
This is an important time in ZSR’s history and in the history of our state and this country. There are many unknowns and uncertainties at this point, but rest assured that the Foundation will continue to hold true to its values and dedicate itself to improving the quality of life for all North Carolinians.
If you have any questions, we invite you to contact the Foundation at any time.
Again, we wish you a happy and blessed 2017.