A refreshing voice for education’s true purpose

Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs and the people they inspired have a lot of important things to say about our educational system. Here on a site for a new school developing with the same principles in mind, is an excerpt from the Bogg’s work on the true purpose of  education. Of particular significance now, a time of when our notions of who we are as Americans is being challenged by the collapsing economic system that gave our society its purpose for two centuries, is the context of the Boggs work. Detroit – a city at the epicenter of a crumbling set of values that dehumanized rather than built community. The most basic ideas about who we are and what the American Dream is creating is discussed with a rare clarity that makes so much sense to me today. Take a couple of minutes to read their clear thoughts on the purpose of education.

This reminds me, too, of another essential book on education by David Orr: Education with Earth in Mind.

Remembering the Revolution: Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs is as consequential at 92 as most activists and writers at 50 or 60. Good work has energized her with a refreshingly clear vision of America. Interviewed on Democracy Now (I recommend taking time to listen to her perspective from a half century of social activitism) Boggs describes the revolution begun with the 1960’s civil rights movement; the speech by Jimmy Carter that called upon us to look at ourselves and which created the counterrevolution demonstrated by the Reagan years, then 9-11 and the Bush Presidency.

“Human relations matter more than economic growth,” Boggs sites as the revolution, first brought to light in the civil rights movement, then extended to women, and then into the environmental movement.”

She believes that racism is still a profoundly strong fact of America’s psyche, responding to the recent attacks on the Obama administration, Obama’s denial that it is racially derived, and the comments of Jimmy Carter that racisim against Obama is strong and abominable.

Boggs is voicing something I have felt missing in the last twenty years: that dialogue begun in the 60’s that addressed the most important ideas of democracy and that were lost in a wave of economic bottom-line thinking with Reagan and which as we see through the next three administrations did NOT result in economic security for this country.

She feels the Obama administration has missed where we are as a nation, that he and his Harvard-trained staff, are unaware of what is happening – she described as “linear thinking.”

Boggs has written a new introduction to the The American Revolution written by her late husband James Boggs. I just ordered it.  Another good source  exploring true democratic movements under the media’s radar but none the less vibrant, is Democracy’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe.

Are any of you wishing for clarity of purpose among American citizen’s, and leadership that recognizes the imperatives of the time: as Boggs points out, this is about downsizing our expectations and realizing our previous wealth was dependent on impoverishing the rest of the world. 9-11 was the resounding message that the rest of the world is no longer going to tolerate that. This is a time of having less and accepting that as not only okay, but a way into a better future.

Winning Grants – Its All Upfront

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I recently read an article in the Journal of the American Association of Grant Professionals that rang true in my experience as a nonprofit consultant. The article referred to the lonely pile of unsolicited grants on a foundation officer’s desk  –  the “stranger” pile (Lundahl, Journal of the AAGP, Fall 2008: Vol. 6, No. 1).

Odds of being funded from this pile are small to improbable.

If a foundation has no clue who you are, you have not done your homework, the upfront preparation that makes all the difference. It takes time.  The message: plan ahead.

Grant writing is not about putting a proposal together, though that is an important component of it. I think of the proposal writing as the culmination of many steps that have taken place upfront.

  1. Clear definition of what your organization needs.
  2. Compelling justification that you are the one to fulfill those needs.
  3. Staff and/or partners have met to discuss the strategic goals and objectives.
  4. Research has taken place to identify a group of funding agencies whose mission is a bullseye for your project.
  5. Board members and staff are ready to visit or call the foundation, corporation, or government office when possible. When the investment in your organization is critical (usually capacity building or start-up) then a face to face meeting is really productive. *Investment in airfare and hotel to meet personally with a foundation clearly #4 in this list is well worth it. My experience is that it may take a year before it pays off. But they may fund you significantly and if you meet your objectives and the need is great you be funded over and over again.

Before you think of applying for a grant, ask yourself how you could get the job done without it. Can you trade services with another organization, share a staff member, charge a fee for service, partner with a group that will donate the services inkind? This should always be your question even when it is clear you’ll need grant funding as well. Most foundations are more certain of you if your project is recognized as worthy by other funding agencies.

So, the message is this: it’s not about a grant writer, it’s about a team and a grantwriter.  It is about long range planning.

Check out Grant Champion Web Site which is full of free products and very excellent advice. See my website, WriteForChange,  for more about grant writing and nonprofit consulation.

Good Books Are Food for My Imagination

One of the greatest pleasures of my life is reading a good book. I am reading Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horsesthe cleanest prose of riveting power since reading Hemmingway. I feel the Norwegian soul and walk its wooded shorelines with Trond Sander and gradually learn about his life in a plot that reaches back and forward, an intrcate weave of life’s experiences as a youth comes of age, reflected by the man.

On another page herein I have listed the Ten Books of Enduring Relevance to me, and today on Yoga Journal I found a list of “Ten Spiritual Classics” by Gerald Rosen that remined me of great books in that genre. Autobiography of a Yogi kept me enthralled for weeks as I listened to the books on tape.

I’ll admit to being a reader who still likes to hold a writer’s creation in my hands, feeling the pages, and cover, imbibing the fragrances of old books… leather bound, or mildewy. I enjoy going to used book stores, finding a buried treasure that has a dedication, underlining perhaps or scrawled notes by previous owners. I’ve not ventured to a Kindle or its like but would like to know if you have and what you think of the experience.

My sister brought Library Thing to my attention. She is using it to set up her own library catalogue and share books she is reading with other avid readers. You might want to check it out on her blog. Scroll down on right.

May you find yourself reading an enthralling book in some cozy corner with a cup of hot tea at hand. I am off to the main library to find one or more books from Gerald Rosen’s list to reread. Sighhhh

Susan