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Partner of the Month – Cory Mathews

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

As one of SVP’s Lead Partners, Cory Mathews has been a dedicated thought partner for the leadership of the Community Education Workers program (CEW)*, an SVP community investment since 2014. He has consistently helped them work towards long term stability and growth. In the past year, Cory stepped that up, playing a key role in facilitating conversations across multiple stakeholders to identify a long-term “home” for the program at the Oregon Community Health Worker Association (ORCHWA). This is one of the many reasons we are proud to recognize him as SVP’s Partner of the Month .

Stepping in as the Lead Partner on this unique SVP investment was itself an act of courage. CEW was developed by parents and community organizations in 2013 through the Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative (which SVP convened from 2012-2014). The program had at temporary home in the county health department but is run as a collaborative of several organizations serving people of color. Collaborations and start-ups are tricky to get right and while Cory didn’t have experience in venture philanthropy, he has leveraged his remarkable skills of facilitation, mediation, communication, collaboration and team leadership. Cory has also shown great cultural humility, a learning orientation, and commitment to building a strong, trusting relationship between SVP and this Community Partner/Investee. In a nutshell, he has been a partner. We couldn’t ask for more than that!

SVP Partner Wendy Weissman said of Cory that he “has embodied all the essential elements of being a strong Partner with the CEW Program: courage and resolve in the face of uncertainty, warm and trusted relationships across all the program stakeholders, eagerness to learn along the journey, and extraordinary generosity in his offer of time and content expertise across many fronts!”

Ellen Macke, a Partner who worked with Cory on CEW, added, “As a team member, I have learned, with admiration, from his leadership.”

While Cory invests significant time with SVP, he is busy outside of his volunteer engagements as a parent and a Family Mediator at Clackamas County.  

*The Community Education Worker (CEW) Program is a community-driven initiative in which trained community members partner with parents and caregivers to address the social and structural conditions that produce health and educational inequities. Community Education Workers conduct home visits and facilitate community organizing with low-income families of color with young children to address inequities in culturally specific ways.




Learn a little more about Cory in his own words…


Why did you join SVP?

My wife Christyn Dundorf is an early childhood professional, and we decided to join because of SVP’s focus on young children and equity. With all of the energy around early childhood education in recent years, it is especially vital that resources are directed toward children who may otherwise be passed over or ignored as policies focus on the well-being of majority culture children.


Why did you decide to become a Lead Partner?

I was intrigued by the role of serving as liaison to a collaborative multi-cultural program uniting a number of nonprofits. While SVP nominated me, my real interview was in front of the CEW Steering Team. After some very direct questions from the CEWs, my stumbling answers, and being sent out of the room for a time, I became the lead. However, the reminder for me from the process was that my worth would be more evident from my behavior and my actions in service to the program and to the people in this dynamic and inspiring group, than from any description I might give of myself or of my intentions.


What about CEW spoke to you?

Community Education Workers come from the communities they serve. They have real insight into what their community members need, and have the flexibility to adapt their work to their own language and culture groups. There aren’t enough of them yet–a major goal this year is figuring out how to expand their funding base and eventually add more CEWs–but they create ripples of impact greater than the sum of their parts.


What has been most rewarding thus far?

This past year was challenging for the CEW program, with funding cuts at Multnomah County that impacted their host and administrative staff. I would say that the most rewarding thing has been meeting with my partner in collaboration, Arika Bridgeman-Bunyoli (CEW Program Manager), and trying to figure out how to help CEW move forward in the midst of uncertainty. Arika is admirably optimistic and practical, and gives so much of herself to allow the CEWs to do the work in their communities.  


What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to kayak and I like to fish. When the current is not too strong, I like to combine the two and kayak fish for salmon on the Columbia. I get plenty of stares, though not many fish, as I kayak among the anchored fishing boats on the river.


Is there anything else you want to add?

Sure–in becoming a Lead Partner, the only thing that was clear to me from the outset was that I had no idea what my nonprofit partners would need, and the obvious thing would be to listen. When I worked for nonprofits, I had a number of positions that were grant-funded with a funding end-date and I remember how precarious that seemed. I have the utmost admiration for the folks that do the hard work in their communities, like CEWs, in the midst of that uncertainty.

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