On February 3rd, we held our Annual Partnership Meeting to kick off the year. Twenty-two Partners joined the informational session and Q&A via Zoom to celebrate the accomplishments of 2020 and hear about how we plan to build upon that momentum in 2021. As we celebrate 20 years of SVP Portland, we are excited and proud of our cumulative impact and evolution since our founding.
SVP has been honored to work with Latino Network for many years, with much of our work together focused on expanding the Juntos program. We were pleased to welcome Cecilia Diaz, the Juntos Aprendemos Program Manager at Latino Network, who shared the story of a family in the Juntos program and how they were helped when facing many challenges due to the pandemic.
“Like so many others in our community, the first impact was financial — her husband lost his job, and because of that, they began to lack the money to pay for electricity, rent, and food. They decided it was better to pay rent and run out of food because they didn’t want to risk losing a roof for the children… Then two of her friends fell ill with COVID-19 and recently, her sister died from COVID… The family has also struggled with distance learning. Her six year old daughter, like so many children, does not understand why she can not go to school. She doesn’t understand why she can not go see her teachers… It was difficult for the children to concentrate, especially for her son who has autism. But then Latino Network provided a computer for the family. They were connecting to online classes with a cell phone, but every time a call came in, they had to disconnect from class to answer. Latino Network not only provided the computer, but also detailed training on how to use Zoom and computer basics. She’s also using the computer for her son with autism, to receive his therapies online. She and her children continue to participate fully in [Juntos Aprendemos] group encounters every Thursday, with the computer from Latino Network, and she tells me that this connection is so important for her family. It allows them to continue to grow and learn new things. She said, ‘Participating in Juntos Aprendemos helps me not to think about the negative things that are happening out there. Now, I think that although my husband is not working, at least we are united as a family…’”
Executive Director Lauren Johnson gave a “State of the Union” to talk about the roller coaster that was 2020, with chaos, ambiguity, injustice, anxiety, grief, and change countered by tenacity, courage, justice, compassion and resilience. She opined, “While intense and unprecedented in some ways, 2020 also presented unique opportunities for us to learn, grow, persist, and adapt in order to serve as an even more effective capacity-building partner in our community.”
Lauren shared four highlights illustrative of how we, as a Partnership, met the moment in 2020:
- Through the passage of the Preschool for All ballot measure, the community secured public resources for universal preschool — a milestone that was years in the making for SVP.
- We helped secure nearly $7M In leveraged funds for our Community Partners, including $3.4M in Cares Act funds and $357k for the Equity Collaborative over the next 2 years.
- We demonstrated adaptability, responsiveness, and a propensity for collaboration and filling gaps. A good example of this is our role serving as incubator for the start-up Childcare Shared Services Alliance, which is an innovative shift in traditional child care business practices in response to the massive disruptions due to the pandemic as well as previously existing disparities.
- We tended to our own growth, strength, and vitality by recruiting 23 new Partners. Our Partners collectively invested nearly 7000 skilled volunteer hours in SVP and our Community Partners. And our financial health, despite economic uncertainty and challenges, remains both strong and stable.
Rose Rezai, Director of Community Impact, next gave an overview of the portfolio of our 12 Community Partners, three of which were new in 2020. She was joined by Sadie Feibel Holmes, Deputy Director of Programs at Latino Network. Rose shared a prominent example of organizational change through capacity building and why this matters:
“I’ll highlight just one of our investments, which is with CAIRO, the Center for African Immigrant and Refugee Organization. We are in our second year of our partnership, and it’s important to note that a lot of 2019 was spent in developing the relationships that were critical to really understanding CAIRO: What were the assets and resources and skills they already had? What were the gaps? And helping them understand SVP — what were the assets and resources and skills that we could bring to them? This was all led by Erin Stevanus, who continues to serve as Lead Partner. A lot of exploration and thinking through potential work streams happened in early 2020, then things moved into a much higher gear. We added Partner Rob Aslett to the team along with Partners Nicole Thibodeau and Todd Alsdorf. They got to work on strategic planning — really diving into the mission, vision, goals, and putting that into an operational plan. We’re also starting to work with their board and with their finance committee, helping them better understand their roles at a smaller nonprofit and financial systems. It’s all of these things that we do really well behind the scenes, all of those foundational pieces that matter, and it has helped them to grow. They’ve more than doubled in size, they’ve added a second preschool program, and they have other programs that are growing in their community health area… We should be really proud of that, and are also excited to see what happens in the coming year.”
Sadie continued with an example of systems change work and why it matters. The Equity Collaborative (EC) currently includes five culturally-specific funded organizations with SVP Portland serving as the fiscal agent and backbone organization. EC goals have been to pass, defend, and expand the early childhood equity fund, which they were successful in doing in 2020 amidst the challenging economic times. The result is a minimum of 20 million per biennium, an investment that goes directly to culturally-specific, community-based organizations to serve young children and families across the state of Oregon. Sadie put it succinctly, “We continue to build our power and our collective voice, to push for further changes in the system. And we’ve come together to highlight how important it is for our systems to build the capacity to understand that mainstream health and education programs and systems which are designed without centering communities of color, often do more harm than good.” As for SVP’s role, Sadie shared, “The kind of capacity building and infrastructure support the SVP has brought to that collaborative, particularly over this past year, has been a lifeline. All of our organizations are stretched, as you can imagine. And so having that operational support and infrastructure backing has been super, super critical.”
Rose finished with 2021 goals & opportunities. These include:
- Continued deepening and expansion of unique, multi-year capacity-building partnerships
- Conversations with our Community Partners around building policy/advocacy and pre-k scaling capacity
- Facilitating a smooth transition for the Child Care Shared Service Alliance and the Equity Collaborative from SVP as an incubator to a long-term home with backbone organizations
- Performing a Preschool for All policy evaluation review that can support other communities seeking to implement a universal preschool model
- Prepare for strategic conversations with Multnomah County leadership to best position and leverage our Partners’ resources to support this next critical phase of Preschool for All implementation
- Prioritize Investment in culturally-specific organizations and programs that address the systemic barriers that preclude access to dollars to fund culturally responsive programs
We closed the meeting by asking: Why does SVP capacity building matter?
The answer came from Holly Levow, the Lead Partner for our partnership with Latino Network for nearly seven years:
“I’m going to close out here with some comments about white allyship and how we put that to practice with Latino network. Everything that SVP stands for is allyship — we want to center our Community Partners, we want to amplify their voices, we want to take on their struggle as our own. And I feel very privileged to be able to work alongside Latino Network, and I want to be clear that everything they do they do themselves, and I’m just a liaison to help build capacity so that they can better move their organization forward. I feel that SVP has offered some great tools. During this time, I’ve also been involved in the SVP Equity Team, which has really looked at how we can be better allies, how we use our white privilege to do the racial justice work. And so I am looking forward to being able to further amplify Latino Network, their voices, their mission, so that we can work toward dismantling some of the racial structures that persist everywhere.”
It’s remarkable what we can accomplish working together as a partnership! We thank Investor and Community Partners alike for your steadfast commitment to our shared goal to ensure that all children—regardless of ethnicity, wealth, religion, gender, or zip code—have access to high-quality, culturally-relevant early learning experiences. We look forward to the important work ahead!