On Not Going Back to Normal: Seizing the Opportunity to Invest in Equity for Black Moms and Babies

Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Jane Callahan & Barbara Carswell Headshots

Guest blog post by Jane Callahan, Executive Director of the JF Roblee Foundation & Barbara Carswell, Vice President of YouthBridge Community Foundation.

The past few months have shown that it’s tough to predict what the next day, week, or month will bring. There’s been talk of things slowly “going back to normal”, but many are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to think about and discuss how the structures and activities of pre-pandemic life might be revamped for the better. These are discussions that the philanthropic sector is having, too. A thoughtful discussion requires an examination of how the sector typically approaches its work, clarity on mission, and honest analysis of gaps between efforts and outcomes.

And in many cases, there’s a good reason not to go “back to normal.” Take this staggering statistic: In St. Louis, despite advances in medical care and public health, the gap between black and white birth outcomes has widened over the past 50 years. In St. Louis, black babies die at a rate of 3 times that of white babies. Disparities like these, combined with the pandemic and the continued racial inequities it highlights leave our sector with an increasing urgency to think and to do differently.

While strategic partnerships aren’t a new concept, we’ve been paying attention to how this concept has evolved in powerful ways. Particularly, we’ve had our eye on several “mission sustainability” efforts from around the country, such as at Forefront and the California Community Foundation. These are just two examples that have us thinking about funder collaborations focused on making long-term systemic change, exactly what’s needed in our community and country right now.

To this end, we’re looking forward to attending an event on June 25, 2020: “Investing in Equity for Moms and Babies: A Conversation with Funders.”  At this event, we will hear a virtual presentation and then dialogue with Generate Health about several important initiatives that are underway to bring better outcomes for black moms and babies in the St. Louis region. This conversation will be the first in a series of dialogues between now and the end of the year. Not only is the subject matter of pressing importance in our community right now, but we hope that this series of conversations will spark some new thinking about how our sector can work together differently with program providers, consumers, and other leaders to foster systems change and racial equity.

Find out more about the June 25 event here.

Questions? Email lisa@gladiatoords.com