Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Groups Now Taking Grant Applications for National Funding

The United Soccer Foundation is one of the many organizations now taking grant applications. C. Coimbra photo
The current newsletter from The Grant Station, a webpage that lists available grants from foundations, corporations, governments, etc., list the following available grant to apply for. Grants range from proposals for program that support a just society, education, health, and safe playgrounds for children.

National Funding
Current Opportunities Throughout the U.S.

Support for Community Organizing for Social Change in the U.S. and Canada
Unitarian Universalist Association: Fund for a Just Society 
The Fund for a Just Society, a program of the Unitarian Universalist Association, provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that address issues of social and economic justice. The Fund supports organizations that use community organizing to bring about systemic change leading to a more just society and to mobilize with those who have been disenfranchised and excluded from resources, power, and the right to self-determination. Priority is given to active, specific campaigns to create change in the economic, social, and political structures that affect their lives. Consideration is given to projects that are less likely to receive conventional funding because of the innovative or challenging nature of the work or the economic and social status of the constituency. The maximum grant amount is $15,000; however, most grants range between $6,000 and $8,000. Requests are reviewed two times per year; the next application deadline is September 15, 2017. Visit the Unitarian Universalist Association website to review the funding guidelines.

K-12 Parent-School Collaborative Projects Funded
Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant Program
The Toolbox for Education Grant Program, offered by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants of up to $5,000 to public K-12 schools, as well as school parent-teacher groups associated with public schools, throughout the United States that develop projects to encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit. Preference is given to funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor), landscaping, or cleanup projects. The Fall 2017 grant cycle will open on August 7. Visit the program’s website during the grant cycle to submit an online application.

Grants Address HIV/AIDS Issues in Local Communities
Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation
The Kent Richard Hofmann Foundation is dedicated to the fight against HIV and AIDS. Grant requests from throughout the United States are considered, with particular interest in smaller communities and rural areas. The Foundation supports community-based nonprofit organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS care and direct services, education, or research. Grants are provided to developing or established programs, with emphasis on those that provide direct benefit to clients or target audiences. Requests are reviewed two times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of inquiry is September 1, 2017; invited grant applications will be due September 22, 2017. Visit the Foundation’s website to submit an online letter of inquiry.

Soccer Field-Building Initiatives Supported
United States Soccer Foundation: Safe Places to Play Grants
The United States Soccer Foundation is dedicated to enhancing, assisting, and growing the sport of soccer in the U.S., with a special emphasis on underserved communities. The Foundation's Safe Places to Play Grants are provided for field-building initiatives in four categories: Synthetic Turf, Lighting, Irrigation, and Sport Court. Eligible applicants include community organizations, schools, municipalities, and other groups that offer soccer opportunities to youth. Requests for Safe Places to Play Grants are reviewed three times per year. The upcoming deadline for letters of interest for the 2017 Fall Grant Cycle is September 29; invited applications must be submitted by October 6. Visit the Foundation's website to learn more about the application process.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tech Applications for the Greater Good

Predictions for the potential of artificial intelligence wax poetic — solutions from climate change to curing disease — but the everyday applications make it seem far more mundane, like a glorified clock radio.

Thankfully, the future may be closer than we think. And the miraculous feats are not happening in Silicon Valley X-Labs — in a plot twist, nonprofits are leading the charge in creating human-centered applications of the hottest AI technologies. From the simplest automated communications to contextual learnings based on analysis of deep data, these technologies have the potential to rapidly scale and improve the lives of our most underserved communities.

Take chatbots for example, a new spin on mobile messaging that has historically been human-powered. Organizations like mRelief have for years used simple mobile messaging to meet users where they’re at. Recently, tech nonprofits are taking a new approach. Raheem.ai, a Facebook Messenger bot for reporting and rating experiences with police officers, engages with users to walk them through reporting police incidents and provide follow-on support. The interactions are simple, but powerful.

Machine learning
Crisis Text Line still implements a human-to-human volunteer model, but the tech nonprofit has the largest open source database of youth crisis behavior in the country, and has been able to use AI to dramatically shorten response time for high-risk texters from 120 seconds to 39. Crisis Text Line leveraged machine learning to identify the term “ibuprofen” as 16 times more likely to predict the need for emergency aid than the word “suicide.” Now using AI, messages containing the word “ibuprofen” are prioritized in the queue.

Machine learning even allows you to select the energy source that powers your home appliances. WattTime creates software that enables smart hardware devices to prioritize clean energy with a simple flip of a switch. Their product relies on machine learning to detect when to tell smart devices like thermostats to pull from the power grid, based on surges in clean energy. This means your A/C may turn on five minutes earlier or later than it typically would, because the algorithms instruct your utilities to capitalize upon instances of excess clean energy from sources like windmills, thus minimizing the use of dirty power.

Natural-language processing
Quill, a free online tool that helps students measurably improve grammar and writing, discovered that natural-language processing was essential to remedy students’ struggles with sentence fragmentation. Using open source tools and online training programs, Quill’s technical team built its own fragment detection algorithm powered by a combination of machine learning and natural-language processing. Quill’s methodology is exemplary for resource-constrained tech nonprofits. It leveraged Wikipedia to amass a dataset of 100,000 high-quality sentences, integrated the natural-language processing tool Spacy.io to break the sentences down, and incorporated Tensorflow for data classification.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We Are Connected to Everything

John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) was a Franciscan philosopher and theologian who in many ways paralleled Bonaventure’s ideas. Duns Scotus helped develop the doctrine of the univocity of being. Previous philosophers said God was a Being, which is what most people still think today. Both the Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Duns Scotus said Deus est ens, God is being itself. The Dominicans said everything other than God participated in being only by analogy and by attempts to make connections, but it was not really the same being as God’s being. Yet Duns Scotus believed we can speak “with one voice” (univocity) of the being of waters, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. We all participate in the same being. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and thus reality is one, as well (Ephesians 4:3-5).

This gives us a foundation for understanding the sacredness of everything and our connection with everything. We are already connected to everything—inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically. We don’t create the connection by going to church or reading the Bible, although we hopefully enliven the connection. In Francis’ worldview, we begin with “original blessing,” as Matthew Fox rightly said. Our DNA is already divine; that is why we naturally seek to know and love God. There has to be a little bit of something inside you for you to be attracted to it; like knows like. You are what you are looking for!

A heart transformed by this realization of oneness knows that only love “in here” can spot and enjoy love “over there.” Thus true spiritual teachers see fear, constriction, and resentment as blindness that must be overcome. These emotions impede growth. Thus all mystics are positive people—or they are not mystics. Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is a gift from God, and yet somehow you must want it very much (Philippians 2:12b-13). God does not come unless invited.

The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love, which is why it is a commandment (John 15:4-5), in fact, the great commandment of Jesus. Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will see and find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost. There is no secret moral behavior required for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then each of us will see all that we need to see!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Photojournalists "Help a Woman -- Help the Planet"

Anni Griffiths photo from Ripple Effect Images

"Annie Griffiths has captured indelible images of life and landscapes in some 150 countries," writes a recent feature in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Those experiences led Griffiths to launch Ripple Effect Images, with the mission "...to harness the power of visual storytelling to help scale solutions for women and girls globally. We identify best practice aid programs and document their innovative solutions. Using our films and images, aid organizations have raised millions of dollars to expand their programs. Ripple’s dynamic photo library is a unique collection of world-class images and video footage that is shared and repurposed in hundreds of ways. The extraordinary Ripple Effect team includes Pulitzer Prize, World Press, Emmy Award, and National Humanities Medal winners. Ripple is dedicated to covering under-reported issues that impact women and girls. Chief among those issues are our Seven Pillars: Water, Food, Health, Education, Energy, Economic Empowerment and Climate Change," states the nonprofit's website

From the Chronicle of Philanthropy,  "Ripple Effect photos and videos have been put to use by global development groups like BRAC to raise $10 million over the five years for sustainable programs that enhance women’s lives."

Friday, June 23, 2017

7 Elements of Leadership

Lolly Daskal, founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City, wrote the following 7 Top Habits of Great Leaders:

  1. The habit of confidence. Confidence is the cornerstone of great leadership. You can learn high-level skills in problem solving, decision making, communication, coaching, mentoring and accountability — but they won’t take you very far if you don’t believe in yourself. Great leaders are called to be decisive, resourceful, competent and unwavering, and self-confidence is the basis for each of those attributes. Confidence is the quality that allows leaders to take action. They may not always be right, but they don’t fear being wrong.
  2. The habit of trusting intuition. Top leaders are able to make tough decisions because they have learned to trust their instincts. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be creative, think on the fly and make important judgments decisively and correctly, and intuition fuels those processes. Intuitive leaders don’t ignore data, but they don’t overthink or get stuck on details. They know their intuitive hunches aren’t wild guesses but are grounded in their ability to quickly assess a situation, filtered through their education and experience. Facts represent the science of decision making, and intuition is the art.
  3. The habit of candor. Great leadership is based on honesty and transparency. It requires speaking up about wrongs and making them right — and, on a personal level, being up front about your own weaknesses and mistakes. The habit of candor will never be the easiest path, but it allows for difficult conversations and deep dives into tough issues. Above all, honesty and candor show care and respect for those around you, which is why it’s the first step in establishing a reputation for strength and integrity. Candor is the cornerstone of character.
  4. The habit of courage. Great leaders are willing to make courageous decisions when others shy away. That kind of courage means having the ability to see your fears and the strength to not only face them but move beyond them. When a leader stands up for what they believe in, the effect is multiplied as others are prompted to act in kind. In leadership, courage is at the heart of both action and inspiration.
  5. The habit of integrity. A leader with integrity holds to the highest moral and ethical code in everything they do. Integrity comes about when you’re motivated by deeply held values, and it’s always characterized by reliability and excellence. Part of integrity — literally — is the word grit, which denotes firmness of mind and unyielding character. It takes grit to be true to yourself and the things you believe. In the end, though, it’s worth the effort, because your integrity is central to the legacy you leave behind. Great leaders make integrity a habit because they understand its value.
  6. The habit of trust. Without trust, you can never really have collaboration — only coordination or, at best, cooperation. It is trust that transforms and changes a group of people into a team whose members work together and succeed together. It’s a process best carried out with a great leader, one who understands and demonstrates trust and makes it a habit, one who delivers on promises and is consistent in everything they do. Trust is the most essential ingredient in creating and defining the meaningful relationships that lie at the core of leadership.
  7. The habit of loyalty. Great leaders have a profound sense of loyalty and service to others; they hold their team’s best interests closer than their own. A leader who is seen as loyal, committed, caring and protective has earned credibility and respect. Being loyal to your people is among the greatest virtues a leader can have.

Great leadership — the kind that inspires those around you to change the world — all begins with confidence. Confidence leads to purpose, which guides you toward the right actions. These actions form habits, which in turn determine your character, and your character fixes your destiny as a great leader. No matter where you are on the journey of your leadership, create good habits and you’ll be moving in the right direction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YES! A "most dangerous prayer"

by Frederic Brussat.

I have been rereading a book called "Praying Dangerously: Radical Reliance by God" by Regina Sara Ryan. She begins her book with a prayer, and the prayer ends with these words:

Let us say Yes, again and again and again.
and Yes some more.
Let us pray dangerously,
the most dangerous prayer is Yes.

This really resonates with me. I love the word, "yes." My friend and colleague, Naomi King, once told me that since she'd heard the opening of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word," she has liked to think about what that word might have been. She likes to ask people what they might think that Word was. And I told her, without hesitation, when she asked me, that I think that original Word was, "yes."

There's a poem by the Sufi poet Hafiz that confirms my opinion:

I rarely let the word 'No' escape
From my mouth
"Because it is so plain to my soul
That God has shouted, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'
To every luminous movement in Existence.

It is so easy, and so common, to respond to things with a strong "no." No, I don't know what that would lead to. No, we've never done it like that before. No, there just isn't enough (time, money, energy, what have you). No.

Often this is just our first reaction. Given time to think on things we make our way to seeing how something to which we'd first said "no" might be possible after all. We warm to the idea. But it can take a while.

Yet what if we could find our way to "yes" more quickly? What if our first instinct was to say "yes," and only then take our time to see what we'd just gotten ourselves into? Could our prayer become, "yes"? Could our lives become, "yes"?

Long ago I came across words from Dag Hammarskjöld that I would love to have as my epitaph:

For all that has been —
For all that will be —

The most dangerous prayer is "yes."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Today is World Peace Day

On this day of the most light, peace seekers from around the world will join in prayer and meditation during the 22nd Annual World Peace and Prayer Day.

From the website:

World Peace And Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites Day is an international and intergenerational celebration for people of all faiths, nations, races, ages and genders who share concern for the welfare of humanity and the Earth to share in One Prayer.

During World Peace and Prayer Day the honoring ceremonies, invocations and prayers at the main chosen site are observed in collaboration with local indigenous representatives. Wisdom keepers and activists share spiritual insight and discuss important environmental concerns and solutions on both a local and global level.

In addition to a main gathering at a sacred site chosen each year, we ask others to join us at their own sacred sites as well as in their churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of prayer.