New Class of Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellows Tackles Economic and Social Inequality With Innovative Projects
Fellows have one year and $100,000 to pursue projects that change the world
NEW YORK – Today, three innovators combatting issues of economic and social inequality with outside-the-box thinking were named Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellows. Fellows have the opportunity to change the world in one year. Each is given a $100,000 grant, office space in New York City and support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a leading social change philanthropy focused on leaders who use creative thinking to address the seemingly intractable problems of inequality and climate change.
The three fellows are Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez, who will be working to create wealth and democratize markets in low-income communities; Jennifer Bailey, who will equip multi-faith movements for justice with the resources to harness the power of story; and Mosi Makori, who will be engaging young men and women of color in an attempt to change the cycle and culture of mass incarceration, recidivism and wrongful convictions.
“These three fellows represent what’s at the heart of the Nathan Cummings Foundation mission,” said Ernest Tollerson, interim CEO of the Foundation. “This year’s projects seek to upend the status quo and reduce inequality in very unequal communities. The fellows will work to grow economic opportunities, end mass incarceration and empower faith-based groups to fight for social justice.”
Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez will incorporate her years of economic development and community organizing experience to work with local partners to launch an innovative business platform that tests the potential for capturing procurement dollars leaving the Bronx. The project will determine what is needed for low-income residents, small business owners, and major local institutions to move to the center of wealth creation and serve as agents to democratize markets for a more equitable and sustainable city. It will layer upon the critical foundation built by the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative and its powerful grassroots network. Nussbaum-Vazquez will work to identify the organizational infrastructure needed to incubate, grow, and support enterprises that build shared wealth in low-income communities at the scale required to confront generational poverty. Implementation of this model will create a powerful means of addressing some of the most persistent and challenging social and economic issues in urban communities, with potential to be applied in cities across the country.
Jennifer Bailey will support the creation of the Faith Matters Network, an online community that leverages emerging technologies in the field of digital storytelling to elevate the work of communities exploring the intersection of faith and social justice. FMN will equip faith leaders with tools to expand the power and impact of their movements, highlight best practice examples of digital storytelling for social change, and help facilitate relationships of inspiration and action across the sector. Bailey seeks fill a gap in the sector by creating one centralized platform that harnesses the collective power of the multi-faith movement for justice by mapping the movement and creating a forum for faith leaders to exchange ideas and enhance their skill set.
Mosi Makori will engage communities disproportionately impacted by the prison industrial complex, including the wrongfully convicted, through community based and participatory action research to confront the dehumanizing results of mass incarceration, primarily of people of color. The problem of mass incarceration and wrongful convictions can be effectively challenged and eliminated when those affected by these issues become more consciously organized. These issues disproportionately impact African-American males, which ultimately contributes to a breakdown of the family unit and less access to wealth-building opportunities. In partnership with Students at the Center and Bread Loaf Teacher Network, Makori and Star Institute will engage inner city high school students and educators in the creation of a culturally sustaining pedagogy involving close reading of a range of critical literary texts about criminal justice in the U.S. and analysis of oppression and liberation in theory, history and practice.
The New York-based Nathan Cummings Foundation launched the fellowship program in 2013 to give money and infrastructure to three visionary ideas annually that address issues relating to inequality and climate change. Inequality issues include improving the quality of life for the poor, growing opportunity equality and challenging the nation’s wealth inequality. Climate issues include ensuring equal access to energy, lowering atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and assisting the most vulnerable areas in combating the negative effects of climate change. The three 2014 fellows were selected from a group of eight finalists. The fellows will begin their projects in the summer of 2014. This is the second year of the fellowship.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation is rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community. It seeks to build a socially and economically just society that values and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities. The Foundation works to close the gap between America’s promise and practice and aspires to a society that measures its success by how it treats those who have the least. The Foundation seeks to make progress on two pressing and interconnected problems: inequality and climate change.