ETG - Leon Andrews

July 25, 2022 00:30:31

Hosted By

Eric Kilbride

Show Notes

In our most recent episode, with Leon Andrews President and CEO of Equal Measure, we discuss diversity, equity and inclusion, return on community investment, and other strategies to help Foundations, governments, and other Non Profit organizations succeed.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:15 All right. Welcome back to eliminate the gap. Thanks, uh, for all of you continuing to join us and check us out. Um, our last, uh, episode, uh, was on the heavier side, but there was a lot of positive response and it sparked a lot of good conversation. And today we, we, we wanted to be able to, to bring another, uh, person from the field, uh, to you all and hear about the exciting work that he and their organization are up to. And so with that, we have Leon Andrews joining us today. Who's the, uh, president and CEO of equal measure. So welcome Leon. Speaker 2 00:00:51 Thanks. Good to be with you guys. Speaker 1 00:00:54 Appreciate it. So, you know, as we like to do, just start out, let's, uh, let's let the audience know kind of what equal measure is about. And, and even more importantly, how do you go about doing your work? How do you work with a community and organization? What's the kind of secret sauce that you all bring to, to help folks, uh, achieve their goals? Speaker 2 00:01:17 Yeah, so equal. Well, first of all, it's great to be in this conversation. And I, I bring a whole 14 month, uh, perspective of working at equal measures just as president and CEO. So prior to that, I was, uh, at the national league of cities for 15 years, which is where I connected with both of you guys when I was there. And, uh, and so coming to equal measure comes with that as my background, doing a lot of work with cities and community leaders on, on issues related to youth development and racial equity, racial justice, um, violence intervention, a bunch of, uh, bunch of the work that I, that really has drawn my career. Um, and so equal measure, um, takes the approach of really working with organizations, uh, uh, with, with, um, those that are investing in communities that are trying to really measure the impact that they are having with those investments. Speaker 2 00:02:12 You know, and, um, and so we know a lot of foundations are in that world, um, local and national foundations that are trying to invest in community based organizations, um, and are really understanding as they're investing their dollars, where should they be investing their dollars as they're investing in, um, certain organizations, are they really, truly seeing kind of the impact that is, uh, ultimately getting to what they wanna see happen with with systems change? Um, and so we come in as, you know, learners, uh, evaluators folks that provide technical assistance and capacity building to really, um, ask, are, are we asking the right questions? Are we focusing the dollars and, and where those dollars need to be, particularly with so many foundations and, and folks that are trying to define kind of how do we, how do we really understand systems change? Um, right. And, and when we talk about systems change, what do we actually mean? Speaker 2 00:03:07 Um, and that's when for us as equal measure, trying to be very explicit that to do this work, whether you're talking about systems, change, place based systems change, equitable evaluation, you gotta be willing to call out racial equity. You gotta be willing to understand racism. You have to be able to understand what it means to be able to center that in the work. Um, and that for me is kind of the, um, like what's the work to help foundations, help organizations that are help government understand their intentionality behind framing this in the right way to really measure then are we truly having the impact? And I think that's the, that's where equal measure sits. Right? As I think about, um, how we wanna work with different audiences, you know, yes, we work with a lot of foundations, but can we work more with government? Can we work more with national, um, non-profit advocacy organizations that are trying to center this work? Uh, what does it look to work more regionally as we think about, you know, how this is playing out across the country? So thinking about our different audiences, given my background, uh, coming equal measure has also been part of the, the goal of trying to figure out what it means to kind of expand kind of where we show up and what it looks like to show up in a, in a way that, um, could have a greater impact. Speaker 3 00:04:21 So Leon, um, just wanted to follow up given the, given a lot of the social and political context and communities current bit, why it's important have a culturally, you know, uh, based response and evaluation, uh, why that's important, especially today. Speaker 2 00:04:41 Great question Raul. And, and I mean, I start with just kind of what we mean when we talk about culturally responsive and equitable. Um, and that for me, starts from understanding that, um, to look at this work and to talk about systems change is acknowledge that there's been a lot of intentionality behind systems. This our systems were not created by accident. There's a long history in understanding that in this country. Um, and so when we talk about racial equity in the context of systems, it's understanding that when we look at the data, whether we're talking about infant mortality rates to life, expectancy rates, race is still the strongest predictor of one's success in this country. And so our work requires us to understand what does it mean to be intentional, um, in how we are defining, um, what success looks like and ultimately racial equity. Speaker 2 00:05:33 If we're talking about racial equity, it's closing the gaps where race is no longer predicting one's success while we see outcomes improve for everybody. Uh, and so then what's the work that allows us to get there that goes beyond just looking at good services or good programs mm-hmm <affirmative>, but it's looking at getting to the root causes, understanding the systems and the policies, um, and realizing that to be able to do that, that requires, uh, that what Dr. John Powell called targeted universalism, like, what does it mean to be targeted in our, in our process, but universal in our goals? And so how do you, how do you center that as you think about cultural responsive, equitable evaluation, as you think about how that shows up our cross, every stage of the work from how you think about designing your project to how you engage the community, to how you collect data, to how you analyze data, to how you report on it, to how you implement it. Like every stage, there's gotta be a commitment to what it means to be culturally responsive and how you're centering racial equity as that context. Speaker 1 00:06:35 Hmm. So, uh, I just wanted to, to maybe ask for just a little bit of clarity generally, when you guys are brought in to do some work, is it, I know it would be ideal if it's, when somebody's planning something, right. And it's, it's very much, you know, a collective kind of discussion, um, as opposed to being brought in, because there is a crisis or that there's something immediately that's occurred, uh, or, you know, that kind of thing. So help us understand kind of generally how it is at work and, and why it's ideal maybe to be brought in earlier. Speaker 2 00:07:13 That's a great question. So, I mean, I, I feel like, uh, wearing two hats, like one, when I was at, uh, at the national league of cities, I definitely would see us coming together, um, and engaging with cities, um, at different levels at stages that they were at, whether they were dealing with a crisis or trying to be more proactive. Um, um, and so we would engage at different stages with, um, with, uh, with partners on the ground, uh, equal measure, you know, as I think about the range of, uh, our partners, um, we, we work with, um, with foundations that are, you know, could be coming in and they're looking at, um, you know, maybe their digital learning infrastructure, for example, and as they're looking at the digital learning infrastructure, um, that are particularly looking at historically black colleges and universities, they wanna be able to understand, um, kind of, what does that look like? Speaker 2 00:08:08 What does success look like? Uh, what does it mean to scale this at that level? And so that's like a, the, it's a, a different way of being more intentional about trying to have the opportunity to frame something in a way that allows you to really make sure you're measuring and engaging in a way that is trying to be intentional about centering equity in your work or looking at, um, um, post-secondary success. Right. And you're wanting to understand, um, as we think about scaling, um, uh, post-secondary success models, uh, for, you know, for universities that could really help ultimately address some of the racial inequities, what would it look like to be able to scale, um, this at a level that, that ultimately is targeting, um, you know, black and brown or Latin, Hispanic, Asian, um, other people of color like indigenous communities, like, what does it look like to do that? Speaker 2 00:09:00 Um, and so that's a, that's kind of the, at the foundational level, um, at a government level here, uh, you have cities that are looking to invest dollars in, um, in, in their community, whether it's around in so example around anti some anti-violence prevention grants that, uh, we're that we're working on with the city right now, and as they know within their city, that, that, that a disproportionate number of violence in that community are, uh, that are impacted are, are black and brown men in particular in the city. Um, and so here we have, the city has dollars that they're trying to invest within, within the community. And they wanna know are the dollars getting to the right programs? Are, are those programs being led by black and brown leaders, are they impact black and brown men? Um, and what does success look like that are actually tar for those programs that are actually are, are focused on reducing violence and violent debts within those communities? Speaker 2 00:09:57 Like, are we, we wanna make sure we are investing our dollars in those places that can be scaled, and we wanna figure out what it looks like to be able to scale that. And so what does it look like to engage with a city in that way that allows us to both understand where they are and where those programs are? What does, what does it look like to engage those programs themselves, to really talk about their success and really lift up their models and where they're seeing the success and how do we help the city think about scaling that as we think about where that exists across the city. So that's a very different, more on the ground, more connected to, to, to the community than maybe some of the philanthropic work, which is thinking about investments that are, you know, across the country, trying to, trying to figure out what it looks like to scale more macro level, um, efforts that are trying to address inequities. Speaker 3 00:10:49 Hmm. So expanding a little bit on your role with nonprofits. Uh, what would you say is probably one of the, maybe the single most important investment in the nonprofit workforce, uh, to help kind of carry this work out. And I know it, it moves across sectors. Um, I get that you have to engage, you know, multiple sectors, um, in community development, but at the same time for, for those nonprofits that are, that are working hard to build up their workforce and get them the skills that they need to move forward in the ways that you're talking about in the ways that align with mixed method, data collection, and other things that are important, um, in that, in that community process, what would you think are the, you know, the top 2, 1, 2 investments in their workforce? Speaker 2 00:11:36 Yeah, I mean, I, I think if I'm an investment standpoint, I think, uh, without a doubt, it's resiliency, um, as I think about what nonprofits have experienced the last two, two and a half years with, uh, the impact of COVID the impact of, uh, the political and social and racial unrest that is happening, there's still uncertainty of where they are. Um, the, the ability to be resilient, uh, and to be flexible, um, as a nonprofit organization, um, I think is the number one two. If, if you hold resiliency and flexi flexibility, as two separate things, to me, they feel like the same to be resilient requires the flexibility that you need to have as a nonprofit, uh, organization to do this work. Um, and we experienced that at equal measure, the UN UN unmistakably, you know, um, the organization has gone, um, has gone through the, um, the transitions of, um, of the, of, of being an organization, always committed to DEI and, and, uh, diversity equity and inclusion work, um, to acknowledging the need, um, and to understand the impact that COVID, and then the murders of George Floyd and Brian Taylor and Aman Aubrey, and Rashard Brooks and Walter Wallace was having on staff, uh, to understand like what it would take for us to be able to, um, go invest in what needs to happen in our workforce for them to still be, uh, for us to still be, uh, set, set up for success. Speaker 2 00:13:08 And what adjustments do we need to make, and, and where do we need to be pivoting, um, as an organization, um, where do we need to be flexible as we think about kind of what's needed for people to still have what they need and still be productive and to still have the impact that we wanna have. Um, uh, and so that, that for me, strikes, uh, that strikes me as, you know, the, what feels to be as the most important investment that, um, uh, nonprofit organizations, maybe not even just nonprofit, but given where we sit nonprofit organizations need to, uh, need to be committed to, um, as they think about strengthening their workforce. Speaker 1 00:13:47 Yeah. And this is, uh, I appreciate, uh, that conversation. Um, it's, it's interesting. I wanted to, um, then maybe dig a little deeper in like so years ago, RA and I were very much involved with the study of the cost in financing and abuse development. Okay. We worked with Richard Murphy years ago on a project. And, and, and at that point, uh, it was, you know, almost 20 years ago, we were really trying to make a point that government was spending a lot of money, uh, on young people. And unfortunately it was in the penal system. Okay. And then to a much lesser extent, then it was informal education. So if you weren't caught and thriving in those two places, uh, air quotes, the rest of young people were in this very minuscule amount of money being invested in, in after school or outta school time, uh, effort. And so I'm sitting here 20 years later from when we just were talking about how critical it was to, to have, uh, maybe using schools as community spaces and, and outta school time to what you're describing now. Right. So help me kind of understand where we are maybe today versus what I'm describing it. And I know you're familiar with where the field was 20 years ago. Speaker 2 00:15:18 It's a great question. Um, there's hope there are a couple of different ways. I would've wanna try to unpack that one. Um, you know, as I think about the youth development field, and I remember that when I was working on my PhD at Michigan and I was reading all of the youth development work that was been being done out there. Um, Karen, uh, Freeman, uh, Karen Wilson and, um, Richard Murphy and, um, and so many others, um, you know, it felt like there was a great effort to really try to define what every, every young person needed, you know, uh, and trying to expand the definition of, of youth development to, to, to really realize we're not just talking about your traditional, that all communities need to be committed to be. Um, from the time a child was, uh, uh, um, from the time that they were up all of their waking hours, that, and at, at every developmental stage that we were investing in, what would end up becoming this whole positive youth development, these services supports and opportunities in the settings where they spend their time, not just traditional settings, but, um, non-traditional settings, not just formal education, not just during, um, school hours, or even just traditional after school hours, but in, beyond, beyond, uh, those, those traditional hours. Speaker 2 00:16:36 Um, uh, and then as we thought about what we were investing in, it was like, what are the outcomes? Right? There were the five CS, uh, whether we were talking about the, like, can I remember all the five CS right now, there was like comp you know, there was character and competency and caring, and, you know, there were so many different, um, um, you know, language that was used to define what the outcomes were, um, in order for them to be well prepared for whatever, what we were defining, what success was mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and I felt like there was a huge movement, if you will, to really try to get people to understand, like, this is what every young person needs. Like, we, we need to be investing in that full circle. We need to understand that we, it can't be less for traditional spaces and there was a whole movement to activate that. Speaker 2 00:17:22 Right. And I was, I was there too. I was, I I'm still there. Right. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> talk about the development of young people. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, that was grounded in, in great research. Great, um, um, uh, folks that were in the field doing some amaz and are still continuing to do some amazing things. Um, and then for me, as I was doing that work, and I was at the national league of cities, I was brought on as program director for youth development. Like that was my background, doing a lot of work with city leaders across the country and trying to advocate for them, um, you know, and, and loved. And I realized that, um, as I was doing that work, um, there were different entry points into getting, uh, city leaders to understand that they may not be ready to do all of that. Right. And so that might be too big for elected officials. Speaker 2 00:18:06 Like, like what I remember trying to give them my working definition when I first started 15 years ago, that's like, that's nice, Leon. One of the mayors says, like, what do you want me to do with that? Um, and I realized, okay, how do you unpack this in a way to help city really connect to this work? And so an early childhood conversation could eventually lead to them to get to see the full youth development picture or talking about youth engagement and how you engage young people authentically might get them there. So how do you, mm-hmm, <affirmative> that as an entry point, how do you talk about violence prevention and how do we pivot from talking about, you know, um, you know, what was kind of a project crackdown was one of the initiatives to re redefining initiative as reclaiming our youth. Like, how do we just reframe it in a more positive youth development lens? Speaker 2 00:18:51 And so, and even the, the health and wellness work that I, that we were doing from combating childhood obesity to promoting healthy communities, like how do we pivot in getting people to understand that broader youth development framework? And so I'm still to adapt because that was, that was what, and what I still continue to advocate. And then at the same time, I realized if I didn't become intentional about language, um, we could exacerbate the inequities and, and my, and by that, I meant my first moment was when I, when I realized that is after spending six or seven years, or maybe longer working on this childhood obesity work for the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, mm-hmm <affirmative>, and they had invested a half a billion dollars when I started in 2005 at NLC, a half a billion dollars, they made a commitment to reverse childhood obesity, but I think it was like 2016 was their goal. Speaker 2 00:19:42 And so they brought everyone together to try to help them change that they had all of the policy folks like NLC national governance association, ICMA, uh, uh, us conference of mayors, all, all of the policy folks, local government folks, state government folks, how do we, how do we impact change policy? And they had all of the research folks come together and figure out what's the research agenda that we need to have. And they had all of the advocacy folks and come together. How do we advocate for changing that needs to happen at the state, both federal, state and local level. And all of us were like coming together, learning from each other, coming up with some incredible policies that we were all getting excited about, complete streets, policies, and land use policies, and, you know, all of the governance and, uh, about how do we, uh, kind of shift in and kind of how we think about moving from programs from personal responsibility to changing policies around fresh fruits and vegetables and access to recreational opportunities. Speaker 2 00:20:38 And so we all were just happened to be sitting in Philadelphia with all these grantees after 10 years, and trying to see, have we seen change <laugh> after half a billion dollars have childhood obesity rates gone down. And, and so RWJF had had some evaluators, um, where I sit now, like an equal measure person coming in, uh, to try to, to determine whether we were seeing any change. And what did they find? Um, as they started looking at Philadelphia, Mississippi, other parts of the country for, um, um, for young adolescents, the lowest of the youngest adolescents, it was starting to decline. And for middle adolescents, it was like stagnant. It wasn't, it wasn't increasing anymore. And for late adolescents, it wasn't, it was going up, but not as, not as much. And so we all started to celebrate. It's like, yes, it's going down. And then someone asked a question, is it going down for everybody? Speaker 2 00:21:36 And that's when, when they asked the questions, it going down for everybody, and they looked a little deeper and guess what they found after spending a half a billion dollars later, 10 years later, it was still spiking for blacks. It still spiking for Hispanics and Latin families, and it was still spiking for indigenous people. And so that was my first moment, even before that was like my start to starting to understand what it meant to center racial equity, while I could have been a big proponent of youth development and believe in that principle, my inability to not name and be explicit about who is this, who is disproportionately impacted by that and not build a strategy around that could only exacerbate the inequities. And I think that's where I sit now, as I think about the work and why it's important to call that out and what it means to center that even though we believe in these broad frameworks that we think are so important like that we're talking about with young people, Speaker 1 00:22:33 Wow, that's a pretty powerful stuff. And, you know, not enough folks in our field have named that, uh, in the way that you just described it. And I thought that was a really strong example. Um, because certainly in the earlier days, we were all about, well, it's not those kids, right. It's all what we want for everyone. And, and I get that broad framework. Um, but what you just described clearly is, uh, uh, just as important, I'm currently working on a food desert project, right. Uh, that I'm sure has been in place much longer than, than I've certainly been, uh, aware of it. So it it's, um, you know, that's the, uh, the nature of, of this work for sure. I wanted to, to just ask kind of one last area, as we begin to wrap here a little bit was about, um, your time in national league of cities and, and, and granted, um, there's a lot of, um, and we've already touched on some of it, uh, in terms of issues that are, that, that are critical right now to, to help, uh, young people grow up and, and, and be all they can be. Speaker 1 00:23:44 Um, if you wanted to go beyond, uh, the racial diversity and inclusion and, and name a another area, um, that you see also as critical, um, that cities and elected officials really need to be, uh, responding to today, um, and, and, and putting money behind today, what, what, what's some of that, that, that comes to mind and that you're seeing there at equal measure? Speaker 2 00:24:11 Yeah, I, I it's, this is probably, it is tied to everything we're talking about, but it just centers more explicitly the commitment to centering community voice. Um, and it's really a question about power and power dynamics. And again, I, like I said, it's tied to the conversation we we've had earlier, but it is the hardest question I've seen in the 15 years working at with city leaders, that sharing of power, uh, what does true sharing of power, authentic power sharing look like? Um, and without feeling like you're losing power, um, and, uh, and, and, and, and centered in that is, um, it is a commitment by, um, those that hold the power to be willing to understand the value of it. Um, and so there are definitely leaders when I was at NLC that were very passionate committed about that. Um, you know, it is not lost on me that many of them, when that I had to get used to, when you really got excited about them being out front, whether it was a mayor or a council member, or a city manager that believed in it many times, you were always surprised that they lost their election. Speaker 2 00:25:19 <laugh> the next year, right? It's like what happened? You know, we are, this, this person was so committed, empowering to you, just, uh, and so it's like, there's a constant battle of how do you keep, you know, people that are trying to fight for empowerment for those that, um, are Le least and less of a, um, uh, that don't have it as much. How are we making sure that they are still able to hold those positions, uh, to continue to advocate and for us to be able to, um, to see that come, come to fruition. And, um, and that has always been the dynamic and challenge of people that are trying to be the change makers that are trying to push against the system. Um, how many times the system kind of pushes back and to try to return back to status quo. Um, and, uh, and that, again, very much ties to the conversation we're having about racial equity and racial justice. But, but again, it very much, to me calls out more explicitly the power of voice and, and the, and the need to really understand what it means to share power. Speaker 3 00:26:21 Hmm. So taking it back to its core, Leon, we talked a little bit about some of the investments nonprofits make, as far as their workforce is concerned. We know that there's the individual and that there's the mission, obviously. And so coming on and thinking about your life, thinking about specifically you, who was the caring adult in your life and who that person, if you could share who that person was, what they did, um, to, to, to be that caring adult, Speaker 2 00:26:52 Oh boy, we, we gonna have, I don't know, we might run out of time on this one, but, but I'll try to truncate it. I mean, I, for those that know, I tell my story, I'm, I'm a, I am, I am a first generation American. And so I, I acknowledge that I am here because of my grandmother. Um, my mother's side, both of my parents are from guy in south America. Uh, grandmother fam both families grew up poor. Um, both had large families. My mom's side had a family in nine. My dad's side had a family, 10 mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and my grandmother, um, um, particularly my mother's side was, you know, not the most highly educated in terms of, uh, formal education, but she was a teacher. She taught all of her kids how to read and write. Uh, she played the piano at her church, uh, um, in a very poor, relatively poor neighborhood in Guyana, but she somehow was committed to all of her kids, um, all of her kids, uh, getting educated, um, and so brought her kids to this country in, into the us in the sixties. Speaker 2 00:27:51 I grew up here surrounded by my mom, which was the youngest five aunts, um, which also were here, um, in, in, in the states, uh, who had, um, each of them had cousins, uh, sons and daughters that were became my brothers and sisters. And so surrounded by, um, a large family. Um, and to know that my grandmother, when she moved to the country here in DC, um, all of her kids got educated, which was just not the norm. I just wanna name that mm-hmm <affirmative> immigrants and your kid at your kids usually might be, it might be my generation, but the fact that your kids a generation before me were able to get educated, be able to raise their families in DC, New York, you know, Delaware in that region. And all of us being able to benefit from where they were as a result of what they were able to achieve, how they invested in us and how that opened up opportunities for me. Um, and to, to know that that is part of the legacy I stand on as my wife and I are raising our three daughters in the same house my grandmother bought when she moved to the country in 1960s with her piano and a rock still there, that's my legacy. Right? That's the understanding, all those, all those, that's a condensed version of all those that have invested in me to be where I am today. Speaker 1 00:29:09 Wow. That that's, that's, that's awesome. And I, I knew some of that. I didn't know all of it. Um, and the fact that that piano is still very much a, a part of, uh, the, the legacy, uh, is, is that's pretty cool. Um, Leon, we couldn't thank you enough for, for joining us today and having, uh, this kind of discussion about kind of the current state of affairs, honestly, and, and more importantly, how you all and equal measure are, are seeking to, you know, step up and, and, and help, uh, whether it be funders, government, folks, other nonprofit organizations, um, to help, you know, achieve what it is that they're setting out to do so greatly appreciate the time today. Um, can't thank you enough. And, and thank you all who have been with us listening. Um, we'll share information about equal measure as we always do as part of, uh, the release of this, uh, episode, um, so that you all can go and, and find out a little bit more, um, anyway, uh, Leon, thanks so much. Speaker 3 00:30:11 Thanks, Eric. Thanks. It's a.

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