While the deLaski Family Foundation has been making grants in the Washington, DC community for 15 years, it certainly feels like a beginning as we launch our first website. We talked about the merits of a web presence about once a year, but Don and Nancy were not convinced. Many of you know that our parents passed away, our mother in 2009 and Dad just last year. I wish they could see this digital catalogue as it brings their work to life and suggests themes and connections when you consider our grant-making commitments side-by-side. In looking for patterns, it occurred to us that many of the grants were initiated by passionate visionaries who sold Mom and Dad on a new idea, usually a social or cultural enterprise that business or government could not see or could not fund. Or sometimes, our parents would have the idea and the visionary figured out how to make it happen.
One of our goals for the next phase of the Foundation is to pursue connections among the significant investments the family has made, under the theory that collaboration among like-minded grantees can lead to new designs. For example: The Center for Consciousness and Transformation’s intent to create a model for college students’ “well-being” will inform new thinking about our “reinventing college” grant-making. Mollie Smith, artistic director at Arena Stage, is developing a dramatic work on gun violence that will be influenced by The Center For Mind Body Medicine’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder field work in war zones. In fact, several of our leaders are focused on inspiring creativity, which is often cited as one of the missing links in developing workforce talent for the 21st century. Mount Vernon is planning its opening of the George Washington Library, hoping to create leadership development programming tying past to future.
Within our education focus, we have made two new grants this winter. The first is to Enstitute, a promising new approach to mentor-based career apprenticeship for professional track students. This is a first grant in a new area of our education focus, what some are starting to call the “reinventing college” space. We won't advocate against the traditional ivory tower residential degree for those who want and can afford it. However, 75% of college students are already “non-traditional,” but many are fighting their way through a system that isn’t optimized for them and their success rates are tragic.
The pathway from the junior/senior year of high school (when students are supposed to begin career planning) through to professional careers is basically broken. Consider statistics like these: 30% of Americans are earning four year degrees, but 60% of jobs require that degree (headed to 75% by 2025.) And of the one third of us who do get four year degrees, half of the young grads are not finding work in their field and are basically underemployed if employed at all.
The good news is that college is about to be “unbundled” as a consumer good, and thanks to technology and shifting attitudes about the value proposition of the ivory tower, the concept of college is taking on many new forms. Philanthropy can play a critical role pushing venture capital and traditional universities to innovate in ways that mitigate the digital divide (See For Whom is College Being Reinvented?) and reward services and institutions for outcomes such as workforce readiness for the 21st century information economy. Stay tuned for more from us.
Finally, we have also just invested (proudly) in the New Schools Venture Fund’s DC Schools Fund, which strives to support Washington, DC’s entrepreneurial charter school sector. With 43% of public school students in charters, many run by social visionaries, and a high-functioning authorizer monitoring academic results, Washington DC’s charter school movement is a national model.
Thank you for taking a look at the new site. We hope it leads to partnerships and fosters greater awareness for our grantees. We’ll try to do a quarterly update. So sign up to receive by email.