Take 5 with a NELA Fellow – Bethany Housman

The Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Program is a year-long leadership program for female nonprofit executives that includes networking with other nonprofit professionals, access to training and professional development on executive skills in social change leadership, and a chance to receive strategic support and coaching. The SISGI Group is launching a new interview series on their website –  Take 5 With a NELA Fellow.

The Take 5 series will allow us to get a closer look at our NELA Fellows as they offer insight into their experiences as Nonprofit Executives. Want to hear even more about the career journey of our fellows? Join us for our Social Change Career Series where our fellows and other nonprofit leaders share their career path to executive leadership as well as what inspires them to create social change. Visit http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries to register.

The first participant in the series is Bethany Housman, Director of PromiseCorps Philadephia. Bethany is a 2017 Nonprofit Executive Leadership Academy Fellow, Cross-Fitting vegetarian and an avid New Orleans Saints fan. Bethany graduated from St. John’s University with a B.A. in Communication Arts followed by a graduate degree in Sociology at St. John’s and a graduate degree in Urban Education at Temple University.

After a short stint with Z100 radio station in her undergraduate years, she decided to continue her education in Sociology and work on issues affecting communities. She traveled to France, Germany, Panama, Canada and a variety of states for different projects. During the completion of her graduate degree she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana after a 3-week volunteer effort supporting disaster relief turned into her relocation. Bethany spent 2 years as the Program Director for City Year Louisiana, managing the New Orleans and Baton Rouge programs and eventually launched City Year New Orleans and continued as a Sr. Program Director. Bethany relocated to City Year Philadelphia in 2012 to be closer to her family. While working on her graduate degree at Temple she became an Operations Coordinator for a national charter organization and upon completion of her degree joined the Promise Corps team.

She can regularly be found in Roxborough, Philadelphia with her wife, their 2 cats (Senor Julio & Peyton Manning), retired greyhound (Luna) and mini-pitbull (Liberty)!

1. What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is most often described as direct. I’ve worked very hard in my career to also allow it to be described as supportive. Leading requires much more than just pointing towards a direction; there is a balance between pointing and getting others to also point with you — finding this balance is something I’ll be working on for a long time.
I’ve learned over time that I am not an overthinker. I do not need to analyze stats or consider scenarios. I’m very comfortable taking responsibility for decisions I make but I’ve had to learn and develop that over time. I do like to warn my team about this aspect of my leadership, while I’m comfortable making quick decisions I do take the time to gain perspective from others when possible.
I need to work on some aspects of my leadership style. I overcommunicate, repeat myself and have reminders set to remind myself to set reminders. I also repeat myself.

To see Bethany’s answers to all 5 questions visit http://sisgigroup.org/bethany-housman/



#GivingTuesday: One Day that Impacts All Others

While many Americans look forward to the days following Thanksgiving, #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, for deals on gifts from friends or family, #GivingTuesday is a global campaign aimed at closing the disconnect between the materialism that has become associated with the holiday season and focuses on taking one day to rally and give back to communities around the globe.

The SISGI Group would love to have your partnership this holiday season, and beyond. To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community and beyond, check out the full details about this year’s #GivingTuesday campaign written by Melanie Cushman at http://sisgigroup.org/givingtuesday.

CLASS Fall 2017: Where Passion Ignites our Purpose

Last week The SISGI Group initiated the newest cohort of our Community Leadership Academy for the Social Sector (CLASS)! CLASS is an initiative that supports nonprofit professionals as they design a project to address an issue in their community. Although this program is a one year virtual experience, the kick off is a one day in-person meeting to establish community between leadership academy staff and CLASS Fellows as well as set a strong foundation for the learning that will occur throughout the following months.

Melanie Cushman, Fall 2017 Leadership Academy Intern, shared her perspective and takeaways from the Class Fall 2017 Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, California on the SISGI Group website. Check out the full post at http://sisgigroup.org/class-fall-2017/


Should a Living Wage be a Basic Human Right?

Today marks the 8th anniversary since the last federal increase in the minimum wage. Since then and since the publication of my original blog post on this issue, several states passed legislation to increase their minimum pay, joining the 29 states and 41 localities with a higher minimum wage than the national rate of $7.25 an hour. The increases are in large part due to the rising momentum of worker movements like @Fightfor15. However, these movements that are still seeking to improve the livelihood of over 41 million low wage workers and 19 million children in the US, had a setback last month with the publication of a new study analyzing the effects of Seattle’s gradual minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. The researchers found that the cost of the increase to low-wage workers outweighed the benefits, claiming that the new, higher wage forced companies to hire fewer workers.

Despite concerns over the credibility of the study and despite the fact that these results contradict years of research that found that wage increases benefit working families and have very little effect on employment, this study reinvigorated the debate over the policy with headlines like “New study on the $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals” and “New Seattle study is a big problem for fans of a higher minimum wage”.

Nonetheless, these conclusions are a distraction from the real issue, which is – the federal minimum wage is not a living wage. It is well established that a majority of low wage workers must either work multiple jobs or rely on public assistance in order to live.

What Does the Law Say?

The original intent of minimum wage, as enacted by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under Franklin D. Roosevelt, was to protect exploited workers while also combating poverty by ensuring that people who work “earn a decent living“, i.e. a living wage. The minimum wage law is a human rights law but all too often the debate is framed as an economic issue rather than a human rights issue.

Since people who earn the current federal minimum wage live in poverty, the debate should never be about whether or not wages increase. It should be about how much wages increase and how to implement these increases in an efficient and equitable way.

And, the primary question that should be answered is: should an individual who works 40 hours a week be living in poverty?

In May, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would over the next 8 years incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Economists analyzed the bill and calculated that if the wage were to increase to $15 by 2024, it would no longer be a poverty wage. In a country that has experienced historic levels of wealth, perhaps it is time to ensure the minimum wage policy accomplishes what it was initially established to do.

How to Get Involved in the Fight for $15?

Follow us on @notenoughgood on Twitter and @SISGIGroup on Facebook and Instagram for the next 5 weeks as we discuss everything you need to know about this issue and ways people can become involved to help create sustainable change. We invite individuals with an interest in the subject to chime into the conversation using the hashtag #AlsoSW and join our TweetChat on August 31, 2017 at 3pm EDT where we will hear from experts in social justice and advocacy who will discuss the human rights aspect of minimum wage.


#APYDCON 2017: Youth Activism and Social Change

In 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy in education for girls in Pakistan and around the world. Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez is the youth director of Earth Guardians and is at the frontline of climate change activism. Malala and Roske-Martinez are two of many youth activists who are changing the world.

Youth have always been at the center of social movements, and sometimes, leading the movements themselves. It was the high civic engagement of youth that recently resulted in the upending of political regimes in Egypt, North Africa, and other countries around the world. Youth leaders fueled the civil-rights movement, and today they are at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration reform, and LGBT+ rights. It is without a doubt, that youth are powerful agents of social change. Unfortunately, adults often ignore the role that youth play in shaping our world, and we tend to push them to the sidelines in conversations about policies and social reforms.

Why Youth Activism Matters?

According to the United Nations, there are over 1.8 billion youth in the world; the largest youth population ever. With all the current world problems, imagine the impact that a group of 1.8 billion youth can have in global economic and social progress. We can’t have politicians make all the decisions for us, and as cliche as it may sound, youth are our future. They are the leaders and experts of their own lives. The decisions we make today will impact their future, so it only seems fitting that we allow them to take charge in the decision-making process of enacting social change.

Youth are very aware of what is happening in their communities, and they have their own opinions on the changes that need to be done. Their voice should always be heard and considered because youth are an asset to their communities. Youth hold unique tools like using technology to generate change, being able to globally connect with both older and younger generations, and they view the world through a different lens that allow them to challenge corruption and injustice. The more that youth participate in civic engagement, the more they get to develop leadership skills and make healthier life choices that can collectively move us into a more socially just world.

Youth have consistently shown that they will not remain idle in the social issues that impact their lives. Youth are visionaries and they are passionate for social good. For this reason, it is essential that we recognize the powerful role they have in social movements, and learn how to empower youth to become the leaders of our changing world. As Malala said in regard to the youth, “Let us stand up for our rights, and let us fight. Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality”.

Ready to Learn More?

On August 9th, 2017, APYDCON will be wrapping up its last day of workshops center around the top of Youth Activism and Social Change. The first event of the day will be a Q&A panel with experts Jessica Taft, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Ron Gochez, a South Central Los Angeles community organizer and LAUSD teacher. The day will end with a presentation by Kathy Abarca, Director of Racially Just Utah. The panel and presentation will address how youth engage in social movements and how they enact social change, as well as the best practices for engaging youth in activism.

If you want to increase your awareness of the role of youth have in activism, and learn how you can support their leadership development, register to be a part of this unique virtual experience for FREE at sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


#APYDCON 2017: Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking

Thirteen-year-old “Abby” is the youngest child of four. She would spend her days hanging out with her friends at school and at night, like most children her age, she enjoyed browsing through Facebook and Instagram. She had recently connected with a boy her age through Facebook and had fun chatting with him. Little did Abby know this was no boy at all. This was a twenty-year-old man, who was trying to recruit young girls into prostitution. He never told her he was going to put her to work. He simply told her all the things a young girl wants to hear from her suitor. Soon, Abby ended up on the streets working for this man against her will. All she was looking for was an innocent friendship with a young boy online. But she never found that boy. Abby, is one of thousands of young American girls who authorities say have been abducted or lured from their normal lives and made into sex slaves. When people think go human trafficking they think of all the young girls brought to the United States to be sold. People do not think it happens right here in America.

Why Human Trafficking Matters

Imagine that Abby is your sister, family member, or friend. Imagine all the things that Abby has gone through. She went from being a straight A student to being sold in the sex trade industry. Abby is not alone in this, because there are more than 2 million girls and boys being subjected to this yearly. Not only are these children being raped, they are also forced to use drugs. Due to the tortuous and traumatic conditions, an average life span of a sex trafficking victim is reported to be seven years as most are found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STDs, malnutrition, overdose, or suicide. The victims estimated ages are between 11 and 14 years old.

Who Are These Children?

According to US sources, children are most targeted by traffickers because they are found to be easier to manipulate as well as are able to earn predators more money. While there are many victims who are like Abby, there are also victims who have no other way to survive. Many of these children are the thrown away, homeless, or runaways. These youths result to using sex to secure survival needs such as shelter, clothing or food.

As a result of their circumstances, many of these youth will suffer long term health problems including trauma related issues such as anxiety, fear, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims often suffer from drug addiction, sleep disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and eating disorders. These are just a few of the long list of lifelong issues that victims will deal with on top of the burden of guilt and shame.

Ready to Learn More?

Join us August 8th, 2017 as we continue our APYD Best Practices for Youth Conference workshops where we will focus on Crisis Intervention for Prostitution and Child Trafficking. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Kristie Holmes, PhD, LCSW, who specializes in topics related to global health, gender, and media and the impact of technology on social relationships; and Terri O’Donnell, a mental health therapist with extensive experience working with women and men with histories of trauma and addiction. Following this session will be a presentation by, Jan Miyasaki, the director of Project Respect, a Dane County, Wisconsin-based social service agency that provides services to adults and juveniles victimized in sex-trafficking and prostitution. The lecture will consist of a discussion educating the attendees on the life altering issues faced by sexually exploited youth.

If you want to increase your awareness of human trafficking and learn how you can be a part of the solution; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


#APYDCON 2017: Youth, Community, and the Justice System

Approximately 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States in a single year. Outcomes for youth involved in the justice system can include recidivism, academic failure, as well as mental health and substance abuse issues. However, there is a movement to reform the justice system by offering youth alternative interventions focused on rehabilitation and skill building to create a brighter and stronger future.

Why Reforming Juvenile Justice Matters

To put it simply, punitive sentencing of young offenders is contrary to the founding principle of the juvenile justice system in the first place. Launched in the 19th century, the original mission of the juvenile justice system was to rehabilitate delinquent youth through treatment programs and release them back into society as productive citizens. However, over the years the system has veered awareness from its primary responsibility and instead created what is now referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline” where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In many cases, the youth that are caught in the pipeline struggle with learning disabilities, are born into poverty, and are often victims of abuse and neglect. While these youth would benefit from counseling, additional educational assistance and familial support, they are instead being punished and pushed out of society into juvenile detention centers, further isolating them from the opportunities of success and prosperity.

Recent efforts to reform the juvenile justice system by providing positive youth development and restorative justice community based programs have been proven successful. Options ranging from home-based approaches to locked community residential facilities are designed to keep youth engaged with their schools and communities while providing them with the treatment the juveniles and families so desperately need. Shifting the focus from punishment to rehabilitation it the key to helping youth become productive citizens of society rather than tossing them into a cycle of destructive institutionalism.

The Role of the Community in Juvenile Justice Reform

In order for a reformation of the juvenile justice system to be successful, the community needs to be fully engaged. Community Based Organizations (CBOs) play an important role in their ability to provide alternative intervention programming and services focused on rehabilitation and skill building for juveniles. In addition, community organizations can increase their impact and work more efficiently when multiple agencies are able to collaborate with one another and are able to provide services across disciples.

Ready to Learn More?

Join us on August 7th, 2017 as we launch our first day of workshops focused on Youth, Community and the Justice System. The first event of the day will be an expert Q&A panel featuring Franke Guzman, Juvenile Justice Attorney at the National Center of Youth Law, and Omar Zapata, Director of Program Services for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP). Following this session will be a presentation by Ken Klopman, a retired officer from the Oxnard Police Department who brings to the table of three decades of experience in public safety and service. The panel and presentation will offer tangible solutions to help get youth on a more positive path and support them to reach their full potential.

If you want to increase your awareness of the role that the community plays in supporting youth, and learn how you can take action in helping to reform the juvenile justice system; register to be part of this unique virtual conference experience for free at http://sisgigroup.org/apydcon2017.


What Makes America Great is Our Communities #SouthernService

As an intern with the SISGI Group I recently had an opportunity to attend the 2017 Southern National Service Training Conference in Orlando, FL. When I arrived at the conference, banners and logos from a variety of agencies were on display. Some organizations were familiar to me, such as AmeriCorps and City Year and some were unfamiliar, such as Volunteer Florida and State Service Commissions. At first, I must admit, I was perplexed by how these agencies were all connected but as the week went on it all began to come together.

The event was hosted by Volunteer Florida and the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). CNCS, I came to find, is a federal agency that invests in thousands of nonprofit and community-based programs throughout the country, including AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund.

Throughout my three days at the conference I was able to connect with community and nonprofit leaders and learn best practices from them on grant writing, strategic program planning, advocacy and how to raise awareness about social causes through social media. However, what resonated with me most throughout my time in Orlando was learning about the vital role CNCS programs play within communities across the nation.

I met members who serve as Foster Grandparents and learned how their tutoring program helps students stay on track to graduate. I met employees of Volunteer Florida who taught me about how CNCS national volunteer networks are the primary responders after events such as hurricanes, forest fires or terrorist attacks, assist with everything from shelter and call center operations to case work and the construction of new homes. I had the opportunity to listen to Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, Trauma Medical Director at Orlando Regional Medical Center, discuss their experiences on the night of the Pulse nightclub shooting and the impact volunteers had during and after the attack.

I learned that beyond volunteerism, CNCS programs provide sustainable, evidence-based solutions to pressing social issues, such as poverty and climate change.

A prominent theme throughout my days at the conference was the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts. The new budget would reduce $18 billion from mostly education, labor and health programs in order to increase defense spending. CNCS programs have historically received bipartisan support since they have proven to be an effective and efficient approach to community challenges. However, CNCS programs are a particular target of the new administration. Specifically, the proposal would cut $439 million from AmeriCorps and $66 million from Senior Corps. Under these changes CNCS along with 18 other agencies would be eliminated and that is the intention of the Trump administration who affirmed: “It is not a core function of the federal government to promote volunteerism, and therefore, these programs should be eliminated.”

Members of The SISGI Group Team

This foreboding cloud was palpable in Orlando. Although the hundreds of conference attendees were concerned about their livelihood, their primary anxiety was over the effects these changes would have on members of their communities. Despite this apprehension over the unknown, I also saw rooms full of passionate people inspired and unwavering in their commitment to creating lasting change, a powerful coalition of like-minded individuals with more resolve than ever to fight for what’s best for their communities.

To echo the sentiments of a fellow conference attendee: “what makes America great is our communities.” Politics aside, without investments in our communities I wonder what they would look like without the thousands of volunteers on standby ready to provide relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts after the next hurricane; or without the tutors who provide critical support to students who are falling behind in nearly 12,000 schools across the country each day; or the altruistic college grads who are willing to put their careers on hold for a year to serve their communities.

I hope you will join me in letting our leaders know that national service is a necessary program that delivers results. Make your voice heard by contacting congress and asking them to protect national service from potential elimination. Visit Voices for National Service to take action today.

Want to check out more of the fun we had at the Southern National Service Training Conference? Click here to see more pictures from our photo booth.


Digital Communications and Social Good: Helpful Tips from Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz

This week I am writing about the lessons learned from Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz, two leaders at America’s Promise Alliance. Stefanie Weiss is the Vice President of Communications and Knowledge Management and Stefanie Cruz is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy. They both discussed their work in the field of communications and nonprofit work, and gave tips for how social workers can market themselves and get involved in digital communications.

First of all, its important to recognize that this field has probably changed the most out of any field in the past 20 years. The way we communicate today is drastically different than it was one generation ago. We have cell phones, email, social media…and we want and need to connect faster and more effectively than ever before.

At America’s Promise Alliance, “communications” refers to pretty much anything with words; speeches, blogs, publications, media, outreach, websites, fundraising, reports, events, social media…almost anything that is naturally embedded in nonprofit work. Digital communications plays a really important role in creating and building a community as well as a useful tool in bringing awareness to initiatives and campaigns they run. Digital communications plays a huge role in connecting with partners and others in our fields to share best practices and participate in national conversations.

The more that digital technology expands around our world, the more of a role it plays in our organizations. Nonprofits need people skilled in communications and technology, and ultimately skilled in listening, strategic thinking, project management, and executing thoughtful work. Both Stefanies discussed how important the listening piece is, as well as strategic thinking and planning. Communications take times and effort, and often nonprofits may need a whole team assigned to this one aspect.

How Can You Leverage Communications to Market Yourself?

When discussing application advice for people applying to jobs in the nonprofit communications field, each Stefanie had something different to share: one values cover letters, the other values resumes. On one hand, a cover letter can be extremely important. Make sure there are no silly typos and that is is written clearly – this reflects your thinking skills. Make sure its geared toward the job you’re applying to, not a template that you completely reuse. On the other hand, having a resume that indicates that you care about the issues that they work on – even volunteer and internship experience – is just as important. The structure of your resume is also relevant…is it consistent and clean? This can prove strong organization skills and attention to detail.

Another thing to consider is, are you persistent? Will you reach out on LinkedIn? Send emails? Can you express yourself and your interests in a compelling and persistent way? Of course there is a fine line between “pestering” and “showing persistence”, but it never hurts to reach out if it feels right. Both Stefanies agreed that they are much more likely to consider a candidate who comes referred. So use your network to connect with people.

Remember: You bring unique value to the organization you want to work for. Knowing your own skills and what you bring to the table is key. Stefanie stated they she keeps in mind that hierarchy does not determine the value that someone can contribute. Having many diverse people be a part of the development and voice of an organization is the only way to make that voice fair and true.

Whether you’re just starting our your career, or switching careers, you can bring value to an organization. Figure out what that is, believe in yourself, and put your value and strengths into words.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the Career Series with Stefanie Weiss and Stefanie Cruz, I encourage you to take a peek. They offer great tips on leveraging communications and social media and how these tools can assist organizations in creating lasting social change.

Don’t miss our next Social Change Career Series on April 20, 2107 at 3pm ET/12pm PST where our featured guest will be Lakeya Cherry, Executive Director of the Network for Social Work Management. Sign up here to watch it live: http://sisgigroup.org/careerseries.


Improving Student Behavior Through Engagement

Have you ever been in a long meeting, training, or school lecture, and found yourself falling asleep, or having your mind wander? If so, this most likely happens because the event is boring, and there is a disengagement between you and what is being presented. Similarly, students can find their classrooms boring and feel unmotivated to learn. The National Association of Independent Schools, High School Survey of Student Engagement found that 48% of students don’t find school engaging, and 87% reported that they want to have more classroom interaction. 

As a kid, and even as an adult, you want to feel entertained and challenged when working on a project or topic. Classroom interaction has the potential to increase student behavior. Material that is best learned through classroom activities increases mastery of tasks, grades, and overall student behavior. When students get to participate in hands-on-learning they are more alert and engaged, making them less likely to disrupt the class.

What kind of classroom activities best engage students?

  1. Field Trips: Who doesn’t love field trips! Not only are field trips fun, but they can serve as an excellent learning opportunity. For example, you can take children to cultural or art museums to learn history and art. Another example is taking the children to play performances to study literature. Just remember that the best way to ensure an effective learning experience from a field trip is to communicate goals and expectations before the trip, and debrief after the trip to allow students to reflect and apply learning.
  2. The Arts: Having an art session during class is also a best practice for engaging students. Whether it be learning to play an instrument, having a musical jam session, or painting and crafting, the arts will keep students entertained. the arts also encourages creativity and promotes problem-solving skills by allowing the students to express their thoughts and emotions better. The arts are more effective in teaching concepts to students with learning impairments, encouraging the students to construct their own understanding, and increase learning confidence.
  3. Socratic Discussions: Having student-led Socratic discussions, promotes critical thinking by engaging students in intellectual discourse. Socratic discussion activities are highly active and involves a lot of cooperating. Students get to learn to listen to others points of view and it helps to improve the reasoning process by actively connecting these experiences with their own learning.
  4. Group Work: Participating in group projects helps students to develop interpersonal skills like communication, and management skills, while also serving as an alternative form of learning. Group projects help students learn to build relationships and embrace cooperated, and collaborative learning.

Classroom engagement is an easy and low-to-no cost alternative to student behavioral management. Not only does student engagement decrease student behavior, but it also increases the chances of the student’s success in the future. Students who are engaged are 29% more likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to make healthier daily life choices. Lastly, engages students tend to have a healthier relationship with their peers and teachers, as well as a more positive outlook on their future.

Want to find out more about other activities to keep students engaged as well as get a deeper understanding of the overall benefits? Check out the infographic below.

Additional Resources:

Here are some great sites to help you with your lesson plan activities as well as some gran opportunities to help you fund your next classroom field trip.

  1. http://www.readwritethink.org
  2. www.neafoundation.org/pages/resources-other-grant-opportunities

What are some ways you keep your students engaged? Leave a comment below or join us for our #APYDCHAT April 6, 2017 at 12pm PST/3pm ET to add your voice to the conversation.