This summer, Philanthropy Southwest was pleased to partner with Council on Foundations and Albuquerque Community Foundation to present: Philanthropy’s Impact in the Southwest: Strengthening Local Communities to Achieve Global Goals.
The first panel of experts included leaders from United Nations Foundation, Foundation Center and Council on Foundations, who provided an overview of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a set of 17 goals created by the UN and adopted by 192 countries in effort to end extreme poverty, which is defined as those living on less than $1.50 a day. With 3 million children in extreme poverty in the U.S., this is a problem for developed countries, as well as developing countries. In the Southwest, where the Human Development Index is well below the national average for all states except Colorado, there are significant challenges to tackle. While philanthropy is ahead of the game in terms of measuring outcomes and outputs, funders must continue to use data and collaboration to better understand which strategies are working and which are not. What do we want our American and Southwest cities to look like?
The next panel included nonprofit leaders and sociologists on the frontlines of various issues that present both barriers to and opportunities for achieving the SDGs in the Southwest. As Dr. Montoya put it: “Economic security looks and feels different in different locations.” States within the Southwest region share many of the same challenges and grand narratives: ranging from immigration to health equity to water issues, within rural and urban communities and affecting both native and nonnative populations. Complex and evolving, the unique challenges of the Southwest prove that national metrics, although important benchmarks, are not the exclusive containers to understand what makes all communities thrive. Local and regional lenses are also required.
The final panel of experts included funders from the Southwest region, including Bob Reid, CEO of J. F Maddox Foundation, as well as leaders from Albuquerque Community Foundation, Permian Basin Area Foundation and Albuquerque Living Cities Integration Initiative. Moderated by Philanthropy Southwest Executive Director Lucille DiDomenico, each panelist provided a landscape of how the SDGs are manifesting in specific states and cities within the region. The unique challenges faced in the Southwest require collaboration, innovation, and strong relationships among funders and nonprofits. As Bob Reid put it: “the credit we claim for everything we’re proud of someone else did. We have to find ways to be able to empower others.” Listening tours with vulnerable populations, investment in data, and strong, transparent relationships with nonprofits can help funders create new pathways, and determine who’s available to play which roles and which parts are still void.
The program concluded with roundtable discussions among funders, nonprofit leaders and panelists about specific issues and strategies, both successful and not, that can provide insight into future solutions. Philanthropy remains the institutional memory of community needs and progress. It will undoubtedly play a vital role in helping our communities in the Southwest and beyond achieve the SDGs and move toward a more equitable region and nation.