This is the fifth in a series of blogs sharing details about the Cleveland Foundation’s new strategic direction. Check out earlier posts on conversations around “Fostering Economic Prosperity” and “Creating Pathways to Opportunity” that took place during our annual meeting week.
As we continue to refine and develop this strategic direction, we are committed to working together with people and organizations across our community to understand the nuances, listen to those with lived experience, and act together on shared goals. As we begin this work, we want to hear from you. We invite you to take this brief survey to share your thoughts on the Cleveland Foundation’s work moving forward.
How can we ensure more people have a say in the decisions that affect them? Building and sharing power is one of the three strategic impact areas identified as we move forward on a new strategic direction for the Cleveland Foundation. Informed by months of deep listening in the community, and through partnership between the foundation’s board and staff, we introduced our new strategic direction during the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank, which took place Aug. 24 – Aug. 27. As part of our annual meeting week programming, we hosted a series of lunchtime panel discussions featuring community leaders working in a variety of fields. Each panel focused on one of the three strategic impact areas that frame the foundation’s enterprise-wide direction.
On Aug. 27, Nelson Beckford, Cleveland Foundation program director for neighborhood revitalization and community engagement, moderated a panel discussion among Erika Anthony, executive director, Ohio Transformation Fund, and co-founder, Cleveland VOTES; Keith Benford, parent, Hough Youth Advisory Board; and Michelle Tomallo, member, board of directors, Plexus LGBT and Allied Chamber of Commerce; around what it will take to help every person in our community feel seen, heard and like they belong.
Beckford invited panelists to reflect on the definition of power and how trust is built within a community.
“I’d define power as a source or a person who can influence a group of people or an effort to go forward,” said Benford as he shared his thoughts on current power dynamics in his neighborhood.
“Each of us holds power. I think it’s inherent in our DNA,” Anthony said, adding that acknowledging power imbalances in our current systems is an essential component to any conversation around sharing power.
“We’re all moving in and out of situations where we feel like we may have power or not,” Tomallo said, reflecting on the fluid nature of power dynamics.
Watch the “Building and Sharing Power” panel conversation from the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank: It Starts With Community via the video above.
The panelists also shared their thoughts on what barriers currently keep some in Greater Cleveland from accessing and exercising power.
“People get discouraged,” Benford said, adding that ensuring equitable access to information is key to combatting that sense of discouragement.
“People need to feel welcomed into the conversation,” Tomallo added.
“There are challenges and barriers, but those don’t sit solely with the individual,” Anthony said, emphasizing the systemic nature of some existing power imbalances in Greater Cleveland.