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Investing in Systems Change for a New Day

Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.”

– Alice Walker

April marks the start of a new fiscal year at the Women’s Foundation. We have undergone tremendous change along with the world around us. I am proud of the vision, persistence, and hope our board, staff, and community partners bring to our shared mission every day.

Our spirit to co-create, learn, and adapt has shown us that intentional process is part of our impact, and has kept us responsive and open to growth in a time of upheaval and pain that continues today.

You are part of this beloved community that we continue building together. In the last year, we have invested nearly $4 million in community-led solutions, created a new strategic plan, completed a feasibility study and received board approval to begin a $50 million comprehensive campaign. We are moving ahead with a plan to increase our impact by aligning our $27 million in investments with our mission and seizing this unprecedented time of growth for lasting change. Overall, it has been a remarkable year.

We have just released the 2022 Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota – our biennial research produced in collaboration with the Center on Women, Gender, & Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. In presenting the report on March 17, we shared that we must change systems if we are to realize a world and a state where all women and girls thrive. Instead of placing the burden of fixing disparities on the women and communities most impacted, it’s time we reimagine care and responsibility in our public and private systems.

Leaning into our power to drive systems change, in the last year we have doubled our investments for policy change. Our policy agenda is in full swing at the Capitol as Young Women’s Cabinet members and I have been building relationships and testifying to advance policies that should be basic rights for all. With the leadership of Cynthia Bauerly as our first Public Policy Executive in Residence, and the Governor-appointed Cabinet, who are trained in advocacy to harness their lived experience as expertise, we are leading an agenda that puts our shared humanity and care front and center.

Just this year, we have welcomed five team members who are instrumental in driving systems change across sectors. And, as we said goodbye to beloved trustees whose terms concluded last month, we welcome five leaders who share our vision, values, and commitment to the diverse communities we serve.

Transforming for a New Day: A New Strategic Direction

Transformation is at the core of our roots, our present, and our future. As we grow into an actively antiracist community foundation, we strengthen our mission and commit to building power with communities most impacted. We are committed to equity and justice, and acknowledge the structural racism and bias at the root of our systems.

Since the onset of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, which ignited a global movement for racial justice, we have seen that incremental change is not getting us where we need to go. Our research and listening show that there is no going back to a status quo that has never worked for too many women, girls, and gender-expansive people in our state. Only by transforming our systems, policies, attitudes, and behaviors can we imagine a state of equity and justice where all women, girls, and gender-expansive people thrive.

This context led us to create a new seven-year strategic plan to boldly drive systems change for gender and racial justice. Guided by the people most impacted by barriers, WFMN will build, share, and use our power in partnership with leaders, organizations, and movements. We will catalyze transformative pathways and opportunities that meet the urgent and long-term needs of women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

As a community foundation, our plan was informed by stakeholders across our state. Our process was grounded in a collective vision of intentional listening and learning to amplify and invest in the voices and experiences of our statewide communities.

Led by a Transformation Committee comprised of community leaders, grantee-partners, and our board and staff, the architects of this plan reflect the cross-section of identities at the heart of WFMN’s intersectional values and practices. In visioning together, our process yields impact. The new strategic plan sets the course for building and sharing this impact in the design of all that we do.

We see constant reminders of the inequities that have created barriers for women and girls and systems that do not protect all people equally. WFMN remains steadfast and inspired to carry on the legacy of our foremothers through innovative investments in equity and justice for women, girls, and gender-expansive people.

In this moment, we recognize the power and privilege we hold. Guided by our values of hope, generosity, courage, inclusion, and belonging, we are determined to use that power to drive our mission forward.

By Gloria Perez
President & CEO, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota

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