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Learning a New Language of Gender

pink-and-blue-rndObservations from an NPO Conversation at GMA

There is an emerging awareness of the concept of gender as a spectrum, with many possible expressions that don’t fit neatly into the traditional male-female binary. Last month we invited nonprofit leaders to join us for a discussion about the programmatic implications of shifting gender norms. Each guest represented an organization that offers gender-specific or gender-sensitive programming, and we discussed how this issue has affected their approaches to meeting the needs of the populations they serve.

Our guests shared some of the ways that their organizations are working to be more inclusive. Many expressed an awareness that gender-specific programs risk reinforcing the idea of gender as a strict male-female binary, but believe nevertheless that these types of programs are still much needed. While the concept of gender is more fluid than ever, many gendered expectations and prejudices persist, and gender-based violence continues to be a significant problem.

Awareness, sensitivity, and inclusion

Gender intersects with race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and many other aspects of identity. As such, it is both complex and deeply personal. Organizations feel an obligation to meet clients where they are; the challenge is that clients’ felt and expressed needs are varied and changing. A mother may approach an organization to find an adult male mentor for her son, because she wants him to be “more of a man.” She may have very traditional views of what it means to be a man. How can an organization best meet such a client’s need without embracing rigid definitions? Continue Reading »

Beating the Housing Challenge with (a lot more) Cooperation

edward-everrett-sq-lightsObservations from an NPO Conversation at GMA

Last month we were privileged to gather for lunch with nonprofit leaders working on housing in the Boston area. We examined the current state of housing in the city and the challenges that residents are facing and sought insight into the role funders can play in developing solutions.

While the housing issue in Boston is sometimes presented as the people versus the developers, our guests painted a much more nuanced and complicated picture. Housing is expensive to create, and models that worked previously are no longer viable in the face of challenges including reduced federal dollars, the movement of people back to urban centers from the suburbs, and the legacy of racially discriminatory housing policies in the United States.

There is still reason for optimism. We have the opportunity to bring residents, government, and the private sector together to expand and support creative alternatives and exciting new policies and practices that can ensure the availability of affordable housing that meets the needs of low- and moderate-income families who live here now.

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Understanding Gender-Sensitive Programs

NPO Conversation on Wednesday, October 26 at GMA

Several times a year we invite leaders of nonprofit organizations to join us for a lunch discussion about issues, ideas, and concerns in the nonprofit and philanthropic community. The meetings are a time for us to move beyond the usual conversation between foundations and nonprofit organizations.

Each session focuses on a particular topic, and reservations are required. Guests will learn a little more about GMA and a lot about their peers’ perspectives on important issues.

Topic for Conversation: Gender-Sensitive Programs

As our understanding of gender evolves, the conversation around gender-specific programs has moved well beyond debates over single-sex education. While in some ways many traditional ideas about gender have been thoroughly dismantled, there are plenty of areas in which inequity persists, and many programs serving both youth and adults continue to find value in gender-specific approaches.

We would like to hear your perspective. Our informal conversation will be organized around a few questions, similar to these:

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