Real Time: A Community Building Blog

Welcome to Real Time, a community building blog that seeks to provoke thought, encourage conversation, and help our friends and colleagues understand what goes on "behind the scenes" at the Maine Community Foundation.

The Unequal Opportunity to Succeed

  Harvard political scientist and Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam is on the speaking circuit throughout New England this summer to promote what he describes as the issue of our times: the growing opportunity gap and its impact on our children. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis asserts that the American Dream is on the brink of collapse. Growing up a couple of generations ago, I assumed that my family background and social status were not barriers to my receiving a good education, holding a good-paying job, and achieving success.  As recently as the 1970s (when I was raising children), college-educated and non-college educated parents invested in their children at almost equal rates. That is not the case today. College-educated, economically advantaged parents invest much more than disadvantaged parents whose energy and attention are focused on some of the fundamentals of life such as paying the rent and putting food on the table. According to Putnam, “We have become a segr ...

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Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2015

Waking Up to Whiteness

Among the many joys of my work in philanthropy are my conversations with foundation donors and volunteers. These informal chats often take place at their homes, which on occasion might mean I get to meet and talk while walking a sunny beach, jumping waves, steering clear of piping plovers, and scouting out perfect sand dollars. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Such was the case a few weeks ago when a former foundation board chair and I navigated the outgoing tide, side-stepped a few sinkholes in the sand, and discussed some of the big issues facing Maine communities. The two-mile conversation included reflections on being white, prompted by her book club’s latest selection, Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Kittredge Irving. This Cambridge, MA-based author, who spends summers in Maine, has devoted her work to issues of race and cross-cultural relationships. I was eager to learn more since race and diversity are issues we Mainers need to embrace (see my la ...

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Posted: Monday, August 03, 2015

“America’s an Opportunity”

Truth trumps even the best fiction in “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” a recent episode of "This American Life." Every year in countries throughout the world – including the African continent – the U.S. conducts a Diversity Visa Lottery to recruit immigrants. (Note to self: It is official government policy to promote diversity.) Lottery winners have the chance to move to this country, obtain a green card, and eventually become American citizens. The online lottery goes live in October with winners chosen at random the following May. Getting to the U.S. is not a simple proposition since the interview at the American embassy occurs almost a year later and the paperwork is daunting – with even the tiniest of mistakes resulting in denial. In some years almost half of the lottery winners are denied visas. Enter Abdi Nor, a Somali who escaped to Kenya and whose lifelong dream has been to come to America. Abdi is one of an estimated 60 million people in the world displaced becau ...

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Posted: Sunday, July 19, 2015

It Takes a Team

Watching the Women’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Japan Sunday night is yet one more reminder that success and team are synonymous. I am not a soccer fan, and honestly I spent most of the game in awe of the athletes who ran at that pace for that length of time and could still stand after 90 minutes. But their “teamness” was nothing short of amazing and reminded me that same trait is embedded in MaineCF’s DNA. As CEO of the Maine Community Foundation, I learned long ago that success requires a strong leadership team. The picture accompanying this blog consists of the four former board chairs of the foundation with whom I’ve worked closely over the past seven years. While each chaired the board for only two years, the leadership structure the board developed shortly before I became CEO – the board chair and vice chair (incoming chair) working as a team with the CEO – has led to seamless transitions and strong and unified support. As board chair, each brou ...

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Posted: Sunday, July 05, 2015

Once I Married a Tattooed Lady

If you listen to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, you know that June is Music that Moves ME month, featuring stories of listeners’ special connection to music. In a bit of shameless promotion, the Maine Community Foundation is a proud sponsor. Music evokes a broad array of memories for most of us. In fact, just last week MPBN featured my colleague Andrea Nemitz’s poignant, heartwarming story of her connection to Joni Mitchell and the love of her life, husband Bill. Even though my sisters and husband would say I’ve never heard a lyric I could repeat, I have my own story of music that – yup, it’s true – moves me. My introduction to Maine as a youngster was the thousand-mile family adventure that took us from the suburbs of Pittsburgh to the shores of Lake Pocomoonshine in Alexander. All seven members of the Jones family and a week’s worth of clothes, books, food, and games were loaded into the 1958 silver blue Chevy Impala station wagon with Salem and Chester ...

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Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015

Ask and Ye Shall (Most Likely) Receive

Two weeks ago the focus of the Real Time blog was my fantasy graduation speech. Last week that fantasy became reality when I delivered a shorter version to recent graduates of the Maine NEW Leadership program at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The goal of the NEW Leadership program is to increase representation of women in politics by giving Maine undergraduate students the skills necessary to become the next generation of well-trained and knowledgeable civic and political leaders. Returning home from my speech – the proud senior counselor able to impart her wisdom and experience – I put my feet up and grabbed a book given to me a few months back by Robin Lin Hodgskin, a Maine Women’s Fund board member and senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. Robin described Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever as one of the most important books she’d ever read. After reading the first ten pages, I needed no additional convincing. ...

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Posted: Monday, June 08, 2015

Speak up. Stand up. Stand out.

Among my many fantasies is delivering the perfect college commencement address that inspires graduates to take charge and make meaning of their lives. It is the spring season of college graduations, and I’ve prepared my remarks just in case I get a call. Thank you for this honor and opportunity to congratulate you for your remarkable achievements. For many years I have been involved in higher education as a learner, parent supporter, funder, advocate, and tuition check writer. I myself completed my undergraduate degree as a 34-year-old commuter student, full-time worker, and single parent of two. I know how hard you have worked to earn this degree. Most of you have simultaneously juggled a job, parenting, and classes. You have worried about paying the rent and tuition while putting food on the table. Your parents and partners have worried right along with you. But take a deep breath, hold your heads high, and know that the world is yours. Ten years from now, most jobs in the hig ...

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Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Living on a “Raceberg”

I think former Maine Community Foundation board member Donna Loring said it best: “Being Indian in the State of Maine is like living on an iceberg of racism – a raceberg.” Last week the school board in SAD 54 voted to retain its Indian mascot in spite of pleas from members and allies of the Wabanaki tribes who argued that the image is racist, that they are people – and that people are not mascots. While the majority in the contentious debate cited tradition and respect for Native people, board members also reported being threatened that they would not be re-elected were they to vote to change the mascot. The school board’s decision evokes for me a range of emotions—unlike Liz Neptune, a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe and current member of our board of directors, who told me that if she became emotional about every similar incident she faces on a daily basis, she would have difficulty functioning.  I am a big fan of tradition, and it is with much fondness that I ...

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Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

Measures of Growth, Levels of Distress

Data is my friend. I hear this from my colleagues in the foundation world, from many members of the staff at the Maine Community Foundation, and I know it from my own experience. Data reminds me of Aroostook farmer Andy Ayer's mantra "If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”   I realize that much of our work at MaineCF does not always lend itself to quick and easy quantification, but we have dedicated more time and resources to using data (both quantitative and qualitative) to shape decision-making. Next month we will be mailing a copy of Measuring Up, a Maine Community Foundation special report – with data – that outlines our work toward achieving our vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people. You can download a copy of the report at our website As I dug into my growing reading pile the other day, it was with more than a passing interest that I picked out Measures of Growth 2015, a publication of the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Deve ...

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Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015

Take Me Out to the Budget Game

I can’t decide which of the following nail-biting dramas is more important – or more interesting: These first few games of the 2015 baseball season, especially last Friday night’s 19-inning win over the Evil Empire, or the competing budget and tax proposals making their way through the Maine Legislature. Both make for great theater, are annual rites of spring (such as it is), have high-stakes outcomes, and – if history is any predictor – yield an ending that will sorely disappoint (for one side or the other). Is the Red Sox win in New York last Friday a sign of good things to come? Does agreement between the Ds and Rs about the importance of tax reform signal across-the-aisle compromise and agreement? I haven’t a clue. The Magic 8 Ball knows but is not telling. There is little disagreement among experts about the need for fundamental tax reform, some agreement about the ultimate outcome, and lots of disagreement about the approach. I’m not a tax expert, but some ...

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Posted: Monday, April 13, 2015
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