After eight months at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, I believe we have good reason to be optimistic for the future of the South.
Over that time, I have spoken with people in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Orleans, South Carolina and West Virginia – important battlegrounds in the struggle for economic opportunity and equality. I’ve also been learning from the Foundation staff and board – exceptional people supporting good work in difficult circumstances.
It’s clear the region faces deep, interconnected challenges, but real opportunity and a spirit of resilience are outpacing the ghosts of the past. Creative organizing in Louisiana, new economic models in Kentucky, effective research and policy work in Mississippi and cross-sector partnerships to support community economic development in South Carolina are just a few. You can see many other examples in our Southern Voices oral history archive, a project we’re winding down as we look to the future.
Every ten years or so, the Foundation steps back and takes a deliberate look at our work. We are deepening our learning, building on what’s effective and fine-tuning our strategies for helping to move people and places out of poverty in the South. During this planning process, we will not be inviting new grant applications. We will continue to honor renewals on existing grants.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my reflections and our thinking about the challenges and opportunities in the region, thoughts on the Foundation’s lessons and our sense for what it will take to increase economic mobility in the South.
We plan to keep our partners up to date as we move forward. Stay tuned, and don't hesitate to be in touch.