The Barry Foundation and the Woodson Center demonstrate how local knowledge can create solutions to fighting poverty.
Over the past two years, our nation has wrestled with both a viral pandemic and numerous questions surrounding racial justice. Through these struggles, corporations and philanthropic organizations have stepped up their donations to anti-poverty and anti-racism initiatives. While most of the recipient organizations have been progressive groups, some foundations have chosen a different path focused on upward mobility and local empowerment efforts. One such group is the John and Daria Barry Foundation.
On Monday, the anti-poverty nonprofit, The Woodson Center, announced the award of a major $1.5 million gift from the John and Daria Barry Foundation to help its local affiliates address social and economic issues within their communities. Much of the funding is for The Woodson Center’s mini-grant program which gives $5,000 grants to local nonprofits and grassroots organizations which focus on upward mobility in underserved communities across the U.S.
Some of the past recipients of the grants have started youth basketball leagues to deter violence, developed after-school tutoring and leadership programs for low-income youth, started drug rehabilitation programs in poor neighborhoods, and funded healing retreats for women who are victims of abuse. Earlier this year, The Woodson Center launched Voices of Black Mothers United, an initiative that brings together mothers of murdered children and community partners to make communities safe by supporting violence intervention and police training. The group pushed back against the Defund The Police movement and instead advocated for sensible police reform.
Led by former civil rights activist Bob Woodson, the Woodson Center has worked for three decades to empower local leaders in troubled neighborhoods to address problems of their communities through innovative initiatives that increase public safety, spur upward mobility, and inspire racial unity in America.
“This grant started with my admiration for Bob Woodson and all Bob stands for,” said John Barry of the John and Daria Barry Foundation. “The Woodson Center’s Community Affiliates Network is transforming the way Americans think about policy, poverty, and redemption. This is a major step in planting the seeds of community renewal and transformation as we seek to assist and empower those who are doing the work on the ground to improve the lives of those around them. We are grateful to support Bob Woodson as part of this endeavor.”
The John and Daria Barry Foundation is a family foundation focused on veterans, education, and environmental initiatives. John Barry is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Prospect Capital Corporation and Prospect Capital Management, Chairman of PCM’s Investment Committee, and has been an officer of PCM (and its predecessors) since 1990. Daria Becker Barry is Head of Administration and Managing Director at Prospect Capital Management. She joined PCM in 1998 and oversees PCM’s operations.
“I have always believed that the answers to our most challenging issues can be found in the same zip code as the problems themselves,” said Bob Woodson, founder and president of the Woodson Center. “There are countless leaders across the country who are transforming their communities from the inside out, providing solutions to problems that are efficient, effective, and enduring. They just don’t have the support and funding to scale their efforts. The Woodson Center wants to come alongside these local leaders and continue to empower them so that they can increase their impact. That is how we tackle America’s social problems.”
The Woodson Center’s Community Affiliates Network (CAN) consists of over 500 organizations and nonprofits across the country that collaborate, share best practices, and support each other as community-minded grassroots leaders. The network includes trusted local leaders who are a central part of the community and actually live in the neighborhoods they serve.
Challenging dominant narratives, Bob tells anybody listening, “You can beat the odds and achieve greatness, no matter how many obstacles you must overcome. You can do it. It’s up to you.”
Woodson has long claimed that federal and state programs often “parachute in” solutions without any local knowledge. Instead, the Woodson Center’s Community Affiliates Network supports those already solving issues effectively and helps them achieve much better results than top-down planning can produce.
“The needs of low-income communities are much more pragmatic than we think,'' said Bob Woodson. “Instead of spending millions on research studies to tell these communities what they need, we need to ask them what they need and then supply appropriate resources to help meet those needs. It’s about coming alongside those who don’t typically get a voice in these discussions.”