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Working Toward Equity, Sustainability in 2016 and Beyond

New Year Reflections from Kate Wolford

As we begin a new year, I am very mindful of the awesome responsibility and privilege that we have in advancing the mission of The McKnight Foundation. We have a diverse and robust portfolio of program interests, all pointing toward a goal of strengthening socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities.

McKnight president Kate Wolford at the global climate conference in Paris, December 2015

Two issues — climate change and racial disparities — were foremost in my mind as the year drew to a close, especially as recent events demonstrated both the transformative progress we can make when we come together, as well as the consequences that can occur when we do not. The solutions may not always be simple, but the direction in which we need to travel is most definitely clear.

A Historic Climate Summit

In December, I witnessed history in the making at the global climate conference in Paris. The strong agreement reached at the summit could only be possible because of the overwhelming momentum built by a coalition of diverse stakeholders leading up to the conference. This was reflected in the individual national plans submitted before the conference; robust action by states and cities across the globe; the rapidly increasing number of institutional investors and major corporations putting a spotlight on both the financial risks posed by climate change and the economic opportunities of shifting to a low-carbon future; and the many, many voices of civil society — youth, faith communities, consumers, citizen groups, and nonprofits — calling for immediate climate action.

We already see the impacts of climate change all around us — wildfires, extreme drought, winter flooding. We know we need to rapidly accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future. The road leading to, through, and beyond Paris is already bending the curve toward greater investments in existing and increasingly cost effective renewable and energy efficient technologies. McKnight supports Midwest leadership in this transition through our grantmaking and convening, and uses our role as an investor and owner of assets to help deliver on the promise of the global agreement.

Northside Funders Group

Seeing Impacts of Racial Disparities in Minnesota

Just as we urgently need to attend to the only planet we call home, so do we need to attend to underinvested communities in our home state. We can see the impacts of deep and persistent racial disparities in Minnesota through data on education, home ownership, employment, household income, and more. As last year drew to a close, long festering wounds of inequity and exclusion were torn open and laid bare in north Minneapolis. It was a stark reminder that behind each statistic is a human being. We know we need to rapidly accelerate our transition to a more equitable state with opportunity for all. Through grantmaking and our participation in collaborations that cross and connect the civic, public, and private sectors, we continue to work toward systemic change that delivers on the promise of shared prosperity.

As we strive toward creating equitable, sustainable communities, and addressing all the issues in our portfolio, we enter this year with a renewed sense of commitment, active engagement, and tenacity to our efforts. As always, we are grateful for strong and productive relationships with a broad array of grantees, partners, and other stakeholders across sectors and issues. We look forward to working with you this coming year and beyond.

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Program: Midwest Climate & Energy, Region & Communities

January 2016