Patricia Swann, The New York Community Trust

TITLE: Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, civic affairs, technical assistance

CONTACT: pas@nyct-cfi.org, 212-686-0010, ext. 530

IP TAKE: The success of the Community Development program's first year allowed it to continue funding for the project in 2013 and beyond, so it seems that Swann brings about successful and quantifiable results.

PROFILE: It's been said before, but diversity is boundless in New York City. Communities of different sizes, ethnicities, and income levels are held together by geographic boundaries, with each facing a unique set of challenges and hot-button issues. That's a challenge that Patricia (Pat) Swann faces.

As The New York Community Trust's senior program officer for community development, civic affairs, and technical assistance, Swann was responsible for understanding these unique community challenges and finding organizations that address them with innovative approaches. Today Swann serves as NYCT's Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance. The trust's goal: "to build and sustain strong communities and create economic opportunities for residents of low-income neighborhoods."

It's a tall order, and there's a large scope to the grants Swann makes. But in looking at her past grants— and in a broader perspective those of the entire trust—addressing issues in innovative ways plays a strong role in her grantmaking decisions.

For instance, an $80,000 grant from the trust went to Feet in Two Worlds, "a program started in 2005 at The New School Center for New York City Affairs to bring the marginalized voices of immigrants to their fellow New Yorkers." The program makes the work of immigrant journalists available on public radio and the web, and also provides them with training opportunities. In many ways, it's a truly 21st century project, embracing technology and social media to connect immigrants in New York and across the country.

"As a city of immigrants, we have prided ourselves for our ability to embrace newcomers from all over the world and the unique contributions they make to New York’s cultural, social, and economic life," Swann said in a statement in 2010. "We think that this project will contribute to increased conversations among the City’s residents and better understanding."

Swann also oversees civic affairs grants and technical assistance grants for nonprofits. One grant made recently to Community Voices Heard helped it to organize communities around participatory budget projects. Four City Council members gave a percentage of their capital funds to these participatory budget projects, and communities voted on how to allocate the funds. New York City is just the second city in the country trying it.

Recently, East Harlem residents decided how to spend nearly $2 million in their neighborhood, and in 2012 residents in participating districts decided how to spend $5.6 million. It's no surprise that these "revolutionary civics," as the trust has called them, are leading to increased interest and participation from residents, but it also highlights Swann's approach to grantmaking: innovation, innovation, innovation.

"This is what it's about: It’s about giving people the power," Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito told the New York Daily News about the most recent East Harlem funding round. "It's the community's needs. It's what people are saying they want. You can't say no to that, right?"

Swann also spoke to the Foundation Center in 2011 about funder collaboratives. Collaboration between funders and nonprofits has guided grantmaking in the past, and some grants are made this way now. Although there isn't a set number of collaboratives the trust makes, it's certainly something fundraisers might consider. "The best collaboratives that I've been a part of are those where grantees and funders alike become a community learners about an issue or problem," Swann said in the interview.

In addition her role at the trust, Swann also has also served on the advisory board of Brooklyn Workforce Innovations and the local office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The trust's website also shares this about Swann's professional background:

Prior to The Trust, Pat directed economic development programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and worked for the Office of then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. She is also a recipient of a Revson fellowship at Columbia University.   

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