Making Peace: New Grant Dollars Flow to Stem Urban Violence

 Photo: Karen roach/shutterstock

Photo: Karen roach/shutterstock

Recent years have seen a stirring of hope among funders and nonprofits working to reduce the carnage from guns in America, which claims some 35,000 lives annually. New strategies and new funding streams, most notably from Michael Bloomberg, have created a new sense of momentum on an issue that's long frustrated advocates. Although the prospect of tougher federal laws is dimmer than usual, the gun safety movement—and the dedicated cadre of funders that support it—has pushing progress forward at the state and local levels, as we reported last month.

Related: Ending the Standoff: Who's Trying To Change the Conversation on Guns?

One critical piece of philanthropy's efforts to curb gun fatalities is grantmaking targeting violence in major cities, which tends to spike in summer months. Several recent funding efforts along these lines have caught our attention.

In June, Google.org announced it was giving $2 million to fuel a new push to empower local gun violence prevention efforts in 10 cities. The Peacemaker Partnership is a coalition led by the PICO LIVE FREE campaign and the Community Justice Reform Coalition. LIVE FREE is a national movement of faith-based organizations and congregations working to reduce violence and crime. CJRC describes itself as "a national advocacy coalition that promotes and invests in evidence-based policies and programs to prevent gun violence and uplift criminal justice reforms in urban communities of color." 

The fact that these two groups are receiving serious money from a national funder like Google underscores that concerns about guns, violence, and race in cities has lately risen in salience. The Kellogg Foundation is also a member of the Peacemaker Partnership. According to The Trace, most of the grant money will fund programs "that follow the model of Ceasefire, a violence-reduction strategy that coordinates law enforcement, community stakeholders and social services to drive down shootings. The grants will also establish job-training programs for gunshot victims and perpetrators, and workshops for law enforcement on anti-bias policing."

This effort also addresses the "structural discrimination and the mass criminalization of people of color,” said Amber Goodwin, founder and executive director of the Community Justice Reform Coalition. “Violence is a symptom of a larger problem, which is why this partnership and the push to lift up communities of color, especially women, is so important. We are mobilizing all communities to be ‘peacemakers’ to reduce the number of gun-related shootings and homicides regardless of who pulls the trigger, decrease the number of individuals incarcerated, and increase opportunity for those caught in these deadly cycles.”

Chicago is one of the cities where the Peacemaker Partnership will direct funds. As we've reported, Chicago is ground zero right now in efforts to reduce urban gun violence. According to DNA Info, the Chicago murder death toll last year was 751, and it’s reached nearly 400 so far in 2017, creating an atmosphere of crisis. Laurene Powell Jobs' Emerson Collective is backing a big push by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reduce youth violence in the city, with a focus on creating jobs and opportunity.

The MacArthur Foundation is also embarking on new funding in this area. MacArthur said this month that it would identify an annual focus each year for its Community Capital Grants, which are big opportunities for Chicago groups. For next year, and possibly future years, the focus will be on improving safety, justice and peace in Chicago communities. Reducing gun violence is a big part of this new direction.

But going beyond just guns, MacArthur is also supporting efforts to reduce incarceration, build trust between police and the community, and bring legitimacy to the local criminal justice system. The funder recently awarded $3 million in new grants to back these types of violence prevention efforts.

Along with other local funders concerned about violence, MacArthur has been a participant in a philanthropic coalition called Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities that is giving millions to local direct service groups. Police reform and gun policy are also big causes for this coalition. MacArthur has also supported the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a fund that made 70 grants late last summer to build community cohesion. Another new MacArthur gun-related effort is an effort by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to predict who will be involved in incidents of gun violence in the future.

This is all part of MacArthur’s recent $10 million commitment to strengthen Chicago nonprofits and to prevent violence. And of note, this grant announcement represents the first investments that are part of MacArthur’s new Chicago strategy. In addition to gun violence prevention, MacArthur’s other top local cause right now is building nonprofit capacity. To this end, the foundation awarded two- and four-year Community Capital Grants to local groups like the Black Youth Project 100 Education Fund, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and Latinos Progresando.

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