For many, the new year symbolizes a fresh beginning — a time of resolutions, commitments and enthusiasm. For the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the new year is an exciting time for our organization’s future, and today, we are proud to announce our new Mission, Vision, and Values statements, which will guide the continued development of our organizational culture and grantmaking strategy.
Vision: All youth have access to excellent and equitable public education that prepares them to succeed and thrive in community.
Mission: To champion efforts that prioritize community goals that challenge racial inequities and advance excellent, student-centered public education for all New England youth.
Put Youth at the Forefront
We must widen the lens of education to encompass the socio-cultural contexts of youth and families. Every decision the Foundation makes rests on its potential for improving the lives of our region’s youth least well-served by current systems.
Operate with a Race Equity Lens
We believe that applying a racial equity lens is essential for analyzing and solving problems that have endured for generations, impact individuals and communities of color most acutely, and ultimately affect ALL people, whether in other marginalized or privileged groups.
Build Reciprocal Relationships
Meaningful change demands a collective effort and shared problem-solving. We offer our resources and institutional knowledge with humility and attention to power dynamics. We listen and engage in authentic and equitable partnerships, mindful of our duty as a philanthropic organization, about when to step up and when to step back, and to use our power and privilege to contribute to transformational change.
Support Community-Driven Change
We believe communities should be able to drive the change that affects their lives. We must be responsive and open to addressing others’ identified priorities and use our institutional and individual privilege to share and reduce the risk for communities seeking change.
Learn, Adapt and Improve
Achieving meaningful impact requires us to think differently, see differently, and work differently. We continuously draw from research, evaluation, informal perspectives and knowledge to learn and drive transparent results-oriented decision-making.
Each of these statements is the result of a shared strategic reflection and revision effort by Nellie Mae staff and Board. This year-long process has led us to reflect on our organizational culture through the lens of racial equity — examining the structures of race that shape the experiences and outcomes for every community, with disparate harm directed to people of color. We’ve taken time to listen to community members and grantees, and examine the way we conduct ourselves as a philanthropic organization.
We recognize that these statements may bring up questions and concerns amongst some people, such as what these statements mean for our grantmaking priorities, and our commitment to student-centered approaches to learning. We do know that student-centered learning will remain a part of our grantmaking efforts — though what we mean by it is evolving. We may respond to a community’s interests in student-centered learning, rather than making it a grant requirement. We will revisit the definition of student-centered learning to put attention on racial equity outcomes, and increase attention and focus on the cultural, structural, and policies that reinforce inequities within our education system and communities.
While we have much to reconcile, we are clear that we will honor our current commitments. We will have more to say on this later this year, but will continue to use our Mission, Vision, and Values statements as guideposts for finalizing our new strategy.
We also realize that while statements can be powerful — they can be meaningless when they are not backed up by actions. That’s why we are promising to listen to your ideas, feedback, and thoughts that you have on our new direction and as it evolves. What else do we need to be doing to actualize these statements, or what should we not be doing? We want to hear from you!
We welcome your comments and questions on these statements in the comment box below, or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue to remain as transparent and straightforward as possible about our future as an organization.
Nick Donohue, President & CEO
Jan Phlegar, Chair, Board of Directors