Breaking Barriers Youth Council Aims to Accelerate Positive Outcomes for Young Men of Color

youngmenofcolor“Breaking Barriers” Youth Leadership Council is a group of young men of color, 12-24 years in age, creating a unified voice that advocates for racial equity, social justice and policy change. The Council will address the practices and systems that hold back males of color.

Through civic leadership training and direct lobbying opportunities, Breaking Barriers participants will learn the importance of advocacy and will develop their personal and collective leadership skills to be able to influence positive change, strengthening and improving life outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Breaking Barriers, an initiative of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, is aimed at accelerating positive outcomes for boys and young men of color across the cradle-to-career continuum.

The Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable includes more than 30 community leaders from public, private, nonprofits and faith institutions convened to advance racial equity and promote the change required to accelerate a shared regional prosperity. 

In partnership with the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools, and Say Yes Buffalo, “Breaking Barriers” will expand the capacity of boys and young men of color to improve life outcomes and empower them to become agents of change in our community. Areas of focus may include: early childhood; college access and readiness; career pathways and economic opportunity; and criminal justice and public safety.

A flyer with more details and the application for the youth council are available here.

19 IDEAS Partners with Oishei Foundation to Tell Founder’s Story

DSC02878 CopyEarly in 2017, the team at the Kaleida Foundation showed us the wall that would be dedicated to telling the story of John R. Oishei at the new Oishei Children’s Hospital. It is a great, highly visible space right inside the doors of the main lobby.

Typically, a static glass sign with small type and a photo would be used to tell a major donor’s story. In this case, we felt that, sooner rather than later, the information about our founder would become wallpaper that no one really noticed.

We wanted to tell his story in a more engaging way – one that people would pay attention to for years to come. As the Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer, my dream was to do something interactive that people could manipulate and that would offer interesting elements for adults and children alike.

I presented thDSC02888 Copye idea of producing a creative, dynamic display wall to the Foundation President, Robert Gioia, and then our Board. They were a little hesitant, and thought I might be overly optimistic with my very limited budget, but being the ultimate, trusting, wise professionals that they are, they gave me the “go ahead.”

I then reached out to a few small local agencies to inquire about their array of capabilities and their availability from July through October. One group stood out: 19 IDEAS.

After meeting with owners Dan Gigante and Katie Krawczyk, I had a good feeling that they’d be the perfect group to pull this off for us.

I gave them the assignment and they jumped in full force. Amber Rapino, Charlie Fashano and the newly hired ThereDSC02837 Copysa Donnelly joined Katie and Dan. They started with a solid base concept of the elements, and worked with us feverishly through the design, illustration, copy, coding and testing stages. Krez Freas joined in near the end to write code and handle a bunch of techy stuff. They were all patient with my copy edits and numerous questions and showed unending enthusiasm for the project. Oh, and I can’t forget Ellie, Director of Bellyrubs – the office labradoodle who eagerly provided kisses and love (what a great addition!)

The Kaleida team, coordinated by Jim Finnerty and Jessica Mabie, also did a stellar job preparing the wall, hooking up electric, hanging hardware, etc. all while juggling the construction and moving a major hospital.

The end result was better than I could have imagined. And, it doesn’t hurt that Robert and the Board approves of the result. Board Member Florence Conti was even kind enough to call me out at last week’s board meeting to say, “Sally, I questioned and doubted you a bit on the Oishei Children’s wall project, but….I was wrong. It is fantastic.”

Thank you, 19 IDEAS!

Congratulations to Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled on the Opening of its New Career Center!

DSC 0339 CopyCommunity Services for the Developmentally Disabled (CSDD) opened its new Jefferson Career Center on Monday, October 30. The center is located at 1485 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, the former site of the Bethel Head Start building.

The new center will offer people with developmental disabilities a place to develop work skills and help connect them to competitive employment opportunities in their fields of interest. It will offer hands-on learning suites that are industry specific, providing training opportunities to explore a variety of career paths. Each suite will be custom built to ensure accessibility for everyone.

The Oishei Foundation supported the effort with a $125,000 grant.

View more photos of the new center here.

CSDD partnered with the Basil Family of Dealerships to provide an automotive detailing suite where people will learn the skills needed for car detailing, including how to use the proper cleaning tools and products and safety precautions and the value of meticulousness.

CSDD is also working with the Hyatt Regency to offer a hospitality suite, which will include a mock hotel room for the people they support to develop and practice the skills they learn. By using this active learning model, people will build customer service skills, learn how to clean and set up a room, and keep track of an inventory list.

Working in the food industry generates much interest for the people CSDD serves. The new center's culinary suite will feature an industrial style kitchen where people interested in culinary arts will learn how to prepare and serve food, gain insight into how assembly work operates, use kitchen tools safely, and how to sanitize a work space.

Another suite at the Jefferson Career Center will be an office setting where people will have the opportunity to learn essential computer skills, how to operate copy and fax machines, effective communication via phone, and how to successfully work with customers and co-workers.

The center will also be the site of an after-school respite program for children who receive services, giving them a safe, accessible place to learn new skills, meet friends and engage in meaningful activities outside of school.

“We are thrilled to see this project come to fruition. The Jefferson Career Center will positively impact many of the people we support by helping them gain work skills and connecting them with competitive employment opportunities,” said Mindy Cervoni, president and CEO. “This center will help people achieve their goals and lead more independent lives.”

“The Jefferson Career Center is more than a building for the people we support. It is a representation of our belief that every person, given the appropriate supports and opportunity, has the ability to contribute to their community. For those we support, a job is so much more than a paycheck. It is independence, inclusion and an improved quality of life,” said Michelle Zangerle, assistant director of vocational services.

“Along with the opportunity to expand our respite program, Jefferson provides additional space for a gross motor room and outside playground with a recreational area. With the addition of these two spaces, people that utilize respite supports will have more space to develop and grow,” said Ashley McLimans, assistant director of day services.

The Jefferson Career Center will broaden CSDD's scope of services, provide new employment opportunities, and explore each person they serve’s talents and interests.

Eight WNY Nonprofit Organizations Participating in Inaugural StoryGrowing WNY Class

DSC02586 CopyStoryGrowing WNY is underway! Eight WNY non-profit organizations were selected for the Class of 2018. Based on the teachings of Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center, StoryGrowing WNY is a nine-month communications capacity-building program that trains organizations to harness the power of storytelling and nurture their organization’s growth through effective branding and communications. Working directly with a variety of local professionals, StoryGrowing WNY participants will learn how to balance emotional and rational messaging, target the right audiences and make efficient use of digital and social tools.

The eight Western New York nonprofit organizations participating in the program are:

  • Cazenovia Recovery Systems, which provides a comprehensive continuum of chemical dependency and mental health residential services for men and women in recovery.
  • Child & Family Services, one of Western New York's oldest human service agencies, Child and Family Services fosters safe and healthy environments for children and families in local homes, schools, workplaces and communities.
  • ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides free civil legal services to low income individuals and small not-for-profit groups in Erie County.
  • Neighborhood Health Center, an FQHC that provides primary healthcare and wellness to all, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
  • New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition which is a partnership of dedicated organizations and individuals committed to supporting the millions of informal caregivers throughout the state.DSC02730 Copy
  • Roycroft Campus, which offers educational programming, artisan classes, lectures, interactive events and social gatherings to further promote and preserve the historic Roycroft Campus and the ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement.
  • The Foundry (Net+Positive, Inc.) which strives to foster ecologically, economically and socially viable neighborhood systems in the City of Buffalo by promoting community arts; providing mentoring and training opportunities for low-income, unemployed or underemployed individuals, and encouraging environmentally sensitive community development.
  • Westminster Economic Development Initiative which empowers economically disadvantaged people in Buffalo, with a primary focus on the West Side community. WEDI reduces barriers to success and opportunity through economic development, community building, and education.

The selected organizations participate in the program at no cost to them. Funding is provided by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and The John R. Oishei Foundation.

The program will feature a variety of learning techniques—including lectures, workshops, private coaching, guided development, and presentation opportunities— designed to help participants determine compelling key messages forDSC02570 Copy the organizations; use stories in advocacy, development, recruiting, and other primary communications; and identify and apply types of stories and their relevance to organizations’ target audiences. Best practices in writing, photography, videography, disseminating stories through community outreach, and effectively telling stories will be shared.

“StoryGrowing WNY” is presented by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and The John R. Oishei Foundation as part of a collaborative capacity-building effort. The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York is an independent private foundation that advocates for continuous improvement in health and health care by investing in the people and organizations that serve young children and older adults. The John R. Oishei Foundation, a private charitable foundation, enhances the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership and network building.

Tape Art Event is Indescribable Experience for All

Tape ArtOn June 17th, 2017, the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center came alive with the buzz of collaborative problem solving. Students from the Cornell High Road Fellows program, Oishei Leaders from local non-profit organizations, Oishei staff and Board members and representatives from the Architecture Center worked together to create four Tape Art murals, stretching their leadership muscles and exploring the challenges that face those working to make a difference in our communities.

The theme of the day was “Navigating Narratives”. Like every city, Buffalo is defined by the stories that are told about it. It is too often the case that narratives about cities are dominated by a focus on problems and struggles. These problems become ingrained in the identity of urban communities in a way that makes them even harder to overcome. Even when progress is being made, negative narratives can make it seem like there is no hope for meaningful change.

For this project, participants were tasked with retelling these stories. They entered a space with four drawings representing the most pressing challenges that Buffalo faces today. These drawings transformed the issues of economic inequality, segregation, disenfranchisement, and urban sprawl into monsters worthy of myth. In teams, participants worked together to draw the counter narratives to these social monsters directly over the original drawings. The new narratives featured solutions to each social issue through the lens of social justice warriors.

The day ended with a discussion of the power of collaboration in solving problems and the power of using narratives in the work of social justice.

View photos from the day, read more in this booklet put together by the Tape Art team and view a short video from the day.

Tape Art 2017 Overview

Introducing "StoryGrowing WNY," a New Communications Training Program

logoThe John R. Oishei Foundation and the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York are pleased to Introduce "StoryGrowing WNY," a Unique Communications Capacity-Building Program. 

Stories have the power to inform and inspire, excite and empower. But for most non-profits, capturing the essence of the organization and its impact is easier said than done. The John R. Oishei Foundation and the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York are pleased to present “The Right Story Changes Everything” workshop on August 22, 2017 from  9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Lexus Club at Key Bank Center. The free workshop will be led by Andy Goodman, co-founder and director of The Goodman Center, and internationally recognized speaker, author and consultant known for his workshops on storytelling.

“The Right Story Changes Everything” workshop is open to all staff and board members of any non-profit organization in WNY. Coffee and a continental breakfast will be offered at 8:30 a.m. Parking is free in the Key Bank Center parking ramp.

Registration is required at storygrowingwny.org

UPDATE AS OF MONDAY, JULY 31: Registration capacity has been filled. You may add your name to the waiting list, but there are no guarantees that new spots will open up. We thank everyone for the amazing response!

“The Right Story Changes Everything” is the kick-off event for the nine-month training program “StoryGrowing WNY,” designed to help local organizations harness the power of storytelling and nurture their growth through effective branding and communications. Working directly with a variety of local professionals, WNY non-profits will learn how to balance emotional and rational messaging, target the right audiences, make efficient use of digital and social tools, and much more.

Attendance at the August 22, 2017 workshop will act as a prerequisite to participation in StoryGrowing WNY - only attendees of “The Right Story Changes Everything” will be invited to apply. 

“StoryGrowing WNY” is presented by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York. and The John R. Oishei Foundation as part of a collaborative capacity-building effort.

Paul Hogan's Most Recent Keynote: "Coalitions of the Willing"

Paul Hogan, Oishei's Executive Vice President, gave this thought-provoking keynote at the Niagara Community Partnership Project event last week...64155008 coalition word cloud concept

Coalitions of the Willing: Who's Willing, and Why?

In approaching the idea of Coalitions of the Willing, I'll do what makes most sense to me right at the top: split the two terms and talk about them separately for a while, and then bring them back together, and wrap it all up (hopefully) in a neat package.

So let's start with 'Willing,' and get that out of the way first. Based on my 18 years of experience on the grantseeking side of the table, and now nearly 17 years on the grantmaking side, during which time I've spent a great deal of effort in and around coalitions and collaboratives and collectives, I'd say right now that pretty much no one in this room is actually willing to take on another coalition. In fact, most of you are likely downright unwilling, and probably grumpy at the thought. If you're not checking your email right now, you will be shortly, and reminding yourself about everything that's going on back at the office and grumbling about what a waste of time all of this is.

Fair enough. I'll assume that more of you are unwilling than willing, but that then leads to the question of "Why are you here?" Again, my experience tells me you're here defensively: that is, you want to know what's going on, and what you might stand to gain or lose because of it. Everybody usually comes to the first meeting. After that, it's generally a crap shoot. A small core will continue, maybe get something going, a few more folks will come back, and at some point, everyone will find their ''WIIFM'' - their ''What's in it for Me?" - that will let them justify continuing to participate.

2012.08.03 WIIFMWIIFM and willingness are directly related. WIIFM is the first rule of fundraisers everywhere: people give money or time only when they perceive there's a benefit to them personally, even though the benefit is ostensibly to someone else. WIIFM isn't a bad thing - it's a human thing. Mother Theresa had a WIIFM. She certainly had service to her religion in mind, but I believe she also had something personal that was central to her willingness to continue her very difficult work. I don't know what that was: Maybe something in her early life. Maybe a personal friend she carried in mind. Whatever it was, it was what made her willing to keep going.

Many people are unwilling, even embarrassed, to identify their WIIFM in relation to their non-profit work or support. It's charity, after all, and we are supposed to be doing or giving selflessly, for the good of others, not selfishly, or for ourselves. But it doesn't actually work that way, and there's plenty of research on why people give or volunteer to substantiate that, to the extent that some research has identified seven specilic reasons someone would be willing to give or volunteer. It could be a tax break; it could be having some personal connection to the work; it could be responding to a friend's interest that has nothing to do with anything else. And let me say this again: WIIFM is not a bad or shameful thing. It isn't something that should be hidden or avoided. In fact, most good fundraisers will look intently for the potential donor's WIIFM - whether it's a person or a foundation - in order to understand why that donor would be willing to give or volunteer. The best fundraisers can show a donor why the donor would benefit from giving, not why the organization would. Because willingness is personal, not institutional. That leads to the second most famous rule of fundraisers: People give to people, not to institutions.

So everyone here this morning is secretly, maybe unconsciously, looking for their WIIFM. And again, to be clear: you're not looking for the WIIFMO, or What's in it for My Organization.

That's ostensibly why you're here, maybe even primarily why, in your mind. But if you - personally - don't find a way to become willing to continue, then you won't, which means your organization won't. So a corollary rule here is that people interact with people, organizations don't interact with organizations. And that's a rule that's almost always forgotten or ignored in the formation of coalitions. It matters as much, and probably more, what people are at the table as it does what organizations are. When people talk about their experiences with various coalitions, they don't say "Boy, that NFMMC is sure blah blah blah;" they say "Boy, that Sheila Kee is sure blah, blah, blah." For all the great expectations that are assigned to coalitions, and what organizations must be present, success or failure or stagnation almost always comes down to the people who are there and how they interact. It might be critical in everyone's view that such-and-such an organization be present in the coalition, but if the person from that organization is unwilling, then the organization's 'presence' will be useless. This leads to a critical point: "How you are there" is as important as "Why you are there," and "How you are there" is directly related to your willingness to be there, which is tied directly to your WIIFM. Come to an understanding about that in your engagements, and you may find more personal reward in your coalition work, or maybe a good reason to spend your time elsewhere. But, you may be asking yourself, why should anyone be there at all? That is, why build a coalition? From an operations standpoint, it doesn't make much sense. It doesn't really save time, it doesn't usually save money, and it can lead to a lot of aggravation. The for-profit sector is pretty mystified by the whole activity, and look at it as just one of the ways that non-profits fail to manage their businesses well. However, that criticism is offered from the framework of a fundamentally different enterprise. Let me float up to the 30,000 foot level again for a moment and explain.

I'll start by saying that I believe that capitalism is neither moral nor immoral. It is amoral, which means that it is simply a set of instructions to guide a particular set of activities. How those instructions are interpreted and applied is what is good or bad. So saying that for-profit enterprise is different from non-profit enterprise doesn't mean that one or the other is better or worse. It only means that the rules for one cannot be applied to the other in a wholesale way, which is what tries to happen all too frequendy. I once published an essay in the Nonprofit Quarterly called Not-for-Profit is NOT For Profit.

Here's why:

The basis of activity in the for-profit sector is extractive and transactional, and the primary goal of the activity is to maximize profits for small groups of people. That means that the for-profit enterprise exists to take things out, to extract them, like raw materials or natural resources, and create some product or service that will lead to a transaction, a sale, with buyers. The transaction is direct between buyer and seller, and that completes the cycle. As far as the for-profit enterprise is concerned, the transaction is zero-sum: that is, whatever part of the cost of product or service, plus profit, that isn't paid for directly by the buyer is 'lost.' But loss is relative in business, much more so than many people believe. By that I mean that how profit is calculated, and how much profit is enough profit is different for different business people. Many businesses provide greater levels of payor benefits to their employees, or spend more on environmental stewardship, or to ensure excellent working conditions, all of which change the ways that profits from transactions are allocated. Higher fixed costs lead to lower net profits. But consider that in this way, the profits aren't lost at all: they are simply allocated differendy, to the greater benefit of employees or the community in which the business operates. Regardless, the for-profit enterprise still is fundamentally extractive, transactional, and profit-driven.

coalitionNon-profit enterprises, on the other hand, are relational and restorative, or generative. The basis of activity in the non-profit enterprise is personal and interactive, and seeks to restore or help generate whatever people need to improve their lives, or the life of the community in which they live. The non-profit enterprise works with people, usually over a long term, and -- especially as it relates to health care -- across many aspects of an individual's life. That work requires trust as its foundation. If an individual does not trust the people who are providing the service (again, the person, not the organization), then they will not be willing to participate, or, in healthcare terms, to comply with what
is being offered to them.

It could be argued that even this exchange is transactional, no different from a for-profit interaction. But there is a critical difference: the person to whom the service is being provided is not usually the source of the payment for the service. I don't pay my doctor or my dentist or my phlebotomist, someone else does, and generally, I have no idea what amount is actually paid. So the non-profit person-to-person interaction is not zero-sum or about money or profit at all; it's about the relationship that is established. And it is this disconnect of the cost of service from the third-party reimbursement for that service that destabilizes the non-profit sector in ways that the for-profit sector does not deal with or need to understand.

This isn't restricted to healthcare or human services, either. The amount you pay for a ticket to many of the arts organizations you attend is subsidized, sometimes heavily, by outside public or private funders. If most arts organizations had to charge the full amount they needed in order to operate, most of us wouldn't be able to afford to attend. That's important because the health of people and communities depends as much on arts and culture as it does on all other non-profit work, and arts must be as accessible as healthcare and education. Funders frequently decide to change the amount they will grant, or stop making grants completely, meaning that all non-profit budgets are continually in flux. And that's why, ultimately, the basis of service for non-profits is inter-relational: non-profits must rely on people not only as clients or patients or consumers, but as supporters and advocates as well. They need volunteers and donors and telephone bank operators and letter writers. Each side of the interaction in a non-profit setting needs its WIIFM. Not just: "How can you help me?" but "How can we help each other?" After, of course, enough time has been spent to establish critical trust. But all that still doesn't really explain what's up with the coalition thing. It may explain the interaction between an organization and the people who patronize it. But it doesn't explain why organizations, or more accurately, people from organizations, should sit down with each other and try to figure out how to work in cooperation.

About 10 or 12 years ago, a fascinating man was brought in to Niagara Falls to help kick off what was then being called the Mayor's Health Care Task Force, or something like that. His name was Lee Kaiser, and the first thing he said to the people gathered there was: "Everything you need to do what you want is already here." And then he said it again: "Everything you need to do what you want is already here." What he was driving at is that the non-profit sector, for many reasons, some of which are actually relevant, operates in a mentality of scarcity. We believe there is never enough funding. There are never enough resources. There are never enough people who understand the
problems we're dealing with and who will help us advocate for more.

On the face of it, that can certainly seem to be true. But when I look at the combined assets of, say, the five biggest Blah Blah providers, I see a heck of a lot of resource that isn't deployed. It doesn't even matter much what sector of non-profit we're talking about. In almost every sector, I can see ways of combining resources that could significantly improve the ways we address issues or provide services. Certainly, the Oishei Foundation has made it a priority to attempt to facilitate this kind of work. By this, I want to make clear, I'm not talking only about getting organizations to merge or fold, although we have helped with some of those. We have been successful and unsuccessful and pretty so-so. And over the course of the last decade, I think attitudes all around have been changing in a positive way toward this kind or work. There is more here that we can use than we see or acknowledge. And there really are ways it can be tapped.

Before any of it will ever be tapped or engaged or deployed, though, relationships must be built, because this is a relational enterprise. Non-profit organizations are not by and large in competition with each other over market share; they are applying for revenue to many of the same third-party entities, like foundations and state funding agencies. Even that isn't a competition in the classic for profit sense, because most of those funders are looking for ways of broadening impact by funding partnerships or collaborations. Again, for-profit enterprise is based on taking away, one from the other, in order to accumulate as much as possible. But non-profit enterprise is based on building up, wrapping services around, filling in need where there are gaps. That's a fundamental difference, and seeking funding for that work is not the same as competing for customers or market shares. In the non-profit world, we don't seek to 'crush the competition' - we seek to expand our overall reach.

We are, in the non-profit sector, working on the broader view, the more inclusive view, and the best of us are trying to invent ways to do that better all the time. There is a notion that capitalism's greatest contribution to humanity is innovation, which is driven by competition, and that without competition, the non-profit sector cannot or does not innovate. I submit that's untrue. Those of us dedicated to this work always look for ways to reach more people, to engage them more deeply and productively, to alter the conditions in which they live so that they, and we, can improve. We play off of each other's ideas and generate new ideas or approaches, or bring in new ideas from outside. But that's not being competitive, it's being generative. We are co-creating. And if we're not doing that, we're just talking to ourselves, and not much good generally comes of that. Even more important, many of us also look for ways to engage the beneficiaries of our work on their own behalf, and doing this is another fundamental reason our work can't be compared with for-profit work. EngagiDSC00466ng people in their own care or the care of their communities requires time, in order to build trust, in order to help them understand and act on their own WIIFM - their "Why should I do this?" It is a human process, which is never efficient. It can't be value-engineered. There are certainly better and worse ways of going about it, and that's a sound and central reason for experts, like the people in this room, to talk with each other.

In that sense, it is never a waste of time to just talk with the people who are your colleagues, which is different, in my view, than 'meeting' with them. Your willingness to continue to do the work you do depends on productive interactions with the other people in your life, both professional and personal. The intensity of non-profit work, its basis in personal interaction, is draining by its nature, and all of us need relief and assurance from others, encouragement, ideas, and good and bad stories. I absolutely extend this to social interaction with colleagues, like dinners, non-work gatherings, or even happy hours. Real trust, deep trust, is only built when people find ways to connect without the mediation of flipcharts and powerpoints and webinars and agendas. Our time as professionals is never wasted when we "just talk." The more deeply we trust each other, the more ways we will find to innovate and improve the work we do, for the benefit of the communities we serve.

So I strongly encourage you to think a little differently about what it means to be willing, and what the real value is of sitting around a table with your colleagues. First and foremost, I think, you're there to find connections with peers, to better understand the people around you who do the same work you do. There can be a primary benefit to you just in that - your WIIFM - and that benefit will extend back to your colleagues and your organization and its work with the people it serves. Whatever work is achieved by 'coalitions of the willing' beyond that, as far as I'm concerned, is pretty much gravy.

Oishei Foundation's New Strategic Plan

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The Board and staff of the Oishei Foundation, along with our wonderful consultants, spent many months developing a new five-year strategic plan for the Foundation.

We believe it is important to be clear about our direction and to serve as a positive role model for nonprofit management by engaging in best practices. While strategic planning can be grueling at times, it is well worth the time and energy.

It is also important for us, as a private foundation and key community asset, to be transparent with our efforts, so we developed this overview brochure to provide a topline description of our new plan.

We hope you'll take a moment to page through it. If you have comments or questions, feel free to reach out to any of us. Our contact information is listed here.

BCAT Video Journal Shows Amazing Path of Progress

constructionpicHopefully you’ve heard about this amazing place on Main Street in Buffalo called the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT). It’s an inspiring, bright, colorful place filled with hope and opportunity for young people and adults alike.

It is based on Pittsburgh’s Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC), a nationally recognized arts and training center founded by Bill Strickland. MBC's results are excellent: 85% of its adult students attain meaningful employment and over 90% of high school students enrolled in its arts programs graduate from high school.

The idea of creating a center like MBC in Buffalo was sparked in 2008 when Bill Strickland came to Buffalo to speak at the Buffalo City Forum. In the summer of 2009, local community leaders traveled to Pittsburg to view MBC first hand. In June of 2010, the Oishei Foundation Board unanimously approved a $150,000 grant to fund a feasibility study to determine Buffalo’s potential as a replication site. By March of 2012, the feasibility study was completed – it gave a green light to the City of Buffalo.

After a solid fundraising effort, construction began in summer of 2013. By December of that same year, BCAT celebrated its Grand Opening Day!

During the development process, talented filmographer, Jon Hand, followed the progress with his camera. He spent endless hours interviewing key partners and staff members...filming construction, mural creation, coding classes and student recording sessions. He eventually even filmed the graduation of some of BCAT’s hard-working students.

The final result is a series of moving videos. The first is dubbed “Constructing Change” and may be viewed here. We hope it lends understanding for what went into the creation of BCAT and how very important its work is here in Buffalo.