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From Generosity to Justice

The end of a year always brings with it reflection. Things we have accomplished. Things that still lay ahead. Louisville is a generous and compassionate city. And, for this, we are all thankful. 

As we move into 2016, IDEAS xLab would like to challenge Louisville to consider a shift in our thinking.

It is time for us to move from "generosity" to "justice".

Working toward a more equitable and just city is good for people and it is good for our economy. Building a strong economy requires a healthy workforce. A healthy workforce requires equity and access at every level (education, jobs, healthcare, policy) -- regardless of race or class.

Shifting our philanthropy mindset from "generosity to justice" is good for families and communities. It is also a crucial step if Louisville is to develop a diverse, thriving, grassroots economy that can can withstand seismic shifts like when a large regional employer is acquired or relocates.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Darren Walker, head of the Ford Foundation, analyzed the origins of modern philanthropy and how we can rethink the traditional "gospel of giving"- and indeed, why we must. A new gospel, he writes, "might begin where the previous fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why."

Mr Walker writes:

"... giving back is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.
We, as foundations and individuals, should fund people, their ideas and organizations that are capable of addressing deep-rooted injustice. We should ensure that the voices of those most affected by injustice - women, racial minorities, the poor, religious and ethnic minorities and L.G.B.T. individuals - help decide where and what philanthropy puts money behind, not in simply receiving whatever philanthropy decides to give them."

Mayor Fischer has made compassion one of his priorities.  We'd like to suggest that compassion also leads to a more vibrant economy.

What does a compassionate economy look like though?

Dalai Lama XIV, a friend of Louisville, is quoted as saying that "compassion is not at all religious business; it is important to know it is human business, it is a question of human survival."

The backbone of Louisville's economy is our workforce -- made of humans. As long as we are not structurally addressing the systemic disparities in our workforce, we cannot expect to thrive as a city. 

In the past 25 years, we have moved from the information economy, to the knowledge economy and now we are moving into the human economy which the Harvard Business Review recently described in the following way.

"In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts. The know-how and analytic skills that made them indispensable in the knowledge economy no longer give them an advantage over increasingly intelligent machines. But they will still bring to their work essential traits that can't be and won't be programmed into software, like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit - their humanity, in other words. The ability to leverage these strengths will be the source of one organization's [or one city's]  superiority over another."

In 2016, we ask each of you to join us in further building a foundation for the the future, in moving from generosity to justice and in supporting new roles for artists in helping to activate a creative, healthy and productive workforce in Louisville... America's Model City for Compassion.

Happy Holidays from the IDEAS xLab team --
Josh, Theo, Chris & Ayelet  

Smithsonian Publications Profiles Louisville's Smoketown


The last issue of the Smithosian's Urban Waterways explored the importance of community engagement in the equitable development of communities. 

The publication profiled Smoketown's Urban Green program - a partnership between IDEAS xLab and YouthBuild Louisville which supports international exchanges between YouthBuild and le Potager du Roi, the King's Kitchen Gardens at the palace of Versailles, France founded by King Louis the 14th.    Read the full article.

Meet Hannah Drake - IDEAS xLab's New Staff Member

Hannah Drake is an artist-advocate with an inspirational message. She is frequently asked to speak throughout the country, offering an inspiring, message of hope and deliverance believing that poetry can ignite true transformation. She has performed at the legendary Showtime at the Apollo in Harlem. In 2014 she joined Roots and Wings, a dynamic group of artists that seek to bring social change in Louisville. 

Hannah comes to IDEAS xLab after spending many years as Pastoral Administrative Assistant to Dr. F. Bruce Williams at Bates Memorial Baptist Church.

In her new staff role with IDEAS xLab, Hannah will lead community outreach for IDEAS xLab's Cultural Blueprint for Health and other health-related initiatives.  Visit Hannah's website to learn more.

NEA Profiles IDEAS xLab -  Artists as Agents of Change

Last week, IDEAS xLab was honored when the National Endowment for the Arts profiled our work in their Arts Magazine.

Excerpt from article...  

NEA: What advice would you give to an artist who's looking to make a change in his or her community, or to a business or civic organization looking to change course?

EDMONDS: I think [you need] purposeful engagement, consistency, the willingness to sit down and work with people toward a common objective whom you might not immediately see your relationship with, or in some cases, who even may make you feel very uncomfortable. I've heard many artists say, "How can I go work for the big bad corporations?" I'm not sure that's helpful. There's a lot of responsibility that is incumbent on everybody who is part of a community. That means sitting down at the table, and being willing to make space for other people's needs and agendas. That works both ways, coming from the artist to the businesses, and from the businesses to the artist.

Read the full article.

Meet George Nichols IV - IDEAS xLab's Intern

We are excited to have another new staffer joining the IDEAS xLab team. George is completing his Bachelor's degree in Marketing with a double minor in Entrepreneurship and Computer Information Systems at the University of Louisville.


In addition to his academic work, George has been heavily involved in the marketing of Cardinal Athletics and was the Vice Chair of the Campus Life Student Activity Board.


While with us, George will help lead development of a Millennial engagement strategy for IDEAS xLab's new non-profit artist education arm - Creative Agents of Change Foundation. He will also be heavily involved in development of our new campaign around the Cultural Blueprint for Health.  

Learn more about George.

Those who have been following ArtPlace’s progress closely know that they are investing in arts-based strategies to help achieve place-based outcomes to reposition arts and culture as a core sector of community planning and development. Recently they focused on Education and Youth.

As the great philosopher Whitney Houston said “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” Which is a cheeky way to start this blog post, but yet a quite accurate lead-in to the conversation below.
Perhaps it would be even more accurate if Whitney had brought in the arts into her melody, or as Lynn Rippy says: “Young people have the answers to the problems that we see in the world and their abilities to express themselves creatively to answer those problems is probably the number one way to change our world.”

Click here to read the whole article with Susan Delvalle from the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, and Lynn Rippy from YouthBuild and IDEAS xLab.


Looking for a way to support causes you care about but tired of silent auctions? 

This program is for you.

Learn More.


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