Book Talk: Courageous Philanthropy: Going Public in a Closely Held World by Jennifer Vanica

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Jennifer demonstrated the 'unselfish' way of giving. A true commitment that transforms. This book is clearly from the heart seasoned with years of knowledge.

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Over the years, philanthropy has developed a bad reputation. Foundations are becoming structures of power and privilege with an “us versus them” mentality. “Us” the elite set of decision-makers who have the final and only say about what communities need. “Them” the communities they serve who are increasingly disinvested because not only are they not asked questions, they are deliberately not being heard. Somewhere between them and us, philanthropy has lost its purpose and impact on the communities that it seeks to serve.

In her book, Courageous Philanthropy: Going Public in a Closely Held World, Jennifer Vanica talks about how foundations can forge a new relationship with its community. From a model that sees the public as mere recipients of projects to accountable partners who are involved from the early stages of change to its long-term implementation.

Vanica uses her extensive experience in working closely with communities, particularly her work alongside the Market Creek teams in San Diego. In this book, Vanica recalls the two-decade-long journey of working across different cultures, ages, genders, and education levels to achieve real change. What made the Market Creek Plaza, success does not only lie in the end result but in the story of what an involved community can do. She shares how the inclusion of the community in every sense of the word has led to a very successful, community-planned, income-producing asset that will positively impact the community for the long-term. It is time to shift the power dynamics and move philanthropy to a new courageous era where community and purpose at the helm.

Reviews and What Readers Say

" This is an amazing and powerful journey that inspired a community to create the change they wanted to see. The stories and strategies share important lessons that demonstrate the commitment and changes that people, organizations, and foundations doing community building work were willing to make. This journey transformed them and this book will transform its readers!"

—Roque Barros, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase

" By far, this is the freshest — and most refreshingly honest — distillation of lessons and insights from the community building field. Jennifer Vanica has fearlessly opened her notebooks and generously opened her heart. Whether you are a funder, planner, practitioner, or engaged citizen, you will want to read this book."

—Elwood Hopkins, Amazon Reader's Review, Verified Purchase

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Courageous Philanthropy: Going Public in a Closely Held World by Jennifer Vanica

ISBN 978-1532051913

534 Pages

Review by Krystle Manis

Disclosure: This article is a personal endorsement of the professional reviewer. The BookWalker is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Growing up in rural Ohio, Jennifer's commitment to social change was shaped as a student during the late 1960's civil rights movement. After 20 years coordinating large public-private partnerships and raising millions of dollars for capital projects, Jennifer spent the next 20 years launching and leading the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, an operating foundation headquartered in San Diego's southeastern neighborhoods dedicated to community building and the resident ownership of change.

Under her leadership, the Council on Foundations bestowed its Critical Impact Award for innovative and bold solutions to enhance the public good. In 2009, Jennifer was recognized with the James Irvine Leadership Award for California leaders who are implementing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues, and in May 2012, was given an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Wittenberg University.

As a former Senior Fellow at both PolicyLink and the Aspen Institute's Roundtable on Community Change, Jennifer writes and speaks on the topic of leadership in comprehensive community change and the power of large-scale civic action and ownership in neighborhood transformation.

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