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Message to Membership: Gun Violence Prevention

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On February 26th, I was honored to participate in my first program as Southern California Grantmakers’ (SCG) new president. Developed in partnership with The California Endowment (TCE) and The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF), this discussion on gun violence prevention and strengthening school safety sent a powerful message to all in attendance about the vast, largely untapped potential of philanthropy to impact this issue through a continuum of funding opportunities.

Joined by Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, participants heard the latest information on the national social and political climate and on federal efforts to address the issue. The program also included a panel conversation moderated by Diana Bontá, president and chief executive officer of The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF), which featured:

Guillermo Cespedes, deputy mayor, Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development;

Julio Marcial, program director, TCWF;

Beatriz Solís, director, Healthy Communities, South Region, TCE; and

Billie Weiss, associate director, Southern California Injury Prevention Research Program/UCLA, Fielding School of Public Health.

The panelists were also joined by James Anderson and Jazmin Garcia, student activists who grew up in Southern California communities riddled with gun violence. The panel explored prevention strategies through a public health approach, with particular emphasis on addressing root causes.

From this conversation, presenters and participants shared a variety of ideas and insights, including ways for foundations of all sizes and focus areas to impact this issue:

  • Consider the intersections between gun violence and your foundation’s current portfolio of work.
  • Engage affected communities. Build your foundation’s strategies and solutions in partnership with community members directly impacted by gun violence.
  • Support the collection of comprehensive data on gun violence and its effects. Use segments of data (about impact in terms of ethnicity, gender, etc.) to communicate more effectively with different audiences.
  • Lobby for policy change. Public and political will are reaching a tipping point. Anti-trafficking and high-capacity ammunition magazines are the issues with the most momentum at the moment.
  • Change the narrative. Engage in local and national public awareness campaigns on lesser understood aspects (e.g., suicide, mental health) and help shift cultural norms of using gun violence to negotiate conflict in challenged communities.
  • Emphasize mental health services, both preventative measures and support for children and communities coping with trauma, e.g., counseling and intensive case management.
  • Promote healthy environments. Initiatives and services that pro-actively support healthy children and communities are a central component of gun violence prevention.
  • Create pathways to financial stability and independence from gangs by training and employing vulnerable young people.
  • Incorporate on-the-ground outreach strategies to inform youth know about existing after-school and support programs (counteract gang recruitment activities).
  • Scale up. Successful violence prevention projects like Los Angeles’ Summer Night Lights are being replicated in cities across California. Lend your foundation’s expertise to communities and organizations interested in implementing similar strategies.

Panelists’ presentations and data from the program are available online.

I was greatly encouraged by the creative thinking all the participants brought to this complex and often misunderstood issue. We at SCG look forward to seeing more work done in coordination among funders to participate in the continuum of funding opportunities around gun violence prevention. If you would like to share your organization’s initiatives, events or research in this area with the broader SCG community, please tweet @socalgrantmaker #ViolencePrevention, or contact us via email.