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Last September, we announced five recovery initiatives that address key challenges magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the state on a pathway to more equity and greater community and economic resilience in the face of future disruption: Rural Entrepreneurship, Food System Resilience, Rural Connectivity, Learning in Transition, and Welcoming, Equitable, Anti-Racist Communities. Over the past few months, we have interviewed the team leaders for each recovery initiative to understand why the Community Foundation chose to focus on each as part of its pandemic recovery strategy.

As we reflect on our five conversations, we want to share a few key takeaways:

Recovery grantmaking must address pre-crisis conditions to improve post-crisis conditions.

Regions still struggling with impacts of the Great Recession, 70,000 households and businesses with little to no Internet, one of the highest poverty rates among young adults in New England, a history of racism and xenophobia—these were realities in Vermont before COVID-19, and any successful recovery activity must build on these existing conditions to create meaningful improvements.

Crises provide an opportunity to get creative, take risks, and advance knowledge on effective philanthropy.

Taking on rural broadband, supporting new platforms for getting food to those in need, or most notably, offering a free college course to every graduating high school senior like the McClure Foundation did, COVID-19 is an opportunity to showcase how philanthropy can create impact on key issues like food assistance and education, as well as inform larger funding streams like public dollars.

Taking on systemic issues is a long game and philanthropy must consider longer time horizons.

Making a community more attractive to entrepreneurs, bringing broadband to every corner of the state, changing culture and beliefs—these are huge tasks. But we need to start somewhere, and it’s important to take actions—like improving Internet access at local libraries or creating safe spaces for open dialogue on racism—that can be a stepping-stone to much broader change.

Crisis recovery starts in your own backyard.

Community is a common theme throughout each recovery initiative, and that’s because it is often the dedication and hard work of local, grassroots organizations that drives change on the ground. Extending or expanding the capacity of local changemakers is a great place to focus when thinking about how to help recovery after a crisis.

We encourage you to read each blog by clicking the hyperlinks below, and keep an eye out for opportunities to hear more about what we’re learning from COVID-19 response and recovery grantmaking.

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Too Much Trash: How charitable giving can help Vermonters generate less waste

Vermont has some of the nation's most-forward thinking laws when it comes to recycling, composting, and the environment. But we have not lowered the volume of trash that goes to landfills. Instead, we are dumping even more waste pollution on future generations. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Charitable individuals can drive meaningful change and help fix the trash problem. Our new Insight Hub brief shares three actions that should be top-of-mind. 

Read the brief "Too Much Trash: How charitable giving can help Vermonters generate less waste" »

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Rural Connectivity: How charitable giving can increase access to high-speed internet and revitalize Vermont

The broadband buildout underway in Vermont has the potential to dramatically strengthen the economy and fill an infrastructure gap that has left roughly 20 percent of Vermont households waiting for years to access reliable, high-speed internet and all of the vital benefits it brings. Charitable individuals can move the effort forward in numerous ways and know that as they build momentum, they are creating dividends for future generations.

Read the brief "Rural Connectivity: How charitable giving can increase access to high-speed internet and revitalize Vermont" »

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Stuck on the Sidelines: How philanthropy can reduce the college gender gap

Women outnumber men on most campuses in Vermont and in the nation, and not by just a little bit. At the University of Vermont, only 33 percent of this fall's first-year class is male, one of the lowest proportions in the school's history. Vermont philanthropy can help change this picture and at the same time continue to support the impressive gains made by female students.

Read the brief "Stuck on the Sidelines: How philanthropy can reduce the college gender gap" »