All posts by Murphy Institute

Black families’ middle-class crisis

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

By Basil Smikle Jr.

Congressional Democrats are looking to renew and refine their support for the middle class through increased wage schemes and tax policies. But a spate of current research paints a disconcerting picture of America’s shrinking middle-income households and reveals particular struggles for black Americans, for whom the accumulation and intergenerational transfer of wealth are increasingly nonexistent. Democrats and progressive leaders looking to 2016 should shy away from all-or-nothing ideological debates and address the concerns of important constituencies, mindful of their intricacies and nuances.

A recent New York Times article asserts that the increasing number of households moving into upper-income brackets veiled substantial middle-class contraction over the last 50 years. Continue reading Black families’ middle-class crisis

New Economy Coalition Seeks Executive Director

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

The New Economy Coalition (NEC) seeks a facilitative and innovative leader to guide the organization at this unique and formative moment. The leader of NEC will build, inspire, and manage a talented staff team as well as a vibrant coalition; keep the board strong and engaged; be a primary public face of the organization; further develop a strong and innovative fundraising capacity; and build collaborative relationships with the donor community and other stakeholders.

The New Economy Coalition is a network of more than 100 organizations working to imagine and initiate a just transition to a new economy. NEC’s mission is to convene and support those
who contribute to an economy that is restorative to people, place, and planet, and that operates according to principles of democracy, justice and appropriate scale.

Current programmatic priorities include a collaborative project to develop the stories and narratives of a new economy and supporting the leadership of frontline communities most impacted by interrelated economic, ecological, and political crises past, present, and future. The coalition has coalesced into a trusted network where local and national New Economy leaders regularly connect, learn, and explore possibilities for collective impact.

NEC’s annual budget is 1.275 million dollars. The organization is currently composed of eight full time and three part time staff, with the majority of staff based at the headquarters in Boston, MA, and others based in New York City, Philadelphia, and beyond. The board is made up of 14 thought leaders and organizers from around the United States.

The New Economy Coalition brings unique strengths and opportunities that position it well, with the right executive leadership, for successful advancement of its mission and to support real, transformative system change in the United States. Organizational strengths include:

1. Resonance and relevance of NEC’s transformative mission in this historic moment, which includes a new programmatic priority to support frontline communities;
2. Talented, intelligent, diverse, and young (and diverse intergenerational range of young) staff, which is fully committed to NEC’s mission;
3. An experienced, talented, and adept board consisting of new economy thought-leaders and organizers from across the country;
4. Membership that includes dozens of organizations doing some of the most exciting and innovative economic organizing in North America;
5. The growing recognition of NEC as a key player and ally in the new economy movement – through convening, connecting, bridge-building, supporting and amplifying the work of coalition members and other stakeholders;
6. A new staff leadership structure designed to support clarity, efficient decision-making, shared ownership and accountability;
7. An improving and increasingly more diverse funding model.

Ideal Candidate
The New Economy Coalition’s new executive director will be passionate about, committed to, and have a history of demonstrated leadership related to NEC’s mission. The executive director should be able to articulate NEC’s vision in a way that inspires and motivates staff, board, diverse coalition members, funders and stakeholders of all stripes.

The ideal candidate will be a facilitative leader, committed to building and supporting both the staff and board as highly collaborative teams. The new executive director will be invested in nurturing the leadership of staff, while also able to commit to decisions, delegate, and maintain accountability across the organization. Additionally, the ideal candidate will have experience and skills in organizational structure development, and will be open to the potential of innovative new models.

The new executive director must strike a delicate balance between being a key public face of the organization –out front, comfortable and articulate in the spotlight– and working behind the scenes as an ally to support and amplify the work of a diverse range of coalition members and social movements. Above all, the new leader must be both informed by and accountable to these movements.

The ideal candidate will have creative fundraising experience that has shown concrete results. The new executive director must be able to fundraise for NEC while maintaining sensitivity to the resource needs of coalition members.

Candidate Guidelines
This search is being conducted by Third Sector New England’s Executive Transitions Program and led by Transition Consultant Jeremy Phillips. The full position profile, including contact
information for interested candidates, may be found at:

New Economy Coalition is an Equal Opportunity Employer and actively seeks a diverse pool of candidates.

The Surdna Foundation Seeks Program Officer for Sustainable Environments

The Surdna Foundation, a New York City-based family foundation, seeks a Program Officer for its Sustainable Environments Program.  The Program Officer will report directly to the Program Director for Sustainable Environments.


The Surdna Foundation

Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets exceeding $1 billion and an annual grantmaking budget of more than $32 million. The Foundation has a staff of 25, based in its Midtown Manhattan offices.  Governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth and fifth generation family members, the longstanding values of the Andrus family – practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need – underlie all of the Surdna Foundation’s work The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy and sustainable environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.


The Surdna Foundation has three grantmaking areas:  Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments and Thriving Cultures.  The Foundation provides grant support for efforts at the national, state, metropolitan, and local levels throughout the United States. The Foundation invests in the exchange of ideas across networks of people, institutions, and places with the intent of seeding innovative projects, programs, and policies and bringing them to scale across the country.  The Foundation seeks grantmaking opportunities that include balanced efforts to: demonstrate the effectiveness of specific, targeted projects, practices, and models; advocate for and implement federal, state, and local public policies; and empower, mobilize, and develop leadership in communities and agencies to encourage civic participation.  The Foundation recognizes its programmatic interests as interrelated and is committed to working cross-programmatically.  At the same time, program staff has considerable autonomy and are expected to balance responsibilities to the Foundation, to their program, and to each other.


The Sustainable Environments Program

The Sustainable Environments program work is grounded in an understanding of the interplay between the environment, the economy, and social equity, and it is dedicated to shifting to a just and less consumption intense society. To this end, the program team has recently refined its grant making strategy to focus on overhauling the country’s under-performing and obsolete infrastructure. It is dedicated to addressing the urgent need for innovation around the renewal and development of what will be “next generation” infrastructure and to delivering basic services that tie together metropolitan areas, communities, and neighborhoods. More specifically, the program is now focusing its expertise and investments around four interconnected infrastructure elements:

  • Transportation Networks and Equitable Development Patterns
  • Urban Water Management
  • Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment
  • Regional Food Supply

The program operationalizes these lines of work through a social justice lens; viewing infrastructure planning and build out in low-income communities and communities of color as a driver for investment that generate multiple benefits including wealth creation, environmental quality and democratized decision-making.

The Sustainable Environments Program has a budget for the coming year of $9.25 million and anticipates making between 55-65 grants annually. In addition, The Surdna Foundation uses its expertise in the built environment and the community investment realms and partners with its colleagues in its Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures programs to integrate economic and cultural elements in the strategies the Foundation uses to achieve the changes it seeks.


Program Officer

The Program Officer is part of a four-person team led by a Program Director and staffed by two Program Officers and a Program Associate. The Program Officer works closely with the team on all aspects of the program, including day-to-day operations, broader program strategy development, and the implementation of a learning agenda.  Program Officers contribute to programmatic ideas and participate actively in grantmaking by developing and recommending grants and administering projects in the program area.


In addition, Surdna expects Program Officers to have expertise and knowledge in one or more of the substantive elements of the grantmaking program and to help build networks among funders, as well as grantees, around issues that need attention. Program Officers are also expected to communicate and advocate for social change and to develop partnerships to multiply the impact of the Foundation’s grantmaking investments.  A successful candidate will demonstrate an eagerness to engage in ongoing assessment of the Sustainable Environments Program’s priorities under the leadership of the Program Director, and to work with the Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures programs to develop cross-programmatic opportunities that ultimately help advance the goal of creating just and sustainable communities.


First Year’s Priorities

During the first year of employment, the Program Officer for Sustainable Environments will be expected to:


  • Thoroughly immerse herself/himself in the Surdna Foundation – its mission, philosophy, programs, staff, grantees, structure and operations, finances, constituencies, organizational culture and values, and potential.
  • Become familiar with the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies, grant guidelines and theories of change.
  • Contribute and apply current subject matter and field expertise to assess the impacts of the Sustainable Environments Program’s lines of work; develop the ability to communicate effectively about the work at a very high level.
  • Begin to develop and leverage relationships with key internal and external colleagues, individual and institutional, in order in order to bring forth their best ideas and efforts to inform the work of the Sustainable Environments Program.


Ongoing Responsibilities

The Program Officer for Sustainable Environments will be expected to:


  • Maintain a breadth of knowledge, including research, about current trends, emerging issues, policy interventions, and innovations in the program’s areas of focus to enhance the effectiveness of program strategy and understanding of staff and board.
  • Monitor and track ongoing grants and initiatives, including evaluating and reporting to staff, board, and external colleagues on performance.
  • Work closely with other programs at the Foundation and facilitate cross-program collaboration.
  • Review, assess, and proactively cultivate grantmaking opportunities, assist grantees in improving proposal quality.  Recommend grants for funding by soliciting peer reviews and providing critical analyses of project strengths, weaknesses and risks.
  • Conduct site visits to pending and active projects.
  • Develop relationships with public and private sector stakeholders whose activities contribute to program and mission objectives.
  • Help to plan and implement learning opportunities for grantees, staff, and board. Regularly share lessons learned from the field with colleagues and board members.
  • Work with and manage external consultants.
  • Assist in external communications: develop Web site content, newsletters, public presentations, and articles, as appropriate.
  • Develop partnerships with other institutions to extend the impact of the Foundation’s grantmaking.
  • Track and contribute to the development of best practices among funders.
  • Demonstrate leadership in the field through participation in external forums and funders’collaboratives.


Professional Experience and Qualities  

The experience and ideal qualities of an ideal candidate include:


Professional Experience

  • Strong record of achievement and relevant experience in the nonprofit, public, or private sector.  With a substantive knowledge of the fields and issues related to at least one of the Sustainable Environments Program’s lines of work, as well as experience in economic and community development, finance and banking, and/or public policy and planning is desired.  A minimum of 8 years of professional experience in one of these fields or interdisciplinary experience is preferred.
  • Advanced degree in a related field is preferred.
  • A demonstrated grasp of core principles of social justice, sustainability and equity with experience working with diverse communities across race, class, ethnic, political and geographic boundaries.
  • An understanding of public policy and political processes, and the role of the not-for- profit community in driving change.  Experience strategizing and working with the public sector, and exposure to economic development, and arts, culture, and design and planning issues is highly valuable.
  • Outstanding written and oral communication skills and highly developed listening skills, and an appetite for writing and public speaking.



  • Demonstrated commitment to Surdna’s mission and to the values of the Andrus family, including practicality, modesty, excellence, and an appreciation for serving those in need.
  • Willingness to work across programs to develop complementary strategies, grant making priorities and learning opportunities.
  • A track record as a strategic, systems-oriented thinker. Excellent intellectual abilities and analytic skills coupled with pragmatism and a willingness to share in both “big picture” thinking and administrative tasks.
  • The highest level of personal and professional integrity and a reputation for a balanced, non-ideological approach. A willingness to challenge conventional thinking coupled with the ability to collaborate effectively, listen well, and encourage dialogue.
  • Strengths in relationship building, teamwork, and collaboration. Outstanding relationship builder with interpersonal skills necessary to gain the trust and confidence of Surdna’s staff, grantees, trustees, and professional colleagues in the field.
  • Ability to thrive when working under deadlines; strong project, time, and budget management skills; and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously without sacrificing attention to detail.
  • A willingness to travel up to 30-40% of the time.


To learn more about the Surdna Foundation, please visit:


To Apply

Inquiries, nominations, and applications (a resume and cover letter) may be directed in confidence to Amy Solomon Consulting no later than Monday, March 2, 2015.  Please contact: Amy Solomon at ENVPosition@surdna.orgPlease no phone calls.

Compensation will be competitive and commensurate with previous experience. Excellent benefits are provided.

The Surdna Foundation is committed to an inclusive work environment and welcomes a diverse pool of candidates in this search.

Tourney d’Hipsterville

In New York City, we play in public spaces and our play proposes a broad range of social meanings. In our first piece of the series we call “Urban Play”, Wayne Chin, an academic skills staff member at JSMI, recounts an experience at a thrilling table tennis tournament in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that is as dizzying, fast-paced and unpredictable as the NYC table tennis circuit itself.

December 8th, I needed a sub for the New Jersey Table Tennis Club’s Thursday league on short notice.

One of my FIT students emails me about a membership at a rec center in NYC but in that email she mentions that there’s this tourney at a place called Pips ( in Hipsterville Williamsburg with a first place cash prize of $300, and a second place prize of a $100 gift certificate at a local Apple/electronics store in Williamsburg. She thinks I can win this thing but I know nothing is ever that easy in TT. And there is almost certainly going to be another ringer showing up with a rating. Continue reading Tourney d’Hipsterville

Syriza can show ‘another energy is possible’

by Sean Sweeney

During its first days in office, Syriza has taken actions that suggest it is willing to confront the EU’s neoliberal approach to energy and to embark on a new course. New Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has also stated his government will restore collective bargaining agreements and stop 300,000 planned layoffs.

The Syriza government has said it will stop the proposed sell off of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) which is 51% publicly owned but had been targeted for full-on privatization in 2016. “We will halt immediately any privatization of PPC,” Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Greek television a few hours before officially taking over his portfolio. “There will be a new PPC which will help considerably the restoration of the country’s productive activities,” he said.

Lafanzis also announced that that the mostly state-run gas company, DEPA, will also not be privatized. Both the PPC and DEPA were due to be privatized under the conditions imposed by the Troika. Continue reading Syriza can show ‘another energy is possible’

Job Openings at RWDSU

RWDSU is currently recruiting for several openings for experienced organizers and campaigners. We are about to begin a national search for a new Executive Director for the Retail Action Project based in NYC, as well as for a new coordinator for our national immigration reform program, to coordinate work with our locals helping our members and their families apply for legal protection under the new administrative relief programs. In addition, our Car Wash campaign is still recruiting bilingual lead organizers and we are also looking to talk to folks interested in doing supply chain and logistics organizing in NJ, NY and elsewhere. If you or anyone you know might be interested in applying for any of these exciting positions, please send a resume and cover letter to Louis Guida at lguidarwdsuorg.