Does Your Foundation Make A Difference? How can you tell?
How Does Your Foundation Make a Difference?
I recently returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico to photograph the Valle Encantado Farm, a grantee of the WK. Kellogg Foundation. I had also photographed this farm for WKKF in July of 2012.
I’m a photographer, I don’t analyze hard data or make granting decisions but I do pay very close attention to what I see so that my photos tell you something about the people and the place where they live. And, I never forget a face that I’ve photographed, so when I saw Natalie Romero under her hairnet washing greens in the community kitchen of the Agri-Cultura Network, I knew she was the same women I had photographed harvesting cucumbers at the farm in 2012.
Only now, Natalie was working in a management position and was training another employee how to wash,bag, and distribute the greens. Romero, after two years, had now worked in every aspect of the CSA and was feeding her family homegrown food every night.
When I arrived at the farm, Joseph Alfaro the farm manager (and also Natalie’s husband) described the garbage, the mattresses and the syringes that had been found on this vacant lot before it had been transformed into a farm. Remember, Breaking Bad was set in Albuquerque for a reason. The show may be fiction but its based on some truths about the region. Since my last visit more of the land was being cultivated and there was a newly constructed shed for washing, weighing and bagging produce. They were experimenting with growing potatoes and had all varieties of tomato-starts ready to plant. And unlike most produce in grocery stores, the carrots and turnips that they offered me, actually tasted like something, well, like a carrot and a turnip.
All foundations want to know that their grants are going to good use. I am not sure how you put a dollar amount on it, or what sorts of formulas are used in making granting decisions. This is just one farm, one family. But I know that this family’s children go to school with healthy lunches. Perhaps some of their friends at school ask to try the vegetables. Maybe because drug deals no longer go down in the once vacant lot, this neighborhood’s children are protected from drugs and violence. Natalie, and Joseph are both in leadership roles at the farm. Their sons will grow up to think of women and men as leaders. From what I’ve seen WK Kellogg foundation is making a difference by supporting this community farm.
From my perspective, as a former Peace Corps Volunteer and long time collaborator with NGO’s, documenting the impact of development work sometimes requires more than charts and reports or scripted videos. Images and stories which are authentic and not meant as propaganda can help the grantee, the foundation and the desired audience see what is working or not working. Most importantly, documenting the positive change is proof that change happens, proof that support can make a big difference.
And in some cases, which I have seen and photographed, the support isn’t making a difference. And, as resources are finite, knowing where your support is or is not making a difference is necessary information.
Interesting in seeing a visual representation of your projects from start to finish. Get in touch, I’d love to work with you.