Insights, News

GreenLight Partners Come Together for SHIFT Series

Feb 10, 2022


How do we drive significant positive change that addresses pressing social challenges in our community?

Our virtual 2021 SHIFT Series convened residents and leaders actively shifting their use of partnerships, tools, platforms, and power to achieve tangible change by centering people.

We asked big questions that led to authentic, vigorous debate – which in many ways mirrors GreenLight’s selection process. We covered topics including childhood poverty, the teaching profession and Black women leading social change.

I’m grateful for our incredible speakers and hundreds of participants who engaged with us on these critical topics. Below find a recap and recording of each of these important and inspiring conversations.

Our first session, Tools for Dramatic Change: Using Data, Policy and Voice to Fight Childhood Poverty explored: What tools can we use to influence federal, city, and neighborhood shifts that affect our most vulnerable populations? What bold approaches are being used to tackle child poverty and what isn’t being done?

“Solving for child poverty cannot be done by a single siloed program that only focuses on children. Until we’re focused on the full complement of what a family needs, we can’t make dramatic change…” – Anika Goss

“At the center of all of our transformative work have been the amazing voices of our families. That voice began to shape our programs, practices, and internal policies… we know the more empowered they are, the healthier they are and their children are…” – Cheryl P. Johnson

“Poverty is an issue that requires an inclusive approach, it has to be one driven by dignity and respect… I’m up here [in the State Capitol] and I think it’s important… that there’s a great recognition that this [federal support] is not once-in-a-lifetime – this is one time.” – Conrad Mallet, Jr.

“Providing jobs is an important piece of the puzzle, but we also have to think about the whole family. With the child tax credit in just one year, the results have been staggering. Child poverty has been cut by 30%, pulling 3.5 million children out of poverty… More inclusive than anything we’ve ever done before.” – Dr. H. Luke Schaefer

The second session Leading the Class: Uplifting our Teaching Profession With and For Teachers recognized that teachers have the single greatest impact on our children while in school and multiple factors contribute to their success. As a profession with a significant retirement wave on the horizon, how are we shifting our approaches to critical issues such as job satisfaction, recruitment, career ladders, resourcing, professional progress, and equitable results?

“We know that teachers are rocket scientists and magicians. They are therapists and chemical engineers. They are artists and lawyers all in one class period. They are also human. Deeply human. And this very hard, often unappreciated profession needs our attention. Needs our gratitude. Needs our boldest ideas.” – Angelique Power

“You can’t talk about a high performing district, you can’t talk about a high quality education, you can’t talk about a district giving students what they need if they’re not investing in teachers. Teachers are the core of the work, they’re the epicenter of reform. There is no better investment that you can make for students other than investing in teachers.” – Dr. Nikolai Vitti

“We say give grace but do we practice it? But the pandemic unearthed so many inequities, but not all, and so we need to make sure that we are continuing to be intentional about unearthing these inequities so we can better serve our kids.” – Calvin Nellum

“That narrative of what it’s like to pursue education as a field of study, as a sector, is right now a soiled national narrative and we need to take that narrative back… What if society-at-large catapulted the teaching profession to the very top of the flagpole?” – Dr. Desmond Blackburn

Third in the series, Building Change that Lasts: A Conversation with Black Women Scaling Social Impact highlighted Black women at the forefront of innovation and social change. As they continue to drive critical missions forward, intersecting racial and gender inequities create a unique set of challenges to sustain their organizations and scale their social impact over time. In this candid conversation with four leading Black women, we explored the tools, strategies, and mindsets that are helping them build lasting change and shift outcomes in their communities.

“The conversation around scaling is way more dynamic than more money, more people, bigger, better. It’s about scaling for a purpose. Scaling is relative… Black women in particular, who don’t necessarily have access to the resources, the things that actually will help them scale… aren’t in the conversation like others.” – Donna Murray-Brown

“Scale efforts have to remain flexible. They have to be driven by the community… Detroit youth have unique needs. But I would say the best way to scale our work is public funding.” – Margrit Allen

“My utmost core value is love – it’s driven by my faith and so I think everything that I do and how I show up. I show up every day because I am the kids and people that we serve. Don’t ever be ashamed of where you come from… there’s power in that.” – Dr. Chanel Hampton

“If we don’t remove all these barriers we place on people, there is nothing to scale. There are 44,000 associated legal sanctions and collateral consequences that create barriers to job access… Often, just having a justice involvement or a criminal conviction ends up being a lifelong barrier to employment.” – Nina Hicks

To view the full recordings of the sessions, visit