Published in Nonprofits
Steelcase Foundation President Daniel Williams. Steelcase Foundation President Daniel Williams. COURTESY PHOTO

Steelcase Foundation president selected as Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow

BY Sunday, January 16, 2022 06:29pm

Steelcase Foundation President Daniel Williams is one of 19 people in the country selected for a fellowship to help address intergenerational poverty.

Ascend Fellows through the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, will spend the next 18 months developing and implementing plans to help families emerge from intergenerational poverty. Williams’ work will primarily focus on families in Kent County.

Williams’ proposal involves a long-term plan to help guide families as they emerge from poverty by continuing to provide resources for growth after they may no longer qualify for various types of assistance. That would involve multiple community organizations working together to stack services and provide ongoing support “beyond those moments of crisis,” Williams told MiBiz.

“What does an individual family need, how do we work together and multiply that through a whole cohort of families, and how do we do that for a long period of time?” he said.

Williams’ proposal centers on four areas: education, social capital, creating economic assets, and health and well being.

“What we’re working to do is bring together key partners, design what that work looks like, and what’s the best structure to support individual families,” Williams said. “It might be more of a case work model, but it also might be more of a collective impact model that’s centering on their needs.”

The Steelcase Foundation and partnering organizations will spend the next year fine-tuning the proposal and designing how it will work in practice.

While community organizations’ crisis response services have and will continue to play a pivotal role, Williams envisions a program that could help families for upwards of a decade.

“So often what happens is we provide early investments in folks — whether through career training or food benefits, for example. We support families on their front end of their journey, but instead of doubling down on that support, we remove it. They hit the benefits cliff. If they get a raise, they don’t get access to certain benefits,” he said. “We know there’s a gap from what workers are earning and family income to what it actually costs to live and thrive in our community.”

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