December Newsletter | 2023 in Review

Deaconess Community,

As 2023 concludes we reflect on the year with appreciation for you, our neighbors, community members, partners, and co-laborers with whom we have taken significant steps forward.

Our public meetings and strategy sessions immediately come to mind. After an 18-month engagement process with the community and stakeholders to gather feedback, we launched our new strategic plan and framework. Through four engagement sessions on both sides of the river we shared our audacious strategic aspiration to achieve liberation in the next seven generations. One session included engaging directly with philanthropic peers where we leaned into the practice of transparently sharing our funding approaches to seed intentional collaboration among funding partners. The other sessions provided opportunities for community to offer additional feedback. At each session, individuals and organizations identified and reflected on how the strategy components intersect and resonate with their own work and communities.
With a new strategic framework, we refreshed our organizational branding to incorporate elements of our refined approach to our printed and digital materials. The new look includes a graphic representative of the next seven generations and the values shared by community describing what it would take to achieve liberation.

A record-breaking number of applications were submitted for our 2023 Policy Campaign Grant opportunity, three times more than any previous year. This increase reinforced the need for strong investment in year-round base-building, civic engagement, and community organizing throughout the lifespan of a campaign to change public policy. Just before the Fall we launched our new grant portfolio. A new funding opportunity includes the Movement Transformation Grants which carries forward the efforts of the J4K Anchor Institution Program (launched in 2018) and the Deaconess Impact Partnership (launched in 2004) of strengthening organizational capacity building, operations, and leadership through a multi-year partnership. Below is a list of organizations awarded grant funds this year.

As part of our community-stewarded funds, we salute the Community Governance Board of The Racial Healing + Justice Fund for dispersing a historic $800,000 to support 42 Black and Brown-led organizations in our region this summer, and the Regional Health Commission for the $350,000 investment in supports for local residents over age 55 through the Senior Community Development & Revitalization Fund.

We celebrated the launch of the Institute for Black Liberation this fall, which has created an intentional space to name, reckon with, and heal from racial trauma and the pervasive effects of internalized and structural racism. During November’s public joint board meeting, Deaconess’ board adopted the Racial Equity Dashboard, codifying and measuring internal efforts to build an equitable culture. The Dashboard helps to ensure that not only Deaconess’ practices are equitable and transparent but also provides inspiration for others to do the same.

We’re also excited about partnering with the City of St. Louis on the Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program. The program provides supplementary income and economic stability to local families to combat the economic aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by working people.

As a community, we have cared for one another during difficult times in our country and in our world this year. We encouraged each other, laughed, learned, and grew together both in person and virtually. We broke free enough to dream and cast a revolutionary vision worthy of what our region expects and deserves.

With continued collaboration and faith that moves mountains, we will make the impossible possible. We look forward to being in community with you in the year ahead.

With tidings of comfort and joy,

Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois
President & CEO
Deaconess Foundation

Read the full December newsletter here.