Just for Kids (J4K) Community Conversations

Just for Kids (J4K) Community Conversations are forums designed to introduce our community action tank, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, to the St. Louis region and amplify Deaconess Foundation’s commitment to Building A Community Just for Kids. The J4K Community Conversations series is a set of public forums on topics that advance the work of child advocates through public policy and racial equity. The series is made possible with support from the estate of the late Mrs. Ruth and Rev. Carl C. Rasche, historian of The Deaconess Heritage and president emeritus of Deaconess Hospital, respectively.

Jim Wallis,

December 9, 2019

Faith-Inspired Social Action

We welcome Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners, New York Times bestselling author and widely-recognized theologian.

Rev. Wallis a globally respected writer, teacher, preacher, and justice advocate who believes the gospel of Jesus must be transformed from its cultural and political captivities. He is a renowned speaker, regular international commentator on ethics and public life and is the author of 12 books, including American’s Original Sin, God’s Politics, The Great Awakening, and The Call to Conversion. He served on President Obama's White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and has taught faith and public life courses at Harvard and Georgetown University. “Coach Jim” also served for 22 seasons as a Little League coach for his two baseball playing sons.

In his most recent book, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus, to be published in September, he argues that our cultural and political crisis largely stems from how the American church has become disconnected from the teachings of Jesus Christ. As he has done throughout his career, his prophetic vision and pastoral wisdom both provoke and counsel, guiding us forward during this time of confusion and fear. He reveals how following the teachings of Jesus emboldens and empowers us to be not afraid, but to act in courage and hope.

Rev. Wallis will share reflections from his knew work and enter into conversation with local leaders about the intersections of faith and action. In addition to discussion of how to mobilize faith communities for community action, the Conversation will feature the announcement of Deaconess’ Rev. Buck Jones Memorial Grant for Tenant Organizing Funded Partners.

Jim Wallis Keynote
Jim Wallis Part II
Jim Wallis Part III


Joe Goldman,
Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice

November 18, 2019

In Service of Healthy Democracy

As President of Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice, Joe Goldman carries out the missions of these organizations ensuring that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people, and to help America build a stronger, healthier democracy.

Pierre Omidyar (founder and former chairman of eBay) created the Democracy Fund out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values. Democracy Fund envisions an American democracy that is healthy, resilient, and diverse. A society that respects the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of each individual and empowers each person to pursue and achieve the common good. A people that have the information they need to hold their leaders accountable and to actively participate in public life. And a public that is confident its voice is being heard and that democratic institutions are faithfully and effectively serving the nation’s best interests.

Joe will share the Fund’s perspective on essential elements and critical influences for healthy democracy and how the what the philanthropy is supporting to advance this framework. Conversation with Joe will be accompanied by announcement of Deaconess’ 2020 Policy Campaign Grant Funded Partners.

Joe Goldman Keynote
Joe Goldman Part II
Joe Goldman Part III


Tyra Mariani,
New America

October 15, 2019

People-Centered Policymaking

We welcome Tyra Mariani, President & Chief Operating Officer of New America. New America is a new kind of think and action tank: a civic platform that connects a research institute, technology lab, solutions network, media hub and public forum. Highlights from their 20-year history include influencing federal policy relating to early childhood education, developing programs to help redefine care policy and pioneering the ASPIRE Act. New America’s approach to public problem solving is detailed a recent piece in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Prior to New America, Mariani was Chief of Staff to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Deputy Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration. She helped shape policies and programs impacting education from early learning through college and career and led teams that took Administration priorities from vision to strategy and implementation: including the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and RESPECT, an effort to elevate and transform the teaching profession.

In addition to Conversation with Tyra, the October session will feature the release of the Missouri Children’s Budget: a multi-issue advocacy tool developed by Deaconess and Missouri Budget Project.

Tyra Mariani Keynote
Tyra Mariani Part II
Public Problem Solving & People Centered Policy Presentation
Legislative Response & Closing Remarks


Leslie Crutchfield,
Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

October 23, 2018

How Change Happens

Leslie Crutchfield is an author, the Executive Director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and a Senior Advisor at FSG Social Impact Consultants. Leslie is an author of three books, including Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits – recognized by The Economist on its Best Books of the Year list – and Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World, her third book releases soon, How Change Happens (forthcoming/Wiley 2018).

Leslie was previously a managing director at Ashoka, the global venture fund for social entrepreneurs, and she cofounded a national nonprofit social enterprise in her 20s. She has contributed to Fortune, Forbes, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Stanford Social Innovation Review, and has appeared on programs such as NPR and ABC News. Leslie has served as a trustee of SEED Foundation and Kiva, and volunteered with Crossroads Africa. She holds an MBA and BA from Harvard, and resides in the Washington, D.C. region.

Leslie Crutchfield Keynote
Leslie Crutchfield Q&A
Panel Discussion with Local Movement Leaders
Moderated by Leslie Crutchfield


Dr. Manuel Pastor,
University of Southern California

September 20, 2018

Equity, Growth and Community

Manuel Pastor is Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC). He currently directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). Pastor holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is the inaugural holder of the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC.

Dr. Pastor’s research has generally focused on issues of the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities – and the social movements seeking to change those realities. His recent books include: Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas, Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration, Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future, This Could Be the Start of Something Big: How Social Movements for Regional Equity are Transforming Metropolitan America; Staircases or Treadmills: Labor Market Intermediaries and Economic Opportunity in a Changing Economy and Regions That Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together.

Dr. Manuel Pastor Keynote
Dr. Manuel Pastor Q&A
Equity, Growth and Community Presentation Slides

Missouri Changing States Power Audit 


Dr. William C. Bell,
Casey Family Programs

August 21, 2018

Faith Communities and Child Welfare

William C. Bell became president and chief executive officer of Casey Family Programs in January 2006. He chairs the Executive Team and is ultimately responsible for the vision, mission, strategies and objectives of the foundation. Prior to becoming president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, he served as the foundation’s executive vice president for Child and Family Services, providing strategic direction to nine field offices and leading a staff working directly with young people from the public child welfare system. Prior to joining Casey, he served as commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services.

Dr. Bell earned his Ph.D. in social welfare from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, his Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work, and his bachelor’s in biology and behavioral science degree from Delta State University. Dr. Bell is a member of the board of Philanthropy Northwest, Delta State University Foundation and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. He serves on the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association board of trustees, and he is a member of the advisory board of the Racial Equity and Leadership Institute.

Dr. William C. Bell Keynote
Dr. William C. Bell Q & A
Casey Family Programs’ Faith-Based Toolkit Executive Summary


Dr. Gregory Ellison II,
Emory University Candler School of Theology

August 3 & 4, 2018

Fearless Dialogues

Fearless Dialogues is a grassroots initiative that creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard, heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change and positive transformation in self and other. Greg Ellison is the founder of Fearless Dialogues. Greg Ellison’s new book, Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice, uses interdisciplinary voices to provide school systems, local and regional initiatives, faith-based alliances, and partnership-minded organizations with a theoretical template for creating space, appropriating silence, fostering discussion, managing conflict, revealing strengths, nurturing strategic alliances and facilitating sustainable change.

The Rev. Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II is associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Ellison’s research focuses on caring with marginalized populations, pastoral care as social activism, and 20th and 21st century mysticism. He is the author of Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men and Fearless Dialogues, and has another book in progress, Anchored in the Current: The Eternal Wisdom of Howard Thurman in a Changing World.

Dr. Gregory Ellison II


Marian Wright Edelman,
Children’s Defense Fund

April 19, 2018

Building a Community Just for Kids

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation. She is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. They have three sons and four grandchildren.

Mrs. Marian Wright Edelman Keynote
Legislative Response & Closing Remarks