Improving Early Literacy in PreK-3: Lessons Learned

August 29, 2016, 8:14 am

Photo: Steve Foley


This week, SRI International releases “Improving Early Literacy in PreK-3: Lessons Learned,” a case study commissioned by The McKnight Foundation that chronicles efforts to improve PreK-3rd literacy proficiency in six schools across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. We’re pleased to feature this reflection from Kristie Kauerz, Ed.D., Director of the National P-3 Center at the University of Washington and a longtime member of McKnight’s Education & Learning National Advisory Committee. In her blog post, Dr. Kauerz connects her knowledge of our local effort with her broader, national perspective to offer key takeaways for philanthropists, policymakers, and school district leaders.

Four Takeaways from the Pathway Schools Report

As someone who’s been deeply involved in the Pathway Schools initiative since its inception, I am encouraged and excited that McKnight and SRI are helping us, as a field, get smarter about the kinds of investments and supports needed to support the educational success and joy of young children in preschool and elementary school. These findings add important weight and credibility to our knowledge base about both the implementation and evaluation of P-3 approaches. I have four takeaways. Read the rest of this entry »


Why a Positive Work Culture Matters

August 16, 2016, 1:13 pm

McKnight staff participate in a volunteer service day each year. In 2015 we partnered with grantees
Midtown Greenway Coalition and Tree Trust.


In a recent employee engagement and trust survey through the Great Place to Work Institute, The McKnight Foundation was proud to learn that 100 percent of the employees at the Foundation say this is a great place to work and they are proud to work here. Shortly afterward, one of our program directors commented to me that she had had an “ah ha” moment at a national conference where the topic of organizational culture was raised. The program director realized that McKnight’s focus on culture wasn’t just to enhance the employee experience — although that matters — the point is ultimately to improve the quality of our work. Read the rest of this entry »


Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy: A Work in Progress

July 11, 2016, 2:04 pm


I came to philanthropy after nearly a decade as the executive director of a culturally-specific arts organization. I understand that in addition to the general struggle to thrive that exists for most artists and arts organizations, artists of color and arts organizations founded and led by people of color especially struggle to own space in which to produce and perform their works; struggle to control the direction or production of their work; struggle to advance positive images and alternative aesthetics derived from their cultures; struggle to get beyond discussions of diversity and inclusion to attend to the deep work of nurturing and advancing their aesthetics; struggle to have the resources to build out, preserve, access, and distribute alternative artistic cannons; struggle to explore and fully represent complex artistic identities; struggle to be valued for their work in building community within a context that privileges and promotes individualism; struggle to garner sufficient community support beyond short-term events and annual programs to get long-term support for sustained general operations.
My list could continue. Read the rest of this entry »


North by Northwest: Rural Resilience in Northwest and North Central Minnesota

June 13, 2016, 8:36 am
Fishing Otter Tail River Fergus Falls

Fishing Otter Tail River, Fergus Falls. Photo courtesy Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce


Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from the McKnight-commissioned “North by Northwest: Rural Resilience in Northwest and North Central Minnesota,” an essay by Jay Walljasper exploring opportunities and challenges in Brainerd, Fegus Falls, and other communities in the northwest corner of Minnesota.


We’ve all heard the following claims about small-town Minnesota:

Rural Minnesota has been devastated by 50 years of “brain drain.” Small towns can’t keep up with the cultural amenities the next generation needs. Only major employers and multimillion-dollar investments can make the difference

And yet none of these popular narratives holds true. Read the rest of this entry »


Reflecting on a Decade of Investing Beyond Rails

June 5, 2016, 9:43 am
View down Washington Avenue from the East Bank station of the Green Line.

View down Washington Avenue from the East Bank station on the Green Line.


In February, an email popped up in my inbox that made my heart skip a beat.

Funders Collaborative No Longer Seeking Funding Proposals

Since our first grant in May 2008, the Funders Collaborative has made 155 grants worth more than $11.6 million.  With our sunset in five months, we have now obligated all of our remaining Catalyst Fund grant dollars. We anticipate making final awards by the end of March.

It’s an unusual announcement for a funding source to share. For the past decade, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (CCFC) has been a central piece of The McKnight Foundation’s Region & Communities (R&C) program work.  The strategy — started as a funder learning network by The St. Paul Foundation and McKnight  and carried forward by the R&C team with 12 national and local funders — provided extraordinary learning opportunities and helped to shape our program’s work. Read the rest of this entry »