Ambassador Mike McFaul Speaks to Sold-out Seattle Crowd

The Jackson Foundation and the World Affairs Council featured former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Stanford University political scientist Michael McFaul at a captivating discussion in Seattle. A leading expert on Russia, American foreign policy, and democratic development around the world, McFaul just published From Cold War to Hot Peace. This latest book – a historical analysis and memoir of his tenure as ambassador in Moscow during the Obama administration – describes McFaul’s development of the United States’ “reset” policy that fostered a new level of collaboration between the countries and explores the subsequent challenges that resulted from Putin’s return. Board President John Hempelmann provided the welcome for the event; board members and staff attended.

John Hempelmann, Foundation President, gives welcoming remarks.

Ambassador McFaul traced his initial interest in Russia to his time as a high school student when he debated the Jackson-Vanik amendment with his partner, Steve Daines, now a senator from Montana. He later lived in Russia and concluded that, “If we could just get to know these people, it would help relations tremendously.” That belief contributed to his eventual development of the reset policy.

Ambassador Michael McFaul

After some initial success with the reset, Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency and took a much more difficult stance with the U.S. Unfortunately, Russia’s relationship with the West became more acrimonious. McFaul noted, “You should never have a conflict with another country due to misinformation – engagement helps prevent that.” The Obama administration tried to establish a relationship with Putin but these attempts faltered amidst worsening relations.

Ambassador McFaul speaks to a sold-out crowd.

On the 2016 U.S. elections, McFaul said, “It was very rational for Putin to want Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and Putin clearly intervened. I would never have expected him to go to those lengths.” “Putin believes we were out to get him. In part, he’s right because an open society with free people by its nature is a threat to the way he governs.”

Jill Doherty, former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief, asks what can be done to improve our bilateral relationship.

In order to rescue the U.S. – Russia relationship, McFaul suggested, “We need some containment, some engagement, and some isolation.” He emphasized that in terms of engagement, we need to get back into arms control. Regarding sanctions, he explained that he supports sanctions against individuals and companies that were involved in the annexation of Crimea, but he does not agree with wholesale economic sanctions. “The private sector should be put in a different place. Independent economic activity should be encouraged.” As a further important step, he explained, “We need to enhance the connectivity between our societies. Closing consulates is a big mistake because we need the architecture for more cooperation between our societies.”

Addressing the challenges facing the U.S. in the next few years, McFaul offered, “I’m nervous about Poland, Hungary, and Europe. This is not the Cold War, but some elements are the same. Putin defines conservatism as nationalism and views this as a fight of anti-globalism against the decadent, liberal West. He is exporting that fight now trying to propagate these ideas around the world.”

Reflecting on Putin’s grip on Russia, McFaul concluded, “While Putin is president, he will hold onto power; it’s a sophisticated autocracy. But the period after him will be interesting – there will be a power struggle.”

We are proud to have partnered with the World Affairs Council to host this key expert on Russia here in Seattle.

Maura Sullivan

Program Officer

For Further information about Ambassador McFaul’s views, please see this Washington Post article: The Smear That Killed the ‘Reset’

 

 

20th Century Historian Tells Students “Be Alert to threats to Democracy”

The Jackson Foundation and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies were fortunate to have brought major scholar and public intellectual Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University, to Seattle to give a lecture. His recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, has resonated with a world-wide audience and has been published in a dozen countries. Along with this #1 New York Times Bestseller, he has written several other award-winning books on World War II and the Holocaust.

Snyder has become something of a rock star historian and activist with “On Tyranny,” since it speaks about the current threat to our democracy and the need to be aware, active, and on guard. Talking to an overflow crowd that had to be accommodated in a second large room at the University of Washington on a beautiful spring evening in late April, Snyder stressed that all of us share a duty to understand events and resist when warranted. Drawing lessons from Germany in 1933, he warned, “If we just react, it will be too late.” “People normalizing the new reality” is one of the hazards of today’s highly charged political environment.  “Politics involves consent,” Snyder cautioned. “If you decide this is just fine, it is hard to go back.”

Drawing on American history – and our founding fathers – he told the crowd to be wary of complacently assuming that our institutions can withstand any assault. He said, “Institutions won’t protect us on their own.” He encouraged the many students and community members present to ask themselves, “What can I do for institutions to make them stronger?”

As a historian steeped in European history, Snyder takes a broad view of what he sees as the diminution of democracy across the globe and the lapsing of democratic norms. “Swastikas on the wall matter today – even if they are on the Internet,” he reminded us. He voiced particular concerns about focusing on social media as opposed to true journalism, suggesting, “Find an investigative journalist and follow him or her. Subscribe to newspapers.”

Snyder riveted the crowd with his twenty lessons for today’s world and his description of the slide towards tyranny. He invited students to ask questions and they did. It was heartening to see the interaction and to witness the power of scholarship, activism, and this call to be awake and present in the real world rather than a virtual one.

We are proud to have partnered with the Jackson School to host this important scholar here in the Pacific Northwest.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

Washington State Attorney General Provides Leadership Tips to Jackson Fellows

When you decide to go into public service, you don’t usually expect a lot of glory. Particularly if you’re running for state attorney general. But fame and attention have caught up with Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who recently sat down with our Jackson Leadership Fellows to talk about making tough decisions as a leader, learning from past failures and mistakes, and having empathy and understanding for your opponent’s position.

Why such acclaim for Attorney General Ferguson, who retains a good-guy, low-key and approachable persona despite being the focus of numerous hero stories? Ferguson has made Washington State one of the battlegrounds for court cases challenging the current Administration, most notably regarding the Muslim-ban for several countries directed by President Trump. Ferguson talked to the Fellows about the need to reach decisions quickly, even when one would prefer to have more time to sift through pros and cons. “Most of the time in leadership you’ll need to make hard and fast decisions,” Ferguson advised the Fellows. “You better get comfortable with it.” The Attorney General, who spent his young adult years as a chess champion, tends to see challenges through a chess prism. “Assess your losses first,” he counseled. “Be objective about your mistakes and learn from your defeats.”

Ferguson also places ethics at the top of his list of key leadership qualities. “Pay attention to your behavior;  your team is watching you,” he warned the Fellows. Character counts, he said. He emphasized, “There are clear lines to delineate right and wrong,” something that drives him as a politician and as a public servant. “Trust your instincts,” he stressed.

In conclusion, Ferguson urged the young Fellows to consider public service – be it full-time or part-time careers – as a valuable path in life. He was drawn to it in order to help people.

2018 Fellows with Attorney General Ferguson from left: Stephanie Celt, Stephen Robinson, Arianna Muirow, Joe Nguyen, Jeremy Wood, Danielle Granatt, and Christina Sciabarra

The Jackson Fellows were rapt as Ferguson discussed leadership challenges. They understood and valued his perspective on current political affairs. We are grateful to the Attorney General for sharing his views with our Fellows. He has sat down with every cohort of our program!

I think it’s fair to conclude that Bob Ferguson has used his public life well to date, and we can expect much more from him. He is truly a leader in the Jackson tradition.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

Fighting for our Nation’s Environmental Protections

A few weeks ago, the Foundation was fortunate to bring to town Ruth Greenspan Bell, the President of the Environmental Protection Network (EPN), to talk to members of our community, our board, and our Fellows about her work. The Jackson Foundation also partnered with the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation to draw in other area funders to learn about her organization.  EPN harnesses the expertise of former career EPA staff – spanning both Republican and Democratic Administrations – to defend against the degradation of over 50 years of environmental legislation spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency. These experts are volunteering their time to serve as resources for reporters, Congressional staffers, and the community.

What do they do, exactly? Well, they answer questions on everything from environmental science to legal concerns, seeking to counter the drumbeat of anti-environmental regulation that has characterized this political period. They monitor developments and provide information based on the collective body of experience and institutional knowledge of the EPA; track EPA and Executive Branch regulatory and enforcement actions to ensure that they do not impair air, water, land, and public health protections; and monitor EPA’s legal obligations to state and federal enforcement of existing protections.

Ruth Bell has been the prime mover in setting up this network. Simply stated, her goal and that of EPN’s is to continue to advance our nation’s bipartisan legacy of progress toward clean air, water, and land and climate protection.  She explained, “We are not a shadow EPA, but we can be a voice for EPA because EPN is not muzzled . . . no one is answering the phone at EPA anymore.  EPN helps fill that void.”

Ruth Greenspan Bell (center) talks to our Jackson Fellows.

The Jackson Foundation, in learning of the broad spectrum of career environmental staffers engaged in this endeavor, saw this as commensurate with the Jackson legacy: first, with Jackson as one of the principal authors of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and second, with Jackson’s long record of environmental legislation.

Why now? There has been alarm at the pace of efforts to diminish and in some cases destroy decades of environmental protection that is underway in Washington, DC. The environmental community – and the public as well – have raised concerns. EPN fights for the values that Americans hold dear, including the clean air and water that we have come to rely on locally and nationally.

We applaud EPN’s efforts to draw attention to the important legislative achievements of the last several decades. It was instructive to have Ruth here to shine a light on the national efforts of career federal employees of the EPA who care enough about their work to continue to do it on a volunteer basis even after they have left the agency they served. Our Jackson Fellows, in particular, were inspired by Ruth’s commitment to continuing the environmental work she started in her many years at the EPA. Given this, the Jackson Foundation’s Board just approved a grant to EPN in the amount of $20,000 to help bolster its efforts to protect the environment.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

 

Jackson Fellows Go To Olympia

Each year we take our current class of Jackson Leadership Fellows to Washington, D.C. to introduce them to our Congressional delegation and to showcase them in a public event. When we shared how useful these experiences are for the Fellows with Washington State Representative Gael Tarleton last fall, she enthusiastically offered to introduce the Fellows to the State Democratic Caucus in Olympia, Washington. A few weeks ago, we took her up on it. Despite the threat of snow, we chartered a small bus, picked up Foundation president John Hempelmann and took several of our Fellows — including alumni — to Olympia last month. It turned out to be a very productive and inspiring day for everyone.

From left to right: Andrew Lewis, Board President John Hempelmann, Michele Frix, Danielle Granatt, Matthew Combe, Joe Nguyen, Christina Sciabarra, Arianna Muirow, Tamara Power-Drutis, and Brandon Hersey at the State Capitol.

The Fellows were welcomed to the Democratic Caucus with applause, and then Representative Gael Tarleton introduced John Hempelmann to talk about Senator Jackson, the Foundation, and the value of the Jackson Leadership Fellows program. Each Fellow introduced themselves and described their projects. Legislators approached the Fellows afterwards to learn more about their work in the community.

Rep. Gael Tarleton addresses the group. A formal picture and fun selfie followed!
From left to right: Andrew Lewis, Michele Frix, Christina Sciabarra, Joe Nguyen, Arianna Muirow, Matthew Combe, Stephanie Celt, Representative Gael Tarleton, Danielle Granatt, Tom Bugert, Tamara Power-Drutis, John Hempelmann, Fellows Program Manager Carol Vipperman, and Brandon Hersey.

Following the meeting, Representative Tarleton wrote in an email that “The Fellows are just amazing, their projects so compelling. It is important for these individuals to experience what it means to serve in public office. Scoop Jackson never lost his ties back to his home town of Everett. He sustained those connections and kept building them throughout his career.  Perhaps some will decide to run for office, and others will decide to join staffs of elected officials. But what every single one of them needs to know is that they spoke to a full house of legislators who are the majority party in WA State’s People’s House. And they impressed us all.”

Senator Zeiger, center, also a Jackson Fellow 2017, meets with the Fellows. Pictured are 2018 Fellows Arianna Muirow and Joe Nguyen.

Immediately following, 2017 Jackson Fellow and Washington State Senator Hans Zeiger met with the Fellows. Hans shared information about the history of the Senate, followed by a group photo, and a discussion on the workings of the legislature. When answering a question about how to encourage more civic engagement, Senator Zeiger responded that we need more Jackson Fellows and to consider a run for office.

From left to right: Christina Sciabarra, Tamara Power-Drutis, Arianna Muirow, Matthew Combe, Danielle Granatt, Brandon Hersey, Senator Hans Zeiger, Andrew Lewis, Stephanie Celt, Michele Frix, Joe Nguyen, John Hempelmann, and Carol Vipperman.
The Fellows walked across the State Campus to meet with Washington State Public Lands Commissioner, Hilary Franz.  Photo credit: Joe Nguyen
Commissioner Hilary Franz and John Hempelmann. Photo credit: Joe Nguyen

In addition to presenting information about the scope of her agency, Ms. Franz shared her perspective on running for office. She also encouraged the Fellows to consider public service as a career and found many interesting connections with several of the Fellows’ projects.  We left informed, impressed, and inspired by her leadership.

The day in Olympia was a positive experience for the Fellows.  In addition to the substance of the meetings, the trip to and from Olympia gave members an opportunity to bond, explore possibilities, and have fun. The Foundation was able to showcase this important program to members of our state government. As a result, we decided to make this an annual event – well worth the time spent.

We would like to thank Representative Gael Tarleton, Senator Hans Zeiger, and Commissioner Hilary Franz for helping make this a great experience for the Jackson Leadership Fellows. See you next year!

Carol Vipperman

Program Manager for the Jackson Leadership Fellows Program

The Scoop Jackson Style of Politics

Hans Zeiger, a Jackson Leadership Fellow (2017) and a Washington State Senator from Puyallup, recently produced a short essay “The Scoop Jackson Style of Politics:  Lessons in relationship-building from one of the great U.S. Senators of the 20th century.” The monograph is the end result of Hans’ project for his Jackson Leadership Fellowship, and is a topic that he gravitated toward given his own commitment to and engagement in political life.  The Fellows can do a variety of initiatives as a project for their fellowship, and a few, like Hans, have chosen to do research or exploratory papers on concerns related to the Jackson legacy.

In this paper, Hans draws on interviews conducted with Jackson’s staffers and colleagues to assess whether relationships still matter in American politics, and he concludes that they do: “Jackson showed the potential of people-centered politics and proved the moral advantages of government based on human relationships.”  Throughout his thoughtful piece, he references the qualities that made Jackson successful, emphasizing that Jackson was a man of the people, a collaborator with others, a mentor, a teacher, and a student, when it was necessary. He asks, “can the Jackson style of leadership be emulated in a new century at the level of the U.S. Senate, if not the presidency?”

Hans Zeiger speaking at a Jackson Fellows event in Washington, D.C.

Hans played a quiet but formidable role himself in his Jackson Fellows cohort and continues to influence his peers in the Washington State Legislature and beyond through his own brand of collaborative, bipartisan-oriented policymaking. We are proud to have him as a Jackson Leadership Fellow alum and equally proud to share this publication with you today.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Farewell, Helen Jackson: You will be Missed

Our Chairman Emeritus, Helen H. Jackson, passed away on February 24, at the age of 84. As I write these words, I am deeply struck at the loss to the Jackson Foundation, which she helped to create, and to the extended Jackson Foundation family of Scoop’s Troops, Board members, staff, and assorted hundreds of others, whom she nurtured and led for so many years in her role as Chairman of the Board.

This is both a personal loss to Helen’s immediate family – her daughter Anna Marie Jackson Laurence and son Peter Jackson sit on our Board – and to those of us fortunate enough to have known Helen over the years. There is a wonderful tribute in the Everett Herald, the local newspaper of Scoop and Helen’s home town, full of pictures and details of Helen’s full and meaningful life.

We have our own memories: Helen with her ready laugh, particularly about anyone too full of themselves, always there to help the staff and Board carry out the Foundation’s work. In the early days, Helen rolled up her sleeves and came often to her office with its wall of photos, small elegant desk, faded pink satin couch, and pile of letters. She always made a point to sign each and every one of the letters to donors herself – a monumental task when our donor list had 3,000 names! I think this gave us a sense of Helen’s devotion to duty and her connection to the Jackson network. She also had a special fondness for chocolate, which we shared and laughed about. She was interested in our lives, our families, and our stories (although she was horrified when our adventures involved anything physically challenging or the consumption of exotic food).

Helen worked with then Executive Director Robin Pasquarella and then Board President Bill Van Ness to build the Jackson Foundation into a substantive and enduring legacy to Scoop. She had a hand in setting the priorities of the Foundation – first among them, supporting the School of International Studies at the University of Washington that would bear her husband’s name. Helen always championed the students and faculty at the university and sought to make the Jackson School a premier educational institution.

Helen with John Simpson, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and then director of the Jackson School Jere Bacharach (standing) and Lara Iglitzin, at a signing for one of the endowed professorships given to the School.

The Foundation of course made an early commitment to environment, energy, and natural resources management given that those concerns constituted a towering part of Scoop’s legislative legacy. Helen leaned on Gren Garside, Bill Van Ness, Chuck Luce, Sterling Munro and others to establish the Foundation as a leader in the environmental arena. Because of Jackson’s role in the preservation and creation of national parks in the Northwest, she often was called on to speak on behalf of the family and the Foundation.

Helen at the dedication and ribbon cutting for the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center, Mount Rainier National Park in 1987

Yet Helen herself ensured that we focused on human rights, a central part of Jackson’s achievements but also one of her own passions.

In 1978 at the height of the Cold War, she co-founded and co-chaired the bipartisan watchdog group Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry, working alongside Scoop’s staff members like Dorothy Fosdick and Richard Perle to raise attention to the plight of Jews and prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union. She made many speeches and met individually with family members seeking to have their loved ones freed, work she continued long after Senator Jackson’s death.

At a huge demonstration in support of Soviet Jewry in 1984

Two decades later the Jackson Foundation partnered with the famous Refusenik Natan Sharansky after his release from prison, and Elena Bonner, widow of the renowned dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov, to celebrate the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which helped hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews emigrate from the USSR.  An extraordinary moment for the Jackson legacy, it was fitting that Helen was in Israel to soak in the adulation of the crowd. I served as her right-hand staff member at that Jerusalem conference and as her unofficial translator for the Russian emigres eager to convey to Helen what Senator Jackson’s leadership – and her own efforts – had meant to them. It was a special role to play. She shared Scoop’s commitment to human rights and fully participated in the marking of this crowning achievement.

Helen with Avital Sharansky, wife of then imprisoned Refusenik Natan Sharansky, at a demonstration in NYC.

Given her lifetime of leadership in human rights, the Foundation was proud to establish the Helen H. Jackson Chair for Human Rights at the Jackson School in her honor a decade ago. Dr. Angelina Godoy, the first holder of the Chair, oversees a human rights center that is on the vanguard of activism and scholarship nationally. It is a lasting tribute to Helen.

Angelina Godoy, Helen Jackson Chair, left, with her students at the Human Rights Center at the Jackson School

Unfailingly gracious and supportive of us all, Helen greatly appreciated the effort to continue the Jackson legacy, which meant the world to her.

Helen, we will miss you.

 

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

Fake News, Free Speech, and Russian Influence

Ripped from the headlines. That’s what our work feels like, sometimes, at the Jackson Foundation. Given our focus on important topics such as climate change, human rights, rule of law, and the need for new public leadership, our efforts have never felt more vital.

This couldn’t have been more obvious than in the wake of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller indictments against Russian individuals and institutions for a targeted disinformation campaign intended to sow dissension in the United States in the run-up to the 2016 election. And that interference in the U.S. is clearly continuing up to the present day.

The Foundation, in a partnership with Human Rights First, has been working quietly for several years to highlight the role Russia has been playing in an influence game in the West. Suddenly this disinformation and fake news effort on the part of the Kremlin has become front page news.

From left to right: Melissa Hooper (Moderator) with panelists Jamie Fly, Amy MacKinnon, and Nina Jankowicz.

Recently we held a public event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. focused on Fake News, Free Speech, and Foreign Influence. In the wake of extraordinary coverage of Russia’s role in the 2016 election and its ongoing interference in social media, this event focused on how the U.S. can combat disinformation and counter Russia’s online influence campaigns. The discussion included two highly-substantive panels with experts who described the nature of the false content – it is ongoing, hard to identify, impacts both political parties, and seeks to divide Americans. In a riveting panel moderated by Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper, Jamie Fly, Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., warned the packed room, “This is still going on, it never stopped. The Russians never left and others learned from the Russians. The goal is to sow chaos and pit Americans against each other.” Amy MacKinnon agreed, saying that, “It exploits grievances that are already in societies. They know where the fault lines lie. They know more about us by far than we know about them.”

Independent author and researcher Nina Jankowicz emphasized that solutions would come from “a whole of government approach, including the Department of Education.” A day or two after the event, The New York Times published an opinion piece on this topic written by her that expanded on this view.

From left to right: Shanthi Kalanthil, (moderator) with panelists Emma Llanso, Jason Pielemeier, and Tiffany Li.

Other speakers also recommended changing our society in ways that would make it less vulnerable to this type of exploitation. A number of speakers emphasized strengthening basic critical thinking skills, civic training and civic education in our nation. They suggested that Americans should improve their media literacy and support high-quality independent media. The panelists believe that technology companies should also play a larger role assisting this process, such as by creating greater transparency around automated bots and better identifying information sources.

Foundation President John Hempelmann offered a welcome for the program and Vice President Craig Gannett and Program Officer Maura Sullivan attended. They found the program, which is one of a number that we have produced in partnership with Human Rights First related to Russia’s role in influencing Western societies, to be informative, well executed, and timely. Human Rights First plans to synthesize the thoughts from the day and will work to inform members of Congress about the recommendations. We will share that with you when it is complete.

 

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

 

The Jackson Foundation’s Year in Review

The Board of Governors of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation recently held its Annual Board meeting in downtown Seattle. The Board meeting is an opportunity for Board members to review the audited financials and the budget, discuss the year’s grants and programs and assess their impact, fine tune the governance of the organization, and raise other relevant concerns. This year, the Foundation received my annual Executive Director’s Report, which provides a snapshot of the work of the Foundation in the Fiscal Year. To accompany the Report, we also produced a short slide show that gives a nice visual overview of the year in review, focusing on our many exciting programs throughout the year.

We were joined the night before the Board meeting by Lt. Gen Stephen J. Lanza (Ret), James Schlesinger Practitioner-in-Residence at the Jackson School of International Studies, a position we supported. General Lanza and Jackson School Director Resat Kasaba engaged the Board in a lively conversation about the demands and challenges of leadership in the 21st century, areas of synergy between the School and the military, particularly in developing new young foreign policy analysts and experts for our nation, and implications of climate change that play into international and national security considerations. General Lanza praised the Jackson School, and Dr. Kasaba, for having the foresight to devote itself to educating the next generation of young people to take the helm in foreign policy circles.

General Lanza speaking at the Annual Meeting dinner.

At lunch after the Board meeting, co-founders of the Center for Climate & Security, Frank Femia and Caitlin Werrell joined the Board in a discussion moderated by one of the Foundation Vice Presidents, Susan Wickwire, that delved further into the climate security work that the Foundation is supporting. Femia and Werrell provided an impressive and concise overview of the political calculations and negotiations that are currently underway in Washington, DC as they relate to climate and national security, a subject that occasionally generates rare bipartisan action.

Frank Femia speaking at the Annual Meeting luncheon.

This was a successful and productive Annual Board meeting. The Foundation is fortunate to have a dedicated and engaged cohort of Board members, led by Board President John Hempelmann. At this year’s meeting, several new members were elected to the Board, including the first alumnus of the Jackson Leadership Fellows’ program, Matt Combe. We hope this will be the first of many elevations of our Leadership Fellows to our Board.

We thought you might enjoy reading the Executive Director’s Report and viewing the slide show, as both together really show you what we’re about and how much we’re doing. We welcome your questions and reactions to our work.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director

 

 

Jackson Fellow Works on Workforce Equity

The Jackson Foundation occasionally asks one of the Jackson Leadership Fellows to contribute a blog about their own projects and activities, inspired in part by their work during the Fellowship year. Today’s blog is by 2017 Fellow Alyssa Patrick, who has been engaged in an innovative effort to improve workplace equity right here in Puget Sound. 

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

In 2014, I moved to Seattle and unintentionally placed myself between the dichotomous outcomes of the city’s economic boom. Through my job in university economic development I saw the signs of prosperity – new business, new job opportunities, new and young residents. Through my volunteer experience in Big Brothers, Big Sisters, however, I saw how the growth exacerbated already existing wealth and racial disparities. Seeing these challenges sparked my interest in a career in public service, and in particular how to develop long-term solutions to complex problems. Senator Jackson’s legacy of that approach drew me to apply to the Leadership Fellowship. Becoming a Fellow gave me my first lessons in public service, and provided me an opportunity to start exploring the programs, partnerships and investments needed to equitably disperse Seattle and King County’s prosperity.

The role of workforce in equitable economic development

My exploration focused on regional workforce development. Access to Seattle’s high demand jobs requires access to quality education and training. Barriers to that access often exist for communities of color, low income communities, and others historically marginalized. While Seattle’s median income hit $80,000 in 2016 and skilled workers remain in high demand, the people benefiting from those opportunities are still largely white and often from out of state. In addition to earning less, communities of color often also live further from new job opportunities in the city center due to historically racist zoning policies. One way to start changing these trends is investing in education and training for young people who are disconnected from a path to living wage work.

According to a recent report from the Workforce Development Council of King County, many of those young people are living in South King County. While there are several public agencies dedicated to making education and training investments in that area, I wanted to know how to engage local employers. Improving access to quality jobs in the region also requires buy-in from companies who are prioritizing diversity and inclusion initiatives. In order to explore this question through my Jackson Fellowship project, I turned to the Technology Access Foundation (TAF). TAF is a non-profit focused on improving access to STEM and technology fields for students of color and underrepresented communities. TAF is leading innovative approaches to overcoming workforce disparities – including a STEM-based school in partnership with the Federal Way School District, a fellowship program for teachers of color, and distribution of the STEMbyTAF academic model. Given I am not from the impacted communities, it was important for me to learn from community-developed approaches and how I – and the public sector – can better support them.

When I approached TAF, they were looking to grow the corporate partnerships crucial to their mission. For my project, I helped plan a small, executive-level roundtable event to engage potential corporate partners, and kick off a new initiative called UnTapped. The initiative aims to provide companies with the knowledge and tools needed to tap into a diverse talent pool before students graduate from high school.

A Jackson Project with the Technology Access Foundation

The event took place in September at F5 Networks. We invited HR and recruiting representatives new to TAF to hear a panel discussion from existing partners and TAF alumni on the impact of integrating K-12 engagement into diversity and inclusion efforts. After the discussion, attendees broke into working groups to share existing challenges to taking that approach, and how to start overcoming them.

The conversation and what I learned working with TAF left me struck by the relative simplicity of the steps needed for change. Over the past couple of decades many companies have started diversity and inclusion initiatives focused largely on recruitment and retention efforts. The panelists discussed the importance of changing job descriptions to make sure they aren’t unintentionally biased towards one population, and setting up internal mentorship programs and other resources so underrepresented groups hired into largely white companies feel supported.

“Making sure people know they don’t have to become somebody else to be successful in your company is crucial,” said Francois Locoh-Donou, CEO of F5, who spoke during the event.

Another often overlooked challenge of recruiting from black and brown communities mentioned during the panel was networking. If leaders and recruiters are white and largely reaching out to white networks, demographics in the companies will stay the same.

“Having administrators and CEOs who are actually part of diverse communities is crucial,” said panelist Aiko Bethea, director of diversity and inclusion at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Be careful not to just parachute in for recruiting, though. Actually work to expand your networks, showing up personally and on a regular basis.”

While simple in concept, the recommendations still take time, energy and resources. Two of the biggest take-aways for leaders in the room, and for myself, were the need to prioritize these efforts, and to put yourself into uncomfortable settings to make real change.

Thanks to the event, TAF fostered deeper relationships with companies who were energized by the conversation. TAF is continuing the UnTapped series, and the next event is taking place at Google on January 11.

The event and several months I spent working with TAF gave me a better understanding of the barriers faced by communities of color, the engagement need from employers to make change, and methods for encouraging that engagement. In the fall, I started a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington, where I am pursuing additional questions about the role of public-private partnerships in equitable economic development. I am grateful for the Jackson Leadership Fellowship, and the opportunity it provided to explore an issue close to my heart that will continue guiding my career.

Alyssa Patrick, 2017 Jackson Leadership Fellow