We have found that our social change efforts are most effective when they operate in a limited number of geographic locations, in full partnership with communities, over extended periods of time. Many of these places are also locations where WKKF has a deep history of grantmaking, existing relationships and, in some cases, infrastructure to leverage. WKKF works nationally throughout the U.S. and with sovereign tribes. We also concentrate up to two-thirds of our grantmaking in what we call priority places: Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, Chiapas and the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, and in Central and South Haiti. We are committed to working in each of these priority places for at least a generation.
Historically, Michigan began as our sole priority place, both because Battle Creek is our hometown and because of the limited educational and health resources available to Michigan’s then largely rural population. It remains one of our priority places, with an estimated more than one-in-five Michigan children living in poverty. In addition to Battle Creek, we also focus on Detroit, Grand Rapids and statewide.
Our relationships with grantees in Mississippi date back to 1942, and are rooted in eliminating the educational disparities, poor health outcomes, pockets of poverty and enduring racial inequity that impede children’s healthy development and limit opportunities for their parents. Grants are concentrated in East Biloxi, Jackson and Sunflower County.
The foundation has been actively engaged in New Mexico since 1945. We remain committed to embracing the wisdom of the state’s unique and extraordinarily diverse cultural, social and governance traditions and to promoting equity across boundaries of language, ethnicity and national origin. Grants are concentrated in Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley and San Juan counties and with the Native American pueblos, tribes and nations.
Our work in New Orleans dates to 1942, and intensified in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as we joined with those rebuilding the city. Grants are made New Orleans-wide through a racial equity lens, focusing our investments toward creating a child-centered city with high-quality early education and child care, engaged parents and community, healthy food and safe communities, and economically secure families.
We began building relationships in Mexico more than 60 years ago. Today, our efforts are concentrated in the Highlands of Chiapas and the inner areas of the Yucatán Peninsula, areas where poverty is high. Yet both micro-regions also show great potential for improvement – measured by strong social fabric, local leadership, resource availability and a shared sense of priority among governments, private sector and other funders.
Our work in Haiti began in the 1950s, first through fellowships and scholarships, and later with a full-scale grant program that lasted until 2006. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, a new window of opportunity opened in Haiti, thanks to strengthened solidarity among Haitians, renewed international interest and longer-term strategic thinking. Our current efforts focus on two micro-regions: the Central Area and the Southwest Corridor.