Community Spotlight: Owen Duckworth

What do you do for a living and when did you join the board at Headwaters Foundation?

I work as a coalition organizer at the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. We are a coalition organization with over 30 member groups. Our work focuses on racial justice through issues such as public transit, affordable housing, regional growth and development, and jobs equity.  I joined Headwaters board in July 2012. 

How has your work at HFJ deepened your understanding of philanthropy?

My work has given me a much better understanding of both how philanthropy works and how it should work better. I had very little experience with philanthropy coming into my role on the board. A very positive experience of serving on the Social Change Fund, where I've been able to have a hands on experience in grantn making. Over time, I've learned how to see myself as a philanthropist and understand my own power in giving and how to be more intentional of where I devote both my time and resources.

How do you feel you are contributing to Headwaters' mission?

I feel that I'm contributing by having been part of a number of years of work now for Headwaters. I've been part of almost four grant rounds of the Social Change Fund, and I worked at the board level for a full term (3 years) which has included major leadership change in both board and staff. I've also been part of the current round of strategic planning that Headwaters has done. I worked with our board, staff, and other stakeholders in clarifying the work that we do, where we sit in the field of organizing and social justice work in the state, and figuring out what our focus needs to be over the coming years. I think we're at a point where our mission, work, and organizational culture is aligning in an even more powerful way, which is exciting to feel that I've played some role in.

Why do you choose to volunteer as a board member and grants committee volunteer?

I choose to do both because I see the importance of having organizers and community members involved at multiple levels within the organization, and I see a need for increasing the access for organizers to be able to understand and influence the philanthropic sector. On the Social Change Fund, I've been able to build many valuable relationships with other organizers and activists in the Twin Cities and beyond, while also getting my first experience in grant making.

On the board, I've been able to get valuable experience in how a foundation makes decisions, while also being able to influence how Headwaters makes those decisions and how we're most accountable to communities that we intend to support and partner with. The Social Change Fund and Headwaters board are hugely important in terms of leadership development, certainly for me, but also for other young organizers of color to get connected to the philanthropic world. Part of what excites me with our current direction is that we're actively working to expand how Headwaters can provide opportunities for further leadership development of folks in our communities.