As we celebrate 10 years at work in Los Angeles, we’re catching up with partners to discuss what we’ve accomplished together so far and how we can do more over the next decade. In a conversation with our own Suzanne S. Brown, Impact Circle Founder and Executive Director Jenissa Washington shared her views on the power of collaboration and service to build up communities.
Can you please tell us about yourself and your organization.
I’m Jenisa Washington, I’m the Founder and Executive Director of the Impact Circle. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) collective of women leaders committed to social change in low-income and underserved communities. We are women, for women, about women by women and utilizing our resources, our finances, our connections, our expertise skill-set to support small extraordinary nonprofit organizations on the ground in locations that serve low-income and underserved communities, families, women, children and we are serious. [laughter]
I would totally agree, you are a serious group of women and a group that is passion driven. What I appreciated about the Impact Circle is your clarity around what you would like to support and how you want to advance the work of organizations that you partner with. Can you tell us a little bit more about the partnership between First Place for Youth and the Impact Circle?
It’s such a beautiful relationship and opportunity. My first introduction was from Mark Bradford and Allan [DiCastro]. I was invited to the opening of Art + Practice and they walked me across the street to show me the First Place for Youth office.
As I learned of the work being done there, I was blown away. When you think of foster care, you think about young children. But former foster youth who are older than 18 and did not have resources or access to all of the things that our children and then young adults have access to, they’re already starting at a deficit. If we think about some of the main things that we all need—it’s not exclusive to former foster care young adults—it all begins with a roof over our head, with housing, a safe place to sleep, eat, grow, build, and educate ourselves. If our young adults formerly in the foster care system do not have that and are not supported in that way, how can we expect them to contribute their best selves, their talents, and gifts to our society.
I was blown away that an organization had the wherewithal to think about the importance of that and about the amounts of former foster care young adults who were left out of the system and out of the opportunity to make a contribution because they did not have the basic need of housing in their lives. The Impact Circle had not been formed at that time, but I filed it into the back of my consciousness knowing that I wanted to circle back and support this work.
Talk to us about some of the work and the accomplishments that we’ve been able to achieve since the partnership was established
The Impact Circle, as I mentioned, it’s an organization that is a group of women who in their own right are leaders. They are so impactful and intentional in the way that they show up. We are an organization that is showing up as a call for action to serve. So this is really about giving in service, identifying who needs these services and then what are the areas that we want to support—education, vulnerable youth, women, women’s rights, gender equality, as well as a racial equality—which allowed me the opportunity to circle back to First Place for Youth.
We were introduced to the Santa Monica location and the specific needs of the Santa Monica residents. What struck all of us about the young women at the Santa Monica location is how committed they were and are to not repeating the cycle of foster care. You can feel it and see it in their eyes. They will do any and everything to make sure that their children do not end up in the foster care system. So the ask was directly related to supporting these young women to go to school and work and have the proper childcare that was needed so they felt secure and safe going out into the world doing the things that First Place for Youth required for them as part of their life skills and as a part of helping them get on their feet. And childcare was super important to them and that’s where we saw we could be helpful and provide a grant that supported that.