These past months, we've found ourselves returning to the same question: are our plans still serving their purpose, or is there a greater opportunity made possible by the crises in which we find ourselves?
We asked NCG's board, staff, and membership to weigh-in on how they're balancing this question. This month we spoke with Reneé Espinoza, Director of Program Strategy, Metta Fund, who shared Metta Fund's work advancing equity in aging and what's keeping her up at night. You can connect with her and learn more about the work Thursday, February 4th at Caregiving in the Spotlight: An Opportunity to Rebuild and Reimagine.
1. How’d you get started in this work?
It all started over 25 years ago when I volunteered with AmeriCorps; the experience was life-changing and ignited my passion for community service and volunteerism. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many CBOs dedicated to social change. Most recently, as the Executive Director of SFCASA, I partnered with diverse stakeholders to support juvenile justice reform efforts as well as policy and systems change in foster care. Now that I’ve transitioned into philanthropy and the aging space, I’m similarly seeking to collaboratively support programs and movements to improve outcomes.
2. Are you new in your role? Been there a while?
I started at Metta Fund in September, so I am new to the organization and new to philanthropy. In my roles at various San Francisco nonprofits, I had the opportunity to partner with a number of NCG members. I look forward to making many more new connections and meaningful, collective impact.
3. What’s waking you up in the morning? Or keeping you up at night?
When I’m not awoken predawn by one of my children or one of my pets, I get up thinking about opportunities and community-led strategies to best support our elders and their families. And how in my new role, I can be responsive, authentic, and helpful to our grant partners. What keeps me up at night is the role we all play in driving change, especially as it relates to shifting demographics and the increasing urgency of building equitable systems to better meet the needs of our aging nation.
4. How are you and your organization moving the needle on racial, social, and economic justice personally and professionally? How has the uprising changed things? Where are your pain points? Your moments of grace?
At Metta Fund, we are focused on advancing equity in aging. We know that a lifetime of inequity—whether racial, economic, or gender-based— is compounded in old age. The uprising, as well as the pandemic, has brought increased attention to racial disparities, making it obvious that philanthropy can do more to erase the disadvantages that elders of color face in our society. Our charge is to continue to ring the alarm and to advocate for racial equity solutions in aging.
5. Where are you inviting collaboration these days?
In a number of places! Last year, we launched the Aging Intersections Funder Network, the first collaborative focused on equity in elderhood. We have also been busy with a state-wide partnership focused on California’s new Master Plan for Aging. This year, we will continue our work to raise awareness of ageism via the public-private Reframing Aging effort. There is much work to be done to ensure justice in aging, and we welcome more folks to the table.
6. What’s exciting you most about your sector?
I think it’s a new dawn and I’m excited for what’s possible in the near term. With a new President and Congress, there are opportunities to collectively tackle big problems – such as the caregiving crisis – while centering racial equity. I’m looking forward to collaborating with stakeholders across sectors to ensure that we can all age with health and dignity.