That’s a tall order – but do-able and Fleming is someone with actual experience in how to make that happen at the local levels.
I’ve known David Bohnett since before he became a billionaire businessman and philanthropist by founding GeoCities in 1994 after the devastating loss of his beloved partner, Judge Rand Schrader, an icon in LGBT Los Angeles. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal described GeoCities as a prototype of today’s Facebook because it was about creating community. David’s approach to social activism through philanthropy is about empowering individuals and contributing “capacity-building” foundation grants to start-up local organizations.
But the LA-based foundation – which Michael Fleming runs – also does follow-up, which I wrote about last February.
“Rachel Maddow fans know how she gets all geeky-giggly when talking about “infrastructure” – how great the need is to fix and maintain the crumbling structures and the highways and byways that keep America moving.A story last month in a local Long Beach community paper describes how the CyberCenter at the LGBT Center there “serves technology-deprived community.” What if – and I’m just thinking out loud here – what if those CyberCenters become the new after-school playgrounds, with volunteer teacher/supervisors showing how interest in gaming can become a career in math and science?
Perhaps someone in the US Interior Department should talk to Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation to see how it’s done. Late Wednesday, Fleming announced grants totally $500,000 to “refresh” the computers in 24 David Bohnett CyberCenters across the United States, including the CyberCenter at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. The “refresh” program was started in 2004 to keep the CyberCenters up-to-date with each CyberCenter receiving brand new state-of-the-art equipment on a consistent basis, about every three to four years.
Building self-perpetuation into a development plan – what a concept! But this is not just routine maintenance: this is social activism quietly at work….Knowing that access to information – access to knowledge – is vital to education, research, confronting lies, networking and personal development – as well as just having fun with online games – Bohnett worked with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center to open the first David Bohnett CyberCenter in 1998 at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza. The CyberCenter proved to be so successful, the foundation used it as a model to set up 63 David Bohnett CyberCenters nationwide.”
Here’s the complete press release from the White House:
Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the newly created White House Council for Community Solutions. Through an Executive Order signed this morning by President Obama, this new Presidential Council enlists a wide array of leaders from businesses, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, universities, and community groups to encourage the growth and maximize the impact of innovative, community-developed solutions to address some of our nation’s most serious challenges. The 30-member Council is chaired by Patty Stonesifer, former head of the Gates Foundation and now head of the Smithsonian Board. Council members also include Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Jon Bon Jovi, musician and Board Chairman, Bon Jovi & Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.
“I am deeply honored to be asked to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions and to work alongside such distinguished colleagues from the nonprofit, private and philanthropic sectors. We face great challenges in this country and I know that this Council will strive to find fresh, innovative and pioneering solutions to meet the needs of our communities,” said Michael Fleming.
“For more than 15 years, Michael Fleming has been at the forefront of innovative social justice and philanthropic efforts to uplift communities across the country. He will be a tremendous asset to our nation as a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions,” said Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti.
The Council will serve three key functions: Enlist leaders in the nonprofit, philanthropic and private sectors to make progress on key national policy goals; provide strategic input and recommendations to help the federal government promote greater innovation and cross-sector collaboration to realize solutions to our nation’s toughest challenges; and honor and highlight those making a significant impact in their own communities. The Council will also focus on developing ways to enlist more Americans and leaders across sectors to help catalyze change in communities and have an impact in addressing our nation’s important goals in education, youth development and employment.
“The president has made an outstanding choice in naming Michael Fleming to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions. Few people are as adept at tapping diverse networks to bring together the minds, energy and resources necessary to solve tough problems. That skill will be crucial as the president looks for fresh solutions to America’s challenges, so I congratulate both President Obama and Michael on this exciting appointment,”said Chuck Wolfe, President and CEO, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Leadership Institute.
Michael Fleming has been the Executive Director of the Los Angeles-based David Bohnett Foundation www.bohnettfoundation.org since 2000, and also serves as Mr. Bohnett’s political director. He works hand in hand with Mr. Bohnett to promote the Foundation’s goal of improving society through social justice and civic activism. The Foundation funds forward-thinking programs, organizations and institutions in areas including public policy, education, the LGBT community, the arts, gun violence and animal language research.
Immediately prior to joining the David Bohnett Foundation, Fleming was Media Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. Fleming began his career as an Associate Producer for PBS’s flagship station, Boston’s WGBH-TV, managing the nightly “Ten O’clock News.” Fleming remains active in broadcasting as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Santa Monica-based KCRW Foundation, one of the country’s—and the Web’s—most listened-to NPR stations.
Fleming’s community involvement includes an appointment by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles Convention Center. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Michael Fleming currently resides in Los Angeles with his partner, Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin. Fleming holds a B.A. from The Colorado College, and was a Victory Fellow (now Bohnett Fellow) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. A full-length bio is available at http://www.bohnettfoundation.org/personnel/view/2