ASHLAND, WI – Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin has acquired some funding on behalf of the Great Lakes Islands Alliance (GLIA) from the Flint, Michigan-based Mott Foundation that the alliance hopes will make other groups stand up and take notice.
Manitoulin Island is a member of the 14-island GLIA group and held its first face-to-face meeting last week in Kagawong where an executive was elected including Todd Gordon as chair, Keith Flaherty as vice chair, Alicia McCutcheon as secretary/treasurer and Joe Shorthouse as Manitoulin’s representative on the GLIA steering committee.
The Mott Foundation grant was discussed during the inaugural meeting.
“The Mott Foundation is an incredibly large Michigan foundation that works on a variety of different areas with a focus on the Great Lakes region,” said Brandon Hofstedt, a professor at Northland College, the educational institute that is a champion of GLIA. The Mott Foundation is known for funding projects with a civil or social focus, the environment and education.
Last year, Michael Childers, GLIA chair, Mr. Hofstedt and Matt Preisser, Lakes Coordinator with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, which spearheaded GLIA, approached the Mott Foundation for support.
“We were invited to submit a pre-proposal and then a proposal,” Mr. Hofstedt explained.
In July GLIA and Northland College were pleased to announce a $50,000 grant from the Mott Foundation for an 18-month project meant to establish GLIA as an “influential actor in the area with a focus on policy and communication,” Mr. Hofstedt explained.
In the Mott proposal, three goals were outlined:
Firstly, GLIA is seen as having great potential as a policy influencer, as “a strategic voice in the Great Lakes region around environment and natural resources.” The grant will also establish a groundwork to be done to find commonalities across the 14 islands, together with the mainland, which will give GLIA an opportunity to “raise the connected voice,” Mr. Hofstedt added.
The second goal is for broad communications. “To raise visibility and get the word of GLIA out,” Mr. Hofstedt continued. This goal will also mean maintenance and additions to the GLIA website, the continuation of the annual GLIA summit (to be held on Mackinac Island in October of this year) and to raise the overall profile of GLIA.
Lastly, the third goal is that of ‘institutional stability.’ “We’re still a volunteer network made up of representatives from the 14 islands and supporting organizations from the mainland,” Mr. Hofstedt added. “How do we pull it all together now?” This could mean hiring someone on a contract position or a consulting firm, but this has yet to be determined.
“Ultimately, the money isn’t huge, but the profile of having Mott backing GLIA and the support we’ve seen from the islands has been tremendous,” he continued. It helps us to establish GLIA and raise the profile and get GLIA at the table.”
Mr. Hofstedt noted that having a grant such as this is important because “money begets money.” With a highly thought of organization like the Mott Foundation on board, surely others will follow, GLIA hopes.
Mr. Childers, GLIA chair and a Madeline Islander (Lake Superior, Wisconsin) agrees with Mr. Hofstedt in that the grant gives GLIA credibility on the Great Lakes stage.
Mr. Childers said the money will help to “amplify GLIA’s voice around environmental issues” and sees the alliance as becoming an important bi-national lobbying group on all levels of government across both borders.
“In my head the network, as it spans through these different geographies, brings a political megaphone to a lot of different areas,” Mr. Childers explained, noting that he sees GLIA becoming active in seeking out the decision makers, policy makers and overall movers and shakers of the Great Lakes.
“This funding will help to move that ball down the road,” he added. “It underscores our confidence.”