Letter from Executive Director Mary McKinley


Heartland Democracy applied for a federal grant in 2016 to continue and expand our work on education, civic engagement, and community resilience, and we are dedicated to serve the students, parents, immigrants, and refugees who participate in our programs. Our proposal, which was covered extensively in local and national press, centered on our curriculum of empowerment, educational programming to strengthen identity and self-expression, and a focus on the humanities to find ways of connecting with our communities in holistic and sustainable ways.

Heartland Democracy remains committed to this work, and we are so proud of our programs and partners, including the small team of board members, consultants, teachers, coaches, and staff who work tirelessly to pilot what we believe are innovative and inventive projects to serve and strengthen parents and students in our state. What has always distinguished Heartland Democracy and our programs is the fact that we help participants find the motivation to get involved in building civil society and the tools to do it themselves, guided by coaches from their own communities.

In the past few days, Heartland Democracy has been the focus of some social media chatter regarding potential partners and colleagues we listed in the draft proposal we submitted to the Obama Administration in 2016. Though this proposal was publicized without our knowledge, we strongly stand behind its content and mission.

As is often the case with grant proposals, the ideas and partnerships described don’t always materialize as envisioned. While the partners in our work today reflect the partners listed in our original proposal, several of those listed have moved away from this work and many new partners have emerged that we could not have imagined we would have the good fortune to work with. Such is the life of a nonprofit organization.

It has come to our attention that specific attacks have been leveled against Hodan Hassan, a colleague we have connected with at times in the past, relating to her purported involvement with our organization and the work described in our proposal. These attacks are unfounded. To be clear: Ms. Hassan is not, and has never been, a partner in our work. Unfounded attacks have also been directed at other individuals listed in our proposal with whom partnerships never materialized, including Abdirashid Abdi and Christa Perkins. We consider these false accusations to be counterproductive and contrary to the spirit of community and collaboration we are trying to build.

Heartland operates our programs based on three guiding principles: transparency in our work, privacy and anonymity of our participants, and trust in our community. We are a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with deep roots in progressive ideals and democratic institutions. We trust our partners and participants, and we hope they put their trust in us, because we know this is the only way to create meaningful learning, growth, and connection.

We are thankful for the partners with whom we work and look forward to engaging new partners on meaningful, if difficult, challenges in our communities. Our positive, healthy relationships with colleagues and partners make this work possible and valuable, and we know that only together can we grow into the community we want to be.

Please feel free to contact us at any time with any questions or concerns, or to get involved!

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