HIPGiver: Bahia Ramos, Knight Foundation Community Foundations Director Written by: Reavey Fike
In living between worlds, Bahia Ramos seeks to be a unifying force that leads, teaches and encourages positive change. Growing up as an Afro-Latina in Brooklyn with strong ties to the Panamanian community, Ramos, Knight Foundation’s community foundations program director, explains that she has, “used empathy and curiosity as a guide to understand and meet the needs of a range of communities and partners.”
On a personal level, Ramos enjoys her role as a translator between the worlds of large-scale philanthropy and community institutions, in a way that can strengthen their relationship.
Ramos manages Knight Foundation’s $175 million investment in community foundations. One of its most visible initiatives is the Knight Community Information Challenge, which encourages funding of projects that meet local news and information needs.
Before joining the Knight Foundation as a National Urban Fellow in 2009, the New York native graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts and served as director of government and community affairs at both the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.
Ramos also spent two years in London as a consultant in the Corporate Responsibility Department of the Man Group PLC, an investment management company. She served on the Grant Advisory Committee for the New York Women’s Foundation, and served as a Trustee for Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn. She is also a Miami Foundation MiamiFellow.
At Knight, the Community Information Challenge has invested in over 100 projects in six years. It has helped thousands of community leaders to learn about technology and media innovations, exchange best practices, and use information to advance change.
One example was a campaign by the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County focusing on closing the achievement gap in schools. The Ready Set Learn campaign helped to change public policy, and increased funding for low-income preschoolers and kindergarteners.
“We don’t just give a check and watch the progress,” she said. “Community foundations are our partners. In addition to funding, we provide research and a space for them to learn and exchange new ideas with their peers in philanthropy as a way to advance local change.”
For Ramos, this Knight initiative also has given her the chance to connect the innovation and action of philanthropy to the daily life of people in the community. Ramos’ grandmother, from whom she draws inspiration, would enjoy that back-to-basics view of giving. Ramos remembers her as a selfless person who was able to see humanity in others and who was always generous with her time and her spirit. The philanthropist learned from her grandmother that the act of giving is, at its essence, about connecting with others. And Ramos has embraced this “theory of connection,” which she learned watching her grandmother, as central to her work at Knight. “She demonstrated the abundance in life,” Ramos recalled.
The 31 HIPGivers recognized in 2015 are collectively altering the landscape for our country. They are pushing the envelope by asking for more – more consideration, more awareness, more compassion, more action, more giving.