An essential aspect of the Bridgeway mission statement is our vision for the community: “Partners effecting extraordinary community and world change.”
We participate in local service projects and in service trips to the developing world. We serve on these projects with our families, fellow Bridgeway partners, our business partners, or with personal friends and even strangers who become friends! We serve by giving - of our personal time, our money and other resources, our mental capacities, our labor, and most importantly, our hearts. We encourage each partner throughout the firm to engage significantly, we say “transformatively,” in his or her own area of passion – both in our work and in our broader communities.
This section highlights just a few of the projects we have been involved with around the world.
Bridgeway’s annual company retreat incorporated a transformative change component for 2013 through volunteer efforts at the Houston Food Bank, the largest food bank in the United States. Bridgeway partners and their family members came together to participate in the sorting and packing process for all types of goods donated by individuals and companies to the Food Bank. These efforts created thousands of meals for families suffering from food insecurity issues in the greater Houston area and beyond.
As you may know, one of the unusual aspects of Bridgeway Capital Management is that we donate half of our profits to non-profit organizations. One areas we focus on took a colleague and me to Juba, Sudan early this year for a week as international election observers with the Carter Center. This historic election was not about electing people to office, but rather determining whether southern Sudan would secede from the north, forming a new nation as provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This agreement was brokered by President George W. Bush in 2005 and ended a 22-year civil war in which 2 million people died. Reflection on the elections. Successful, peaceful elections by no means guarantee peace—the politics, tensions, and dynamics of the region are hugely complex—but the elections were an important step along the way. The presence of international election observers contributes significantly to peaceful and fair elections, and Bridgeway was doing its small part by serving as volunteers in the observation. I felt as if I were in the room as citizens were signing their country’s own Declaration of Independence. This election was important to the people of South Sudan, to those in Darfur and Nubia, to the general stability of one of Africa’s largest nations, and to the surrounding African nations. But it also affects us here in America, as the future of Africa affects our own future. Fast forward six months. I write on July 9, 2011, five days after celebrating our own country’s independence, on the day of birth of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. Even as this is a wonderful moment for many people in the south, full of hope for freedom, peace, and development, problems abound. The per capita income in the south is a small fraction (a few dollars per day) of what it is in the north. There are ten registered nurses for a population of ten million people. Today, a girl is several times more likely to die in childbirth than to learn to read. There remains a handful of rebel groups in South Sudan that are not aligned with the current/new government. There is as yet no agreement on a formula for sharing oil revenues between Sudan and South Sudan or on the status of the border states. Significant violence continues in the border states of Abyei and South Kordofan, in addition to the ongoing tragedies in Darfur. In short, there are many opportunities for continued peacemaking and development. My hope and prayer is for peace at the most fundamental level, true unity, and the setting of a foundation for freedom that will be a model for others.
A service project with Living Water International (LWI) in El Salvador highlights how Bridgeway partners are effecting extraordinary change outside of their local communities.
In May, seven Bridgeway partners left the comfort and safety of Houston, Texas for El Salvador. For two of us, this was the first time on a service trip with our colleagues at Bridgeway, several of whom had completed similar trips in prior years. Our task was to work with LWI to drill a water well for a rural, impoverished community called El Mango. For five days, we were covered in mud, sweat and more mud as we took turns operating the hydraulic well drill, taking dirt samples, assembling PVC pipes, mixing and pouring concrete, and all other various tasks involved in completing a well. We labored side-by-side with the people of El Mango, who offered their own tools, strength, and determination to ensure the success of the project. It was hard work, especially in a tropical climate where it feels like it’s constantly 120 degrees with 100 percent humidity.
Five days flew by, and we were astounded by how much our team was able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. We struck water on the first day at 90 feet, which put us ahead of schedule. In fact, we were so far ahead of schedule in El Mango that we travelled to another community, where we helped complete a 220-foot well. Our final day at the drill site was spent putting the finishing touches on the El Mango well and participating in a dedication ceremony with the community. On that joyous day of celebration and excitement, we were overwhelmed with happiness at seeing the locals pump fresh, clean water for the first time.
For a week in May, a group of seven Bridgeway partners literally lived our vision statement and effected extraordinary community and world change in the little village of El Mango. But it took more than the seven of us to make this happen. We left behind our families and our fellow partners, who gladly and graciously gave of themselves so that we could be gone for a week. Even though they weren’t there physically, their love and support were equally important and such a necessary and vital component to our trip.
The entire experience was unifying, not just for the people who went to El Salvador, but for everyone involved. As another partner, James McKissick (who has been involved with LWI for a long time), beautifully stated, “Stepping out of yourself brings out a whole new energy.” We came back with a renewed passion for our vision statement, realizing that the higher we performed at our job, the better our company would be, which would lead to more success and, most importantly, greater giving. The small community of El Mango is a perfect example of the real difference 29 people can make.
On a sizzling hot July morning, ten Bridgeway partners, a dozen Houston Rotarians and 40 Houston area high school students gathered together in the East end of downtown Houston. Their goal was to sort, wrap, and ship thousands of used books destined for Southern Africa as part of the Rotary Club of Houston’s annual Rotary Books of the World project. One by one, dozens of 4’x4’x4’ boxes were hauled out of a warehouse by fork lift and carefully prepared for shipment.
Upon arrival in South Africa, the books are provided to teachers and students as supplemental reading material. We were hot, dusty and musty when we departed the work site, but we left with full hearts knowing that we repurposed thousands of books that would provide additional learning resources to a community in need.
Fairhaven Food Pantry has been serving the Houston community since 1975. Their mission is to provide emergency food assistance to persons in the Spring Branch area of Houston until other food assistance is available or is no longer needed. Many Bridgeway partners and their families helped package and distribute food during the 2011 and 2012 holiday seasons and held a company “peanut butter” drive in early 2012 to benefit Fairhaven.
Bridgeway partners volunteered to accompany twenty children from SEARCH’s House of Tiny Treasures for an afternoon at the Children’s Museum of Houston. The House of Tiny Treasures is Houston’s only nationally accredited early childhood development center dedicated to serving homeless children and families. Its mission is to provide comprehensive early care, education and therapeutic services that will assist homeless children and families to build stable, functional lives. The museum trip gave these children safe and controlled exposure to the workings of restaurants, grocery stores, police and EMS vehicles, and a television news studio. We loved seeing the joy return to their faces, and their huge smiles made every minute well worth the effort.
Nine Bridgeway partners and one intern took part in a Flash Mob Park Cleanup. Armed with lawn mowers, tree pruners, shovels, rakes, gloves, and lots of heavy duty trash bags, we made our way to a vacant lot full of broken glass, loads of trash, dumped tires, overgrown trees, weeds, and long grass. The lot had been neglected for years, leaving it useless and in dangerous condition. When we left, it was clean, well-trimmed, and ready for the installation of playground equipment and a basketball court. The park is located in Houston’s Third Ward and is now a functional and enjoyable asset for the community.
TALKS ABOUT GIVING BACK – IT’S WHO WE ARE
BRIDGEWAY CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
In 1993, when John Montgomery was writing the business plan for Bridgeway Capital Management (BCM), he thought, “Why wait to give your money away at the end of your life when you can enjoy making a difference along the way? What would it be like if a whole company was built around that?” As a result, BCM’s by-laws state that it will donate 50% of its profits to charitable causes. Over the years, BCM has granted tens of millions of dollars and time to more than 500 different nonprofits. Bridgeway includes all of its Partners (as permanent staff members are known) in the giving program. This idea, turned reality, has had at least ten-fold the benefits imagined. Not only has this philosophy forged a unique culture, it has helped BCM attract and retain highly motivated and talented individuals.
Bridgeway’s mission embraces an extraordinary purpose stated as, “A world without genocide. Partners effecting extraordinary community and world change.”
Clearly, the wish to eradicate the practice of genocide in the world is shared by many, but it remains merely "a goal" until people take action. For that reason, we have included it as part of our mission statement and have devoted time, effort, and resources to this urgent pursuit. In fact, we have a staff member who spends a significant portion of her time working in locales around the world where the pain and suffering of genocide is widespread. In the same vein, a core focus of our philanthropic efforts is peacemaking and ensuring human rights.
Another “big idea” is to inspire Partners and other companies to effect transformative change in their community and the world. Every Partner is encouraged to develop a passion and engage where they see the greatest needs and possibilities. We focus on transformational change, which involves personal engagement and relationships, in addition to dollars. We also encourage grass roots involvement where impact can be exponentially higher. Therefore, many of the organizations we support are not household names…yet!
A few of the organizations that Bridgeway has supported in the areas of peacemaking and ensuring human rights include The Elders, Eastern Congo Initiative, Resolve, Aegis Trust, and the Human Rights Documentation Initiative at the University of Texas Libraries. Other issue areas where multiple Partners work collaboratively are: education, community development, disaster relief, and homelessness. A few of the more well-known organizations that Bridgeway has supported in these areas include Teach for America, KIPP, GenesysWorks, SEARCH Homeless Services, and Living Water International.
Just as in our investment business, our giving hinges on relationships – building them, cultivating them, LISTENING, and working together with community members, to bring about change. Positive change that the community owns and is invested in - that is the transformative change that bears lasting success.
We look for passion, sacrificial leadership, empowerment, results, and sustainability. In order to give money away responsibly, we believe it is important to “get boots on the ground” in the communities we wish to help. In this way, we learn directly from the people what their challenges are and what they feel is most needed. We also believe in getting money to the grass roots, to community-based organizations that are leading and serving their own population.
Bridgeway provides financial resources and time to every Partner to support charitable causes. Partners also give of their own time and financial resources. Over the years, Bridgeway has set aside charitable funding for Partners to allocate, donated matching funds, provided a quarterly volunteer day, organized local service projects, and given Partners time and financial support for service trips worldwide. These service trips have included drilling a water well in El Salvador, mentoring athletes in China, and teaching a class in the world’s second largest slum in Kenya. Our Partners have also traveled on service trips to Rwanda, Honduras, Jamaica, Guatemala, Haiti, and Peru.
The 50% commitment is measured over time and actual levels fluctuate year to year. Because the donation of 50% of profits is in BCM’s by-laws, it is reviewed and certified by independent auditors.
Over the years, BCM has used several vehicles for granting. These include Bridgeway Foundation, direct corporate giving, third-party outsourcing, and donor-advised funds. The discipline that we apply to investing also applies to our giving program. We have a thorough process and are diligent about finding the right partners and ways to have impact. Currently, Bridgeway only accepts solicited proposals for grants.
Bridgeway Foundation was created in 2000 to facilitate the fulfillment of the mission of BCM. Bridgeway Foundation is one of the vehicles used to accomplish the 50% commitment of BCM. It is a private foundation that is a separate legal entity from BCM. Bridgeway Foundation has a Board of Directors that is chaired by BCM Founder, John Montgomery. The President and CEO of Bridgeway Foundation is Shannon Sedgwick Davis. Further information is available at www.bridgewayfoundation.org.
In addition to the individual transformative change efforts of each BCM Partner, there is one full-time Partner dedicated to the giving program. Shannon Sedgwick Davis, President and CEO of Bridgeway Foundation, focuses primarily on the core mission of peacemaking and ensuring human rights. She is dedicated to the giving program, focusing her time on developing relationships, identifying collaborative opportunities, leading projects, and monitoring impact. Shannon’s bio is available at www.bridgewayfoundation.org.