2023 marks the 25th anniversary of OSI Baltimore and our final year of operation. As we wind down, we asked our grantees and partners to share their reflections about our collective impact and lasting legacy. Over the coming weeks, we will be posting the reflections on this page and on social media.
Improving health equity and supporting community engagement to improve public health in Baltimore drove many of our investments. The work of groups like Maryland Heath Care for All reflects the lasting legacy of our commitment.
OSI-Baltimore was audacious. We tackled issues others were not willing to touch, brought them into the mainstream, and often created real change.
One notable example was our approach to the issue of substance abuse. When I became involved in the 1990s, substance abuse was treated as a crime and advocacy efforts were minimal. Some public health experts were trying to impact policy, but they were not making significant progress. OSI-Baltimore approached the issue holistically, recognizing that change would take a long time. The goal was to shift to a public health approach, which included treating substance abuse as a disease. The first step in the strategy was to create advocacy positions within organizations that historically limited their missions to the provision of services. OSI-Baltimore developed and supported concrete solutions, such as advocating for the use of buprenorphine, which could be prescribed by a doctor. We also advocated for peer counseling, a systematic way to link resources to people and to increase funding. This trajectory of change positively impacted the lives of many individuals in Baltimore.
Another example of OSI-Baltimore’s impact is the creation of the Baltimore Urban Debate League. This program engaged students, some of whom did not like school, and taught them that they had a voice and could use it to solve problems and as a real alternative to engaging physically to resolve disputes. Many youths have told me that the Urban Debate League was the single thing that changed their lives and they sought out colleges where they could continue to hone their skills on debate teams.
When I think of OSI’s grant-giving impact, I focus on its demonstration of “Reward for Risk,” especially its willingness to take a chance on individuals with ideas for making Baltimore a better place for everyone. Our city has reaped the rewards. As one of the 1998 “pioneering” Community Fellows, I’ve made it a priority to stay involved in the Fellows Network for two decades beyond my own fellowship. Why? For the boundary-crossing dynamism and ideas embodied in each new class of Fellows; for opportunities for collaboration; and for a matchless overview of the systems that both oppress and enable residents to realize their potential, to thrive in a difficult environment. I am grateful for the flexibility and support that OSI has given my own journey (HUGE shout-out to our beloved Pamela King!) from my fellowship to creating Baltimore Green Map’s education programs and maps, and beyond. I look forward to engaging as a member of the Fellows Collective. Thank you, OSI!
Education and youth development have been foundational to our work over the last 25 years. We are so proud to support programs like The Positive School Center that are making a real difference for students
Want to share your reflections? Simply record a horizontal video or audio recording of yourself from your computer using Zoom or using your smartphone (90 seconds or less) and upload it to this link.
At the beginning of your recording, please introduce yourself by saying your name, organization, and title before sharing your message.
Some prompts to get you thinking about your reflections on OSI-Baltimore:
- What words come to mind when you think of OSI?
- What has OSI meant to you?
- How did OSI help you/your organization?
- What have you seen OSI accomplish in its 25 years?
You can also email your written thoughts to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your sentiments may be featured on the OSI website, social media channels, and more.