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Announcing the 25th Heinz Awards Honorees

Established by Teresa Heinz to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards celebrates his accomplishments and spirit by recognizing the extraordinary contributions of individuals in the areas of greatest importance to him.

This year’s recipients include a pianist and composer whose compositions break cultural, gender and disability barriers in classical music; a commercial fisherman leading collaboration between scientists and policymakers to establish sustainable fishing practices and safeguard Alaska’s rural fishing communities; a professor whose research is driving policy change to reduce rising maternal mortality rates in rural populations and address structural racism in healthcare; a founder of a highly effective intervention program that provides relentless outreach to young people impacted by traumatic experiences at the center of urban violence; the creators of an inclusive entrepreneurship model, which is transforming lives and communities by providing entrepreneurs from low-income communities access to services and resources for business training; and an economist whose research on the future of work is overturning long standing assumptions on the effects of technological progress.

Collectively, they represent the vision, creativity and determination that produce achievements of lasting good and meaningful impact, which the Heinz Awards hopes to inspire.

Photo credit: Mariah Tauger
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Gabriela Lena Frank

25th Heinz Award for the Arts and Humanities

Gabriela Lena Frank, acclaimed pianist and composer, is recognized for her brilliant compositions that weave the colors, sounds and mythology of Latin America into classical constructs, and for breaking cultural and gender barriers in classical music composition.

Currently Composer-in-Residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, Dr. Frank is widely considered to be one of the most important composers of her generation. Her compositions are both classical and contemporary, while also drawing on poetry, mythology and native musical styles. She fuses the colors and textures of her heritage into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.  

Dr. Frank is also recognized for establishing the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, which provides professional mentorship to emerging composers from all music backgrounds, guiding them to become artists who prioritize eco-conscious ways of making music as well as giving back to their community. Dr. Frank accepts aspiring composers with diverse backgrounds from across the globe, including those who have typically avoided western styles of composition. As part of their residency, composer participants, together with their mentor performers, volunteer their time through performances and music coaching in the surrounding Anderson Valley.

At the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, young composers receive a rich study and mentorship experience as part of their residency, but during their stay, Dr. Frank also invests deeply in showing these dedicated musicians that a deeper, more meaningful artistic life is one that is connected to community. Dr. Frank emphasizes that arts citizenship is essential to the life of an artist. She volunteers her time to teach music appreciation at the Anderson Valley Adult School and music composition to students at Anderson Valley High School, a rural school with a large Latino population that has little access to the arts.

“These emerging composers, who have been training like athletes for their careers, see how much time I spend with the community, and that this is just as important if not more so than doing the esteemed professional work that I am fortunate to claim.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Frank is also coordinating support for performers who have lost income as the result of the cancelling of concerts across the country. Her Academy has launched a GoFundMe campaign, which pairs performers and composers to collaborate remotely on developing new work.  

In a field that has been dominated for centuries by able-bodied white men, Gabriela Lena Frank is breaking boundaries for women and people of color, bringing classical music into a modern age.

Photo credit: Dan Evans
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Linda Behnken

25th Heinz Award for the Environment

Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (ALFA), is recognized for her advocacy work to promote sustainable fishing practices while supporting the rural fishing communities of Alaska that rely on the ocean for their livelihood and way of life.

Ms. Behnken has been fishing along Alaska’s coastal waters since 1982, and one of her most notable achievements is her work with ALFA. The organization has launched several initiatives, including a five-year grassroots campaign to secure a ban on commercial trawl fishing in federal and state waters off Southeast Alaska. Trawling involves dragging massive nets in what is likened to clearcutting of the ocean floor, catching many non-target species. The ban now covers more than 100,000 square miles, enabling the protection of deep-sea corals and sponges, as well as long-lived rockfish populations.

News article of Linda Behnken

Ms. Behnken led collaborations between scientists and fishermen in order to drive conservation policy and protect the fragile ecosystem of Alaska’s coastal waters. This led to the establishment of the Fishery Conservation Network, which engages fishermen in collaborative research with scientists to address conservation challenges and improve the viability of small boat fishing. One current project is ALFA’s Sperm Whale Avoidance Project, which reduces interactions between fishing boats and sperm whales through satellite-tagging and fisherman reports.

“This battle is common around the country, where people are struggling to prevent family businesses and communities from becoming collateral damage to big industry, whether it’s farming or ranching or fishing.”

Recognizing that fewer young people were entering the trade due to the high cost of entry, Ms. Behnken has been instrumental in assisting the next generation of fishermen. ALFA created the Young Fishermen’s Initiative, which aims to help new fishermen through innovative technology, skill-building workshops, and low-risk loans. Ms. Behnken also co-founded the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, which helps young fishermen overcome financial barriers to entry into the profession.

In addition, because there are no federal programs dedicated to training the next generation of commercial fishermen, ALFA has joined forces with the Fishing Communities Coalition to advocate for the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which would provide federal funding and support for training and education in sustainable fishing practices, marine stewardship, business practices and more. That coalition is also working to protect the interests of small fishermen, their families and their communities as climate change continues to warm the waters of Alaska and take a dramatic toll on fish populations, including an 80% drop in Atlantic Pacific cod over a two-year period.

ALFA has also established the Alaskans Own community-supported fishery, through which consumers can support sustainable fisheries by buying a share of the fisherman’s catch before it is caught. Revenue generated by Alaskans Own is invested back into the conservation of local fisheries, which have been going through economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

A powerful advocate for local fisheries, Ms. Behnken is working to protect Alaska’s fragile coastal waters and the fishing communities that rely on them for a living.

Photo credit: Joshua Franzos
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Molly Baldwin

25th Heinz Award for the Human Condition

Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of Roca, is recognized for Roca’s proven work in changing the lives of young people considered to be the hardest to reach, including those who have suffered as a result of poverty, gang involvement and violent crime and who cannot be connected with through school, work or traditional programs. Roca is a highly effective intervention program that provides relentless outreach to young people impacted by traumatic experiences at the center of urban violence.

Roca’s programs incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); a focus on building trust, safety and relationships; employment skills practice; and long-term coaching. Because the young men and women served by Roca have already experienced a lifetime of trauma, building a foundation of transformational relationships from which change can begin takes time. Roca workers go directly to young people in crisis, tracking them down through friends, scouting the streets, and showing up on their doorsteps. Roca’s trauma-informed curriculum and intervention program takes four years to complete, giving participants the freedom to repeatedly learn, practice, fail, and practice again, even as they are challenged to change their thinking and to become accountable for their own lives.

News article of Molly Baldwin

The Roca model is in place in more than 20 communities across Massachusetts and two years ago, Roca launched in Baltimore. It is cited nationally as a successful, evidence-based model for youth intervention that delivers measurable, sustained outcomes. A third-party evaluation of 978 young men served by Roca Massachusetts between 2013 and 2018 found that only 34% recidivated within three years. And while almost 75% of young men come to Roca with a violent criminal record, four out of five stopped engaging in violent crime during and after their engagement with the organization. As of 2019, 97% of young men enrolled in Roca for more than 24 months had no new incarcerations.

“Roca believes and has seen that change is possible for every young adult, regardless of past history, if we are relentless in engaging with them, in providing the right intensive supports and when we never, ever give up on them, particularly when they fail.”

To further its impact and share its methodology, Roca, in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, has developed Rewire by Roca – CBT Skills for Living, a CBT approach designed for youth workers, front line staff, community workers and criminal justice providers that can be taught, practiced and mastered in the streets and community settings. Roca also serves young women, many of whom are young mothers who have been unwilling or unable to participate in standard support programs. Roca’s women’s program includes services for childcare and transportation, as well as additional, intensive, mental health and domestic violence support.  

Since founding Roca in 1988, Ms. Baldwin has remained focused on a mission to disrupt cycles of incarceration, urban violence and poverty in the lives of young adults. She has worked to seek out young people who could benefit from its program and provide them the educational, employment and emotional regulation skills they need to change their life trajectories.

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Katy Kozhimannil

25th Heinz Award for Public Policy

Katy Kozhimannil, Professor at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Health Policy and Management, is recognized for driving policy change through research that examines the rising rate of maternal mortality in rural, low-income communities and among women of color; the impact of doula care on birth outcomes; and the impact of structural racism on individual and community health.

Dr. Kozhimannil was drawn to the healthcare policy field in part because of the loss of a beloved family member who died in childbirth while working as a nurse on a rural Native American reservation. She saw how maternal mortality could affect families, and learned that maternal mortality is most common in rural communities and more frequent among Black and Indigenous mothers. According to the CDC, about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, and American Indian, Alaska Native, and Black women are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women.

News article of Katy Kozhimannil

Her research works to drive policy change to address healthcare inequities and maternal mortality among women of color. Dr. Kozhimannil’s study “Rural-Urban Differences in Severe Maternal Morbidity and Mortality in the U.S. 2007-2015,” published last year in the journal Health Affairs, revealed that pregnant women living in less populated rural communities have a higher risk of severe illness and mortality than those living in cities, even when controlling for risk factors, and are nine percent more likely to die, or come close to dying, during childbirth from complications such as hemorrhages.

Dr. Kozhimannil’s work has also looked at the impact of doula care in her study, “Doula Care, Birth Outcomes, and Costs Among Medicaid Beneficiaries,” published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2013. Her findings showed that doula support for Medicaid enrollees in Minnesota was associated with a 40.9% reduction in the chances of a cesarean delivery. The research also estimated potential state Medicaid savings from covering doula services in excess of $2 million in most states. That work directly informed the 2013 legislation and subsequent passage of Minnesota’s “Doula Bill,” now a national model for establishing Medicaid coverage of doula care.

“I had this ‘pat on my head’ experience so many times from people who would say, ‘It’s just so nice that you’re studying birth. Is that because you’re a mom?’ No, I’m studying birth because it matters. To everyone.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kohzimannil is speaking out about how the pandemic will worsen access to safe maternity care for pregnant women, especially in rural communities due to the prospects of overcrowded hospitals, giving birth alone and the risks of coronavirus exposure. She also recently published research that identifies the racial inequities of COVID-19 cases and deaths in rural areas. However, she remains hopeful that in rebuilding our public health system following COVID-19, we will structure our policies on a foundation of equity and justice.

Photo credit: Joshua Franzos
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Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester

25th Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment

Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester, founders of Rising Tide Capital, are recognized for the work their organization is doing to transform lives and communities by providing entrepreneurs who lack access to services and resources the business training, mentorship, and financial access needed to successfully launch and manage their own small businesses.

Ms. Demmellash and Mr. Forrester co-founded Rising Tide Capital to create an inclusive entrepreneurship model that removes barriers to opportunity for motivated entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners from low-income communities. Through Rising Tide’s Community Business Academy, individuals looking to launch or build new businesses receive hands-on training in business planning and management, budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing.

News article of Alfa Demmellash and Alex Forrester

The organization provides year-round follow-up support to the graduates through its Business Acceleration Services program, which provides coaching, continuous learning through advanced seminars and master classes, networking, and business procurement and sales opportunities. Most importantly, Rising Tide Capital weaves new and inclusive social capital and networks that enhance the connectivity and resilience of its entrepreneurs as whole persons overcoming multi-generational economic and social disparities to build businesses that sustain their families, create jobs and strengthen local economies.

Since its founding, Rising Tide Capital has graduated more than 3,000 individuals from its Community Business Academy, 70% of whom are women and 90% of whom are people of color. Graduates see an average 84% increase in business revenue and 62% increase in household income within two years of completing the program. The Rising Tide program has expanded over the years and now works with over 1,000 entrepreneurs per year across six cities in New Jersey in both English and Spanish.

“We see entrepreneurs as leaders. They are change agents. Our goal isn’t simply to create more jobs or businesses, but to invest in families and places by focusing on the people who are already stepping forward and creating a new future for themselves.”

Rising Tide Capital recently launched a new operating arm of its organization dedicated to sharing its model with social entrepreneurs in other cities around the country. The model is now up and running in Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina, and the organization is actively recruiting partners looking to make inclusive entrepreneurship a part of their own communities.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rising Tide has been raising direct emergency cash relief for its entrepreneurs. It has also been focused on how best to deploy technology to enhance its educational and technical assistance offerings while recognizing that there is a large issue regarding digital access for low-income communities (approximately one-third of Rising Tide participants do not have a working computer or reliable internet access at home). Ms. Demmellash and Mr. Forrester stress the fact that the COVID crisis is intensifying and magnifying the racial and economic disparities in the United States. Rising Tide is working urgently with its entrepreneurs to strengthen and preserve their businesses during this period, while also developing new curriculum and training that will help them innovate, adapt and build a new, more resilient economy once the pandemic is over.

Photo credit: Joshua Franzos
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David Autor

Special Award Commemorating the 25th Heinz Awards Anniversary

David Autor, MIT Ford Professor of Economics and a leading voice in labor economics, is recognized for his deep body of research regarding labor and trade, economic security and other issues that were critically important to Senator John Heinz.

As an economist, Dr. Autor has conducted research on the future of work that is overturning long-standing assumptions on the effects of technological progress and a globalized economy. His research offers critical new insights on the impact of technology and automation on wages; the long-term impact of trade with China on American workers, their families and their communities; and the decline of middle-skills jobs, particularly in urban areas.

As co-chair of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, Dr. Autor has also examined the geographic impact of technology and automation. His recent study, “The Faltering Escalator of Urban Opportunity,” details that while large “superstar” cities such as New York, San Francisco, Houston and Chicago have traditionally been seen as meccas of opportunity for all workers, technology advancement has led to the elimination of middle-skills jobs such as clerical and administration positions in large urban areas. Dr. Autor’s study also found that this occupational polarization was more pronounced among people of color.

News article of David Autor

In his paper “The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade,” published in 2016 with co-authors David Dorn, of the University of Zürich, and Gordon Hanson, of the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Autor’s work calculated that Chinese imports were directly responsible for the loss of 1.53 million factory jobs between 1990 and 2007 – about one fifth of the total decline in manufacturing employment in the United States. Dr. Autor adds that because economists were overly optimistic about the ability of the United States market to cushion the blow of the China shock, their advice to politicians and policy makers was unintentionally flawed.

“There is a moral and an economic case for making sure society can work meritocratically and offer opportunity, and you can’t do that if the starting points are so very different for people at different income levels.”

Dr. Autor has continued his research during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent co-authored paper for the Brookings Institution, Dr. Autor and MIT Task Force Executive Director Elisabeth Reynolds project that COVID-19 will lead to a rapid change in the nature of work, including increased telework, city de-densification, and mass automation, all of which have significant, negative consequences for low-wage workers.