David Martinez III serves as director of capacity building and community engagement at Vitalyst Health Foundation, working with community-based leaders, organizations, and coalitions to increase capacity and civic participation.
Prior to joining Vitalyst, Martinez (2011) was project manager for the Center for the Future of Arizona and before that community engagement manager for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. He was in the inaugural class of the Flinn-Brown Fellows and is involved with the Arizona Community Foundation’s Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Originally from Marana and one of six children, Martinez is a first-generation college student, earning a B.A. in secondary education, political science and journalism from the University of Arizona. He served as Student Regent on the Arizona Board of Regents, worked at the UA Office of Institutional Equity, and interned with U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Martinez currently lives in central Phoenix and as a localist, loves to explore Arizona.
1. Can you please describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization?
At Vitalyst Health Foundation, I oversee our capacity-building and civic-health portfolios of giving. Overall, the work is to improve the health of Arizonans and our communities, but we see health as more than just health care. We work to protect the Affordable Care Act and AHCCCS/Kids Care in Arizona and ensure health is in all policies at the local level, especially around housing affordability, access to healthy local food, and multi-modal transportation options.
In my specific work with capacity-building, we work with community-based leaders, organizations, and coalitions whose work may intersect with policy, and are actually now developing work to build the capacity of more nonprofits to engage in advocacy and public policy.
Within the civic-health work of Vitalyst, we often convene or join action on public policy like community safety, school safety, and the census. The idea is that we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy democracy, so we support how communities come together to tackle their communities’ toughest challenges.
2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
Working for a health foundation during a public-health crisis has been fascinating and challenging, but only shows how important it is to see health more broadly, the social determinants of health, and the inequities that existed far before COVID-19.
Our first round of support was in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Now, we are preparing a second round of support specifically for policies, systems, and environmental changes enacted because of COVID-19, and specific support with a health-equity lens for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, whose inequities are only exacerbated by COVID-19, and who are left out of resources from government.
While the work has been challenging, it also has reminded me how resilient Arizonans and our communities are. It also reminds me how important it is that we trust science and data in decision-making, and just how connected we are as community. We have a lot of work to do on that front, but I think the Flinn-Brown Network is a perfect example of what is possible.
3. How is the nonprofit sector uniquely set up to develop the next generation of civic leaders?
Nonprofits create paths for people to serve and give in their communities. This builds stronger connection to place and nurtures interpersonal relationships and trust between neighbors. These are all community-building activities that can support the next generation of civic leaders to better understand community needs and use that knowledge to advocate for those needs and those most in need. I’ve shared more thoughts on this on our website.
4. How has the Flinn-Brown Network been useful to you?
I have been called a “super user” of the Flinn-Brown Fellows Network because I so value the personal and professional relationships that we have been forged. I try to keep in touch with Fellows and hope you all do the same! I love celebrating each other’s successes and working together to tackle our shared challenges.
I often called upon Fellows myself to help tackle challenges, including now working with some Fellows to address the issue of police brutality and community safety. I have contributed to Fellows’ political campaigns, no matter which party they represent, because I hope we all take the lessons learned from the seminars to our respective roles. No matter where you are in this journey, connect with me on social media. Let us keep in touch, because you never know when you will see someone with a colorful vase in their office (or Zoom background) and what possibilities for collaboration the future can bring.
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