Future Foundation Atlanta

Category: News


We’re excited to announce that Carla C. Smith will serve as Interim CEO as I start my upcoming sabbatical beginning October 1, 2019. The sabbatical is an opportunity for me to recharge, renew, and grow as a person. But, more importantly, it’s a chance for The Future Foundation to do the same as an organization.

Research shows that for both the executive and his or her organization, a sabbatical is a chance to reboot and re-emerge stronger and sharper. A 2009 study entitled “Creative Disruption” surveyed 61 nonprofit foundations that have executive sabbatical programs. The results showed that when an executive steps away from an organization temporarily, handing the reins to an interim leader, the “creative disruption” that results increases the organizational capacity of the second tier of leadership, makes the organization stronger and more nimble, and allows it to benefit from a fresh perspective. The report ended by recommending sabbaticals “as a best practice in philanthropy for leadership development, succession planning, and organizational capacity building.”

I am so excited for The Future Foundation to reap all those benefits during my sabbatical—especially now that, after a thoughtful and thorough search, we have found the right leader to act as Interim CEO. With a background in the worlds of strategy, nonprofit services, business, government, and education, Carla C. Smith brings a breadth of experience that will test our assumptions and broaden our perspectives. She will also guide our aspiring leaders as they take on expanded duties to grow their skills. 

A licensed social worker, Carla started up operations in Atlanta for Youth Villages – a Tennessee based non-profit organization, served as a research and policy analyst for former State Senator and current Mayor of Augusta, Georgia Hardie Davis, and as the Deputy Director of the Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus, before becoming HR/Policy Director at Signature HealthCARE and Operations Manager for the Avondale Education Association. I recently spoke with Carla about her background, her goals for her tenure as Interim CEO, as well as her hopes for the organization’s future. Read on, and I’m sure you’ll become as excited as I am to have her with us. 

You’ve worked in several related fields—have they all been with an eye towards empowering young people?

Before I started a real career, a real job, I began volunteering with the Boys’ and Girls’ Club as an undergraduate at Paine college. I stayed on that path of working with children and adolescents throughout my career—it shifted more to the policy side in some instances and women’s issues, but still focusing on the same target populations. I always think about long-term sustainability and that the best place to set that foundation is with our children and youth, being able to provide them with opportunities and outlets to see more than what their current situation may be, to meet people that may have come from a similar background, or to see something completely new with fresh eyes. There’s something very inspiring about seeing the world through a child’s eyes as their horizons broaden. 

What motivates you to work with young people? 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many children and there’s just something inspiring and special about their resiliency that motivates me. As you progress as a professional, I think your perspective evolves from working with children to working for them. I moved quickly from providing direct service to working with legislators to create and change policies. Your mind shifts. It’s very passionate work. 

That’s a passion we share here at the Future Foundation! If you had to describe the Future Foundation in one word, what would that be?

Impact! The Future Foundation is committed to, and focused on, making a long-term, effective, and positive impact in the lives of the children they serve by ensuring they have the tools to become successful contributing citizens within the communities in which they live. After learning more about the Future Foundation, I was instantly drawn to the organization and its mission-centered objectives.

What are your goals and priorities for your time as Interim CEO?

Continued growth/stability, maintaining and strengthening our relationships with grantors, donors, partners, and those we serve, and, finally, preparing for our annual Keep it 100% Fundraiser so we can serve more children in this community!

And after your time as Interim CEO is up, where will you go from here?

I’ll continue to be of service to women, children, and families in the Metro Atlanta community. There’s so much work to be done to continue to move the needle for our children. But I always leave the absolutes of things in God’s hands—I don’t want to make God laugh by making my own plans!  

I’m about to do something I’ve never done—something I’ve committed to doing for personal, professional, and philosophical reasons. Next month, after 16 nonstop years at the helm of the Future Foundation, I embark on a three-month sabbatical.

What am I going to do during this time away? Relax, Reflect, and Recharge. Recharge so I can work as hard as I have, and as smart as I can, for the Future Foundation.

Why am I doing it?

On the personal side, of the 16 years, I’ve spent at the Future Foundation, the last three have been the most intense. We launched an aggressive strategy, along with a research study designed to transform our organization, our schools, and our community. I’m gratified by the results. I am proud of the shared commitment our board of directors, partners, and the entire Future Foundation team have co-created in the spirit of executing a collaborative strategy. Yet, our goals are big and the race as a leader is a commitment I want to sustain. Also, after being so deeply entrenched in the organization, I need to step back so I can come back and see it in a new light, to assess how effective we’re being, what’s working, and what can be improved.

Professionally, my sabbatical is an innovative opportunity for another leader with experience in the worlds of business, government, nonprofit and education, to come in, review our strategy from a different point of view, work with our senior team to assess key areas such as succession readiness, and provide insights on updating our strategic plan. The Future Foundation will benefit from the perspective of a different leader for a short period of time while becoming more agile and sustainable.

Finally, on a philosophical level, I firmly believe that as leaders look toward solving big world problems, they need to be confident enough to step away, and come back rejuvenated, with a new vision to tackle those issues. As a grass-roots activist and a leader of color, I have felt the temptation to work nonstop, twice as hard and as long as others. But that is a recipe for burn out and not being your best.

I remain thankful for my incredible Board and Advisory Board members who have fully supported this sabbatical and in turn, my leadership at the Future Foundation. Planned opportunities to recharge are the human equivalent of turning off your laptop, then turning it back on—a reboot that enables an upgraded operating system. And I am ready for my upgrade!

Until I return on January 6, 2020, I am leaving the Future Foundation in good hands with our wonderful and dedicated staff members. Stay tuned for more information on our interim Chief Executive Officer and what we’ve learned during this process! I’m looking forward to my time off. But I’m even more excited to return to see this incredible organization with fresh eyes and guide it with new ideas.




I just returned from Israel where I ate, prayed, fell in love with 50 of the world’s most beautiful souls. I was there as part of Reality Israel, an initiative created by the Schusterman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization whose mission is nothing less than to repair the world. The purpose of the trip is to bring changemakers to the always awe-inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking, country of Israel so that they can learn about the vibrant, complicated region, then take that knowledge, and apply it to other communities in order to make our world a better place.

I can’t speak for the other participants, but I can say that for me, the journey was nothing short of transformative and life-affirming. On the eight-day odyssey, I not only made friends and got to know myself better, I also deepened my understanding of the complexities in the region, learned about Israel’s history, and re-committed to the purpose God placed in my heart long ago: to help people. 

Before I embarked on the trip, I set my intention to listen to others and understand what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. What I heard has changed my life and my outlook. 

While herding goats, I heard that we need to take care of ourselves, to be well so that we can enthusiastically lead others. 

While building and sailing a raft, I heard, “don’t be so competitive—sometimes the winners don’t ‘take all.’” Instead of competing, try to listen and understand these new people entering your life. 

Crossing through the Israeli countryside and seeing the most sacred elements of nature God created, I heard my hosts and my fellow travelers, and I felt my heart reopening to the kind of innocent love I felt as a child. 

I listened to an Ethiopian vocalist sing, an activist talk about Palestinian Trap music, and my tablemates pray as I participated in my first Shabbat dinner, and I heard the importance of building community through different cultures. 

I also listened to the stories of the 50 global leaders on the trip, the tour guides, and organized speakers, including one of the last few Holocaust survivors. I heard stories of trauma, evil, oppression, and conflict, but also of forgiveness, privilege, love, compassion, empathy, understanding, resilience, and peace. 

As the daughter of an Imam growing up in a devout Muslim household, I heard the synergies between the three religions while having dinner with a Christian and a Jewish woman.

Finally, as I walked through the desert praying on our last night in Israel, I heard the words God whispered: “We are ONE.” 

Through all of these experiences, I heard that each of us holds multiple experiences which build into our personal truths. As human beings, I believe it is our personal responsibility to listen rather than to shut down other people’s experiences when they make us uncomfortable or don’t mirror our own lives. 

I wish everyone could participate in a trip like Reality Israel. But I have to come to realize that you don’t have to travel to the Holy Land to learn these truths. We just have to look for the holiness within ourselves and each other. 

Wherever we are, we can expand our consciousness by meeting people where they are and working to understand the experiences that created their personal truths. As we work to create that understanding, we must also push ourselves to examine how the truths we hold dear impact the systems that govern our lives. Personally, on the trip, I found myself asking, does it make sense to argue or discount the story of a Palestinian’s woman recount of oppression and murder? And I found I had my answer: It’s important to recognize my feelings, but also to recognize the facts and the truths of systems in which people are marginalized, as uncomfortable as that may make me.

We think we have come so far, and in many ways, we have. But this trip made me realize that in Israel, and in the world over, we are still evolving, and we still have equally far to go. People are still becoming the first woman to perform a task, the first person of a given race to receive an honor. All over the world, human beings are still suffering. And wherever we are, it is our duty to help alleviate their pain.

I left Israel with a sense of duty and a sense of hope. Together, we have an opportunity to lead with grace, to create spaces where narratives that are different from our perspectives are shared and truly heard. We can strive to uplift those narratives along with our own and change the dynamics of systems that promote injustice and improve our world. 

Instead of focusing on making our own corner of the globe great “again,” we need to expand our understanding of what constitutes our world. We must listen to the voice that whispered in the desert, and understand that we are all neighbors. Then we will make our entire world not great again, but great at last.


RE: Notice of Intent to Submit an Application for the 2018-19 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant

In accordance with the application instructions from the Georgia Department of Education, Future Foundation submits a public notice to the community of Fulton County, its intent to submit an application for the 2018-19 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) After School Programs grant to serve students in the aforementioned areas.

The purpose of the 21st CCLC Program, as described in the federal statute, is to provide opportunities for communities to establish or expand activities that focus on:

Improved academic achievement
Enrichment services that reinforce and complement the academic program, and
Family literacy and related educational development services
Future Foundation is applying for the 2018-19 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant to support the following schools:

Paul D. West Middle School
McNair Middle School
Sandtown Middle School
Hapeville Charter Middle School
Hapeville Charter Career Academy
Tri-Cities High School
Banneker High School

We welcome input from parents and other stakeholders on the design and focus of our 21st CCLC program. Please contact Jerry Sterling at (404) 766-0510 or [email protected]

This fall TechBridge honored Future Foundation CEO Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim as the inaugural recipient of its Bill Bolling Nonprofit Leader Award. The award celebrates people who exercise original thinking and use the benefits of technology to address problems in our society.

“Qaadirah is recognized for her authenticity, innovation, and effectiveness as a servant leader,” said James Franklin, CEO of TechBridge. “Her collaborative approach as CEO of Future Foundation really unlocks purpose and ingenuity in those around her, resulting in higher performing fulfilled employees and more engaged volunteers.”

Having grown Future Foundation from a two-person team serving a dozen students, Abdur-Rahim has expanded the nonprofit’s work through the years to serve more than 11,000 students. She’s currently working with TechBridge and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, among others to empower youth beyond Atlanta to the rest of the state and the nation.

“I feel honored to have our efforts at the Future Foundation recognized by an award named for the fantastic work that Bill did for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and others,” said Abdur-Rahim. “It’s vital that we continue to help our youth recognize their potential and thrive in the face of challenges, so they can realize their dreams and create a brighter future for us all.”