Social justice philanthropy from the bottom up

Colin Greer

In an article in the June edition of Alliance, Gary Craig rightly points out that social justice is not just a matter of ends – of what you support – it is also a matter of means, and he discusses some of the implications of this for foundations who think of themselves as practising social justice philanthropy. Our own experience at the New World Foundation (NWF) bears this out. As we committed ourselves to the ‘what’ of social justice grantmaking, we had also to pay attention to the ‘how’ – to the evolution of sympathetic organizational practices that push us beyond funding social justice projects to making NWF itself a social justice organization in partnership with others, most of whom are grantees in base-building community activism.

We live in a time without a clear alternative to global capitalism or super-corporate politics. But the questions have been posed and answers are being invented by base-building activist organizations, as well as think-tank and advocacy groups. Of these, the base-building organizations are the root from which movements for social justice and equity grow. At the heart of any such movement are the people who suffer injustice, who organize to oppose it, and who build organizations that transform victims into empowered agents. When successful, such movements can produce extraordinary leaps of progress, even in the most daunting times.

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