Breaking the dichotomy of north and south


Melanie Thomas


Philanthropy comes from the Greek words ‘philos’ and ‘anthropos’ which translates to ‘love of humanity’. In philanthropy’s historic attempts to ‘love humanity’ we have often done so with a North to South mindset: the Global North having answers for the Global South. This dichotomy is not only being questioned but increasingly, torn apart. 

With over 30 countries represented at ‘Pathways to Power Symposium’, a call was made for us to not only look at changing the way we work externally but also the norms internally. How does the dichotomy exist within our own organizations? Who are the decision makers? How do we enter difficult conversations about race relations, gender inequality and privilege with our co-workers? Do we assume that a person has only lived experience or learned experience, and not both?

Systemically, we need to make changes. I’m looking forward to continuing conversations with peers at the Symposium, sharing information and working together to take this from words to action. Stay tuned and join us.

But, before I can start beating my chest to tackle the system, I need to have again (and again) some hard conversations with myself. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am a visible minority. Yes, I have my own racial bias. I commit to not only asking myself the hard questions but also sharing with my colleagues and my communities what I’m learning along the way. What are the root causes I’ve discovered and what am I struggling with in hopes that we can learn from one another.

At a personal level, we need to make changes, at a community level, we need to make changes, at a systemic level, we need to make changes…all for the love of humanity.

Melanie Thomas is Senior Director, Emerging Opportunities at Community Foundations of Canada

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