Forum Annual Conference 2018: What is philanthropy bringing to the table?


Sarah Brown-Campello


What are you doing to lift up social justice issues in your work? Who best to hear about addressing root problems than from the communities themselves and incorporating their voices into your work?

Philanthropy infrastructure may run the risk of seeming dry at times. Punching data, research, networking events, publications on the landscape of your field in your region, mappings – these are critical activities that develop the field of philanthropy and a healthy ecosystem for it to operate. This information helps funders and clients allocate their resources strategically. But what are we doing to directly empower the communities we ultimately hope to serve? How can we give them a voice in our work?

Most philanthropy serving organisations (PSOs) are accountable to their members and clients – how adventurous can we be in this light to push the envelope and position and elevate others working at the grassroots level to directly reach the ears of funders and changemakers? Like funders, PSOs tend to exercise a lot of caution in their work – an interesting phenomenon considering the majority of us are probably working in the field because we directly care about social justice issues and are trying to change society for the better in the first place. Is there space for us to both serve the field, our members, and become thought-leaders in pushing social justice?

I’m at the UPF Conference here in Boston. UPF is a network of PSOs in the USA. Their members’ members are mostly foundations. Conversation points at the Forum so far have included; racism, racial inequity, racial equality, reconciliation, inclusion, diversity, art, segregation, and policy change. This has been alongside traditional elements of a PSO conference such as peer-learnings, community meetings, leadership and capacity-building.

They have incorporated racial equity, diversity, and inclusion as one of the main themes of their conference and invited voices from the field to participate. All of the conference participants here work in programs and with funders across the United States on various issues. Recently at GIFE’s annual conference, they announced unprecedented multi-donor funds into the Baoba Initiative. This was a bold move- launching this fund at their annual conference, acknowledging the uncomfortable issue that racial injustice exists in Brazil, despite Brazilian thought to think of ourselves as diverse. These PSOs, and others, are participating in ‘courageous philanthropy’ in the decision to pursue this interactive model and it’s a tangible way that PSOs (particularly national and regional) can be part of the solution- not just a medium through which others work through to do their work.

Philanthropy infrastructure can be a powerful tool to not only build the field and develop best practices, but to insert the power to empower others. PSOs are uniquely placed at the intersection between governments, policy, and funders, and here have the ability [maybe responsibility?] to introduce social justice issues to their peers, members, and partners. This is a privilege one can leverage to help bring social justice issues to the forefront and make philanthropy infrastructure impact more tangible.

This is a call to associations of foundations, thematic networks, academics teaching philanthropy, crowdfunding platforms, giving circles, social enterprise, community philanthropy, banks, wealth-advisory funds- all of us who are building the field- Who are we elevating in our work? Who and what are we bringing to the table? What do we stand and fight for?

Sarah Brown-Campello is Programs and & Network Coordinator at WINGS

Tagged in: #ForumCon18

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