Sit down, stand up

Christopher Harris

Last summer, Caroline Hartnell asked me if I thought that it was worth having another go at an Alliance special feature on philanthropy and social justice. As she put it, was there something new to say? While there is still much to do to increase and improve the work, there is encouraging news too for those committed to philanthropy for social justice.

In fact, there is both bad and good news. The bad news is how slowly philanthropy has moved in the social justice direction in the face of enormous need and injustice. The good news is how much positive activity is now under way. Let me offer seven items that I believe are worth reporting.

A change, if not yet a sea-change

For much of the past ten years, ‘philanthropy for social justice’ usually meant one of three things. First, there was grantmaking by a small number of foundations that had a specific focus (such as human rights, women’s rights or social exclusion) but rarely dealt with other issues. Second, there was grantmaking that was wrapped in ideology but paid little serious attention to impact (especially in the US). Third, there were a number of practitioners who alone or in small groups were searching for more powerful strategies but could find no rigorous research or training opportunities to help them.

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