Philanthropy’s ‘say-do’ gap: An interview with Carmen Rojas

What does it mean to be a social justice funder in an increasingly divided political and economic landscape? Why are more apparently liberal foundations unwilling to step forward on the most critical aspects of the big issues? Charles Keidan asks Dr Carmen Rojas, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Dr Carmen Rojas, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Charles Keidan: Is it a burden or a privilege to lead a social justice-oriented foundation?

Dr Rojas: It’s an absolute privilege. These resources allow us to reimagine what a robust public sector, a fair economy and powerful social movements could look like. On the other side, I don’t know that ‘burden’ is the right word. I underestimated the aversion a lot of people in philanthropy have to being bold and taking the biggest risks possible. We’re in a very difficult moment for progressive people in the US. On one side we are being told about the importance of individual well-being; on the other, we’re not calculating the cost of this focus on the individual to a collective future where all of us experience freedom and philanthropy is at the centre of that issue. We’re talking a lot about process and principle without thinking that we are setting impossible standards for many people who lead more traditional grassroots organisations.

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