If philanthropy is serious about supporting social movements, it needs to be ready to take risks and have skin in the game. Risks, because the call and response nature of movements requires an emergent and experimental approach. Skin in the game, because what’s needed is accompaniment and solidarity over ‘expertise’ and ‘rubrics’. As a funder-civil society collaborative we have walked with two incredible partners over the years in supporting social movements. Their solidarity has been a keystone of our collaboration. It would be comical, if it weren’t sad, to see now how social movements have become so much the rage that money is accumulating or sitting idle, while donors figure out what social movements are or how to work with them.
When we’ve been sought out by funders to channel funds to the social movements we work with the process has been exhausting: from having to engage in intellectual debates about what constitutes a social movement, to negotiating over pittance amounts for emergent activities that are really the foundational grassroots organising work that helps build movements. Resistance to exploring new ways reduced the support to a box-ticking exercise. Philanthropy is so well placed to walk alongside social movements as learning partners – bold and unapologetic in support and solidarity. A boldness that moves beyond rhetoric. After all, these are the very movements which are helping us all to bend the moral arc towards greater truth, justice and freedom across our societies.
Learning manager, TrustAfrica