An interesting open letter from GroundSwell who are a grassroots, US-based organization that seek to support movements for social justice. They published this challenge to the philanthropy sector to try and disrupt ways of thinking and working. Their focus is on racial injustice and the messages are very relevant here - and not just for racial justice but more broadly for how a Community Foundation should work.
1. How do we transfer resources into the hands of people who are accountable to their communities? How do we decide which communities and which leaders or organisations are the right ones? How do we prioritise the needs of different communities? And how do we ensure transparent, effective usage of public donations? Our default is grant-giving through open processes. This maximises our ability to distribute funds openly and ensure they are used appropriately but may, at times, reduce our ability to enable communities to make their own decisions.
2. How do we ensure that the systems and processes we use do not place unrealistic demands on volunteers and how do we ensure that the knowledge and capacity are increased in communities we seek to support? Grant application processes place a demand on potential recipients, oftentimes these people are volunteers. We, in effect, ask for their time and energy for free in order to consider supporting their projects (this isn't true of larger organisations who will have paid staff to do the work). This may be economically efficient but, particularly in the context of our history with regard to slavery, it is deeply uncomfortable when it involves organisations and groups led by black people.
The letter talks about the importance of relationships - genuine ones founded on trust and understanding. Connections where those with power listen to the communities they seek to support. I try to spend a lot of time listening to, and in dialogue with, our local communities in Oxfordshire. It is rewarding and interesting and helps ensure that our work is grounded in the realities facing people across Oxfordshire. If you want to tell me about your communities' experiences then please do get in touch or click on the link below to book a slot.
Many white-led institutions are attempting to plug the holes from lack of relationships, expertise, and cultural competency, with extraction and gentrification