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147 posts categorized "Human/Civil Rights"

Defending Environmental Rights: Funding Priorities in the Global South and East

July 21, 2016

In December, the United Nations awarded its Equator Prize 2015 to two Munduruku leaders from the Brazilian Amazon in recognition of their struggle to protect ancestral territory and sacred rivers from a mega-dam. What caught my attention about the prize was the way it acknowledged a struggle that is ongoing, not a battle won. What inspired the UN to do that? And what message is it sending to the world as it recognizes the need to preserve the last intact forests in the Amazon basin and the knowledge possessed by their ancestral caretakers?

Report_ihrfg2016This year's edition of Advancing Human Rights: Update on Global Foundation Grantmaking offers an interesting in-depth look at the priorities of funders based in the Global South and East. The key findings shows that environmental and resource rights rank as the second-most funded issue area by Global South and East funders, compared to ninth for all funders. Another interesting — and, in my opinion, directly related — finding is that Global South and East funders dedicate a larger proportion of their support to capacity building, coalition building, and collaboration, compared to human rights funders overall.

Because my organization, CASA, is what we call a "socio-environmental" funder, the report really speaks to us. And as we've reviewed the findings in it, a few things have suggested themselves. We operate within a fragile global system held together by increasingly frayed  threads, and what seems to keep it from collapsing altogether is a clever subterfuge in which:

  • Capital flows continue funding the cheapest raw materials that can be found (often in the Global South and East), with a premium on minimal extraction costs (i.e., unregulated and exploited labor) and easy-to-access lands (territories that can be clear-cut, mined, or drilled no matter their environmental importance or who lives there).
  • Capital develops infrastructure to enable the extraction and export of those materials — including mega-dams, pipelines, roads, rail- and waterways, and ports.
  • Pliant local political structures facilitate the removal and transport of these materials as quickly as possible to global markets, regardless of who or what might object (i.e., poor countries with weak institutions, a history of corruption, and leaders whose territories hold the great majority of what is left to extract on the planet).

Add to this the insecurity that climate change is producing around food supplies and access to fresh water, and you have an ugly, and increasingly unsustainable, picture.

How can Global South funders (I'm guessing the Global East is not so different) deal with this mess? For starters, we can collaborate among ourselves, and with Global North partners, to fund grassroots resilience, empowerment, and solutions; support local/regional/national/international monitoring; and call for greater transparency and accountability with respect to international financial institutions' investments, and everything in between.

Building a culture of philanthropy in the Global South and East is a herculean job, and it is only through collaboration that results will be achieved. We must build different alliances to support different aspects of our work. CASA, for example, is part of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA). Led by Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, Mama Cash, and Both ENDS, the initiative involves more than thirty women’s and environmental funds and NGOs in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America that have come together to strengthen the capacity of grassroots organizations to advocate for women's rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy, and safe environment.

We also work with major international funders to make cluster grants related to a number of mutually complementary strategies, from strengthening groups affected by mega infrastructure or energy projects, to supporting indigenous rights and legal defense, to investing in women's co-ops based in fragile ecosystems that produce oil and pulp sustainably at market rates. These solutions not only ensure indigenous land ownership and improve organizational capacity, they help maintain the integrity of communities. To help support the Brazilian philanthropic field, we are also co-founders of the Brazil Philanthropy Network for Social Justice.

What have we learned as a South American grassroots fund? Ten years, ten countries, and more than fourteen hundred grants later, we see some advances that point to useful strategies like those mentioned above. One of them relates to how local knowledge is crucial to making each dollar count.

In the Peruvian Amazon, for example, oil spills have contaminated thousands of miles of pristine rivers on which traditional people depend. Funding indigenous communities' access to legal advice so that they can demand reparations and compensation in court has proven effective time and again. In Bolivia and Paraguay, a strong agroforestry movement has worked quietly to help protect small farmers' lands from producers of commodities for export such as soy and cattle and has proven effective in securing land rights and income for indigenous communities in places where open confrontation is a not-infrequent, and often deadly, occurrence. Even locally produced film documentaries can force local governments to take action.

Global Witness published a report last month which found that, between 2010 and 2015, two hundred and sixty-six environmental and indigenous activists around the world had been murdered. The map shows that all those deaths happened in the Global South and East, led by Latin America, with Brazil topping the list with two hundred deaths.

In the last few weeks, the Munduruku people have won a number of battles. CASA was one of many funders of  a complex process that has dragged  on for nine years. And trough that engagement, we have clearly seen the impact that many small grants across the basin have had, not least in terms of enabling the Munduruku people to meet regularly with public attorneys and develop a formal protocol that protects their right to free, prior, and informed consent under the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (C169). In the most recent domino to fall, last month the Fundação Nacional do Índio (National Indian Foundation) issued a decision to recognize the Munduruku's ancestral territories, which led in turn to the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazil's environmental protection agency) to deny a license for the mega-dam that would destroy a major part of those territories.

Nothing is certain when the forces in a struggle like this are so strongly opposed. But it is important to celebrate small victories — that is what gives us the motivation to keep pushing. There can be no question about the critical role of targeted funding in this struggle. "There is no Planet B" is a cliché, but it is true. We must not destroy the priceless bounty that has been given us, nor can we afford to lose the knowledge preserved by our oldest and wisest caretakers — or those who put their lives on the line every day to protect the planet for future generations.

Headshot_Maria Amália SouzaPerhaps last year's Equator Prize was trying to signal just that.

Maria Amália Souza is executive director of the São Paulo-based CASA Socio-Environmental Fund, which works to promote environmental conservation and sustainability, democracy, and social justice by supporting and strengthening the capacity of civil society in South America.

The Legacy of Berta Cáceres: What Environmentalists Can Learn From Human Rights Groups

July 19, 2016

Photo_bertacaceresThe murder of the environmental activist and indigenous leader Berta Cáceres in Honduras in March came as a shock. Shortly after, I was asked to address the question of security for environmentalists at the annual meeting of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a U.S.-based conservation group started in New York's Hudson River Valley that today includes members from Colombia to Bangladesh.

Waterkeepers asked me to address the meeting because of my experience in advising journalists, human rights defenders, and activists on security matters. And the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to realize how much the environmental community can learn from press freedom and human rights groups.

Cáceres was shot dead in her own home and a fellow activist was wounded in the same attack. Less than a year before, she had been honored in San Francisco and Washington with the prestigious Goldman Prize, giving her a measure of international recognition and, one might have hoped, a measure of protection from such a brazen attack.

Alas, no form of protection or deterrence has worked. In fact, no fewer than a hundred and eighty-five environmental activists around the world were murdered last year — more than three a week — according to a report issued last month by the group Global Witness. That's more than double the number of journalists killed worldwide over the same period of time. Nearly two-thirds of the murdered environmentalists were indigenous activists like Cáceres. Brazil, host of the Summer Olympic Games, the Philippines, and Colombia topped the list of countries with the most environmentalists killed, followed by Peru, Nicaragua, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Last year's death toll represents an increase of 59 percent from the year before, and the trend has been moving in the wrong direction. Indeed, Global Witness reports that no fewer than 1,176 environmental activists worldwide have been killed since 2002. Even the conservative figure is more than the number of journalists documented to have been murdered over the same period. Mining, logging, and other extractive industries were the focus of many of the murdered activists, along with government-backed development projects like the proposed dam in Cáceres' case that would have destroyed a pristine river and the indigenous lands through which it flows.

Nearly all the killings were pre-meditated homicides; nearly all the killers enjoy blanket impunity. In Cáceres' case, five men, two of whom have ties to the Honduran construction industry and one of whom is a former Honduran military intelligence specialist, have since been arrested — itself a rare development. It remains to be seen, however, whether justice will be served on the men who shot her or the more powerful, shadowy figures who may have ordered her assassination.

I began my Waterkeepers' talk with a confession. Early in my career, I was torn between working for social justice in "hard" places like El Salvador or environmental causes in familiar places like Montana. I chose the former, concluding that green issues were fundamentally "bourgeois" concerns. (In my home state of New Jersey, environmentalism was all the rage in both major parties back then due to widespread dumping of hazardous materials that was threatening home property values across the state.)

I realize now I could not have been more wrong. The murders of Cáceres and so many others prove beyond a doubt that not only are "green" activists on the frontlines of social justice and human rights struggles around the world, they are being targeted at a greater rate than journalists or human rights or LGBT activists.

This is going to be a long struggle, I told the audience, so prepare yourselves. But don't despair; there are reasons for optimism.

First, however, we need to understand that if environmental activists are going to do their work, and do it well, they need to be safe. And safety begins with solidarity. As the director of the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training provider, I could simply tell you the solution to enhanced safety is to hire my firm. Training, along with the use of security cameras and other technologies, can and does make a difference. But no amount of training or technology can ever do as much to protect frontline environmentalists as the kind of protection that comes from collective advocacy, both inside and beyond the countries where the problem is most urgent.

Second, solidarity, as important as it is, is no panacea. Take the enterprising Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, the subject of a Hollywood film by the same name. Guerin was shot dead in her car in 1992 just seven months after she had been honored by the Committee to Protect Journalists at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Recognition can help protect the lives of those who are in danger, but it isn't enough. Instead, advocates must build networks and promote green activism in ways that raise the profile of at-risk activists — both within their own communities and abroad.

Third, we must recognize that the root of the problem is the impunity of powerful interests, as well as the corruption and incompetence that undermines functioning judiciaries in almost every developing nation.  Less than two weeks after Cáceres' murder, one of her fellow activists, Nelson Garciá, was shot dead near his home. Last week, the body of another of Cáceres' colleagues, Lesbia Janeth Urquía, was found in a trash dump with signs of blunt trauma injury to her head.

In such a lawless environment, and even in the face of seemingly incontrovertible evidence, powerful actors, especially those with ties to government, can stop a case before it gets started. In Colombia in 2001, a team of prosecutors brought charges, based on eyewitness testimony and documentation, against an Army general accused of okaying the use of paramilitary groups to commit massacres in remote villages and assassinate trade unionists, community leaders, and human rights activists. By the time the case collapsed, six regional prosecutors and twenty-two investigators had been murdered and the two lead prosecutors on the case, along with twenty other prosecutors and investigators, had fled the country.

Mustering the political will to compel institutions to change can take decades. It can, and has been, done, however. Guatemala was long one of Latin America's most violent and corrupt nations. But in recent years, in a sharp break from its past and with the support of a UN-backed anti-crime commission, the Guatemalan government has managed to prosecute two former presidents, albeit with mixed results, and a host of other once-powerful figures for crimes ranging from money laundering to sexual slavery.

Bringing change to other nations will be harder. Take Bangladesh. There, environmentalists are up against the same kind of collusion between powerful private interests and corrupt government officials faced by activists elsewhere. But in Bangladesh it occurs in a climate where independent bloggers, human rights activists, foreigners, and LGBT Bangladeshis are routinely bombed, shot, and hacked to death in the name of Islam.

How can we protect them? asked one Waterkeeper. I told them about Peace Brigades International, a UK-based NGO with an office in the United States that for decades has deployed teams of observers from the U.S. and Western Europe to provide "protective accompaniment" for threatened human rights activists in areas of conflict. The mere presence of the observers has kept many local activists and their families alive — without a single foreign observer having been lost in the process. And while I wouldn’t recommend that kind of assistance in a country like Bangladesh at the moment, in many countries around the world protective accompaniment for frontline environmentalists is an idea whose time has come.

The effectiveness of many environmental groups is predicated on their ties to, and passion for, the waterways and lands they work so hard to protect. Too often, however, these groups seem to exist in a bubble. The Waterkeepers publish a glossy print magazine for donor-subscribers. But unless every issue is searchable online, where other passionate environmentalists can find them, the magazine isn't going to be much help in terms of building a global solidarity movement. Similarly, no environmentalist wants to spend more of her time indoors than she has to, but Twitter and other social media platforms need to be embraced on a 24-7 basis if a movement hopes to cut through the noise and maintain and grow its presence.

The environmental movement also needs more groups capable of providing the kind of rigorous documentation we have come to expect from the likes of Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

For sure, Global Witness deserves credit for stepping up and pioneering the documentation of threats and violence against environmental defenders. But the initial data it has generated raises as many questions as it answers: Why are activists killed? Who are the suspected perpetrators? What is the status of government investigations into the murders? And which international interests are doing business with national or regional entities suspected of having ties to the murderers? Small grassroots groups such as Canadian-based Rights Action are doing their best to answer these questions in countries like Guatemala and Honduras and, together with Global Witness, have begun to shine a spotlight on the work that needs to be done.

At the same time, today's environmental movement has one advantage that, if nurtured, could provide frontline activists with a measure of the solidarity and protection they so desperately need. The movement to curb climate change is still an amorphous and largely leaderless jumble of competing interests (as was so wonderfully on display in Paris last fall), but it enjoys the backing of most Western governments. It is also the largest movement of its kind the world has seen.

Does anyone doubt that there is a direct link between the work of frontline environmentalists and the campaign to slow global warming? Yet how many climate change activists, let alone the public at large, are aware of the intimidation and violence that has been brought to bear against local environmental activists in recent years? Running a poll or two along these lines would be illuminating and a good place to start. But raising awareness about these slayings and the ongoing threat to environmental and indigenous activists is essential.

I have long thought of myself as an environmentalist, and I pay close attention to conservation issues. And yet I had no idea that so many environmentalist activists were being murdered until I was alerted to that fact by mutual friends' status updates about Berta Cáceres' murder on Facebook and then a call prompted by her murder from the Waterkeepers.

One way we can honor Cáceres' legacy is to take the hard but necessary steps needed to bust open our comfortable cocoons and forge alliances between environmentalists, climate change activists, and the donors, foundations, and governments that support them. Only by building a unified international movement will we be able to protect fearless activists like Berta Cáceres who are doing the kind of work that inspires and benefits us all.

Headshot_FrankSmythFrank Smyth is the founder and executive director of Global Journalist Security, the leading U.S.-based hostile environments training and consulting provider. A former arms trafficking investigator for Human Rights Watch and the author of the HRW report Arming Rwanda, Smyth has written for The Nation, The Village Voice, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and has testified before the U.S. House and Senate, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

5 Questions for...Matt Foreman, Senior Program Director, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

July 14, 2016

A year after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, the LGBT community witnessed a day of unspeakable horror, as a gunman massacred forty-nine people and injured dozens at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As terrible as it was, the shooting was followed by proud displays of collective resilience and celebration. On June 24, President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn — a New York City gay bar that is widely considered to be the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement — as the first-ever national monument honoring LGBT rights.

PND recently spoke with Matt Foreman, senior program director at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, about the significance of these events. Foreman joined the fund in 2008, after serving as executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. At the Haas, Jr. Fund, he played a key role in the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped push marriage equality over the finish line.

Matt_foreman_for_PhilanTopicPND: You have written about how the Civil Marriage Collaborative helped boost marriage equality by funding public education efforts "to change hearts and minds" and by supporting the movement's efforts to develop a shared strategy. What were the advantages of using a funder collaborative? And were there any downsides?

Matt Foreman: The primary advantage of the CMC was that it enabled — and in some ways compelled — the marriage movement's primary foundation funders to consistently align and focus their investments, both through and outside the CMC. The field and the funders jointly identified their priorities, which encouraged the LGBT movement to come together in supporting a bold, long-term vision for marriage equality.  

As for downsides, there were some challenges, yes. At the highest level, creating strong funder collaboratives requires a lot of time and a willingness to compromise, more than it takes to go it alone. Although it sometimes makes the job harder, it also can lead to different, and better, outcomes. Another challenge was that the CMC served as a gatekeeper for how foundation dollars flowed to the field. While that allowed for more efficiency and consistency in supporting these efforts, it also frustrated some organizations that fell outside the CMC's strategic priorities and thus didn't get funding.

PND: What lessons learned from the campaign for marriage equality might be applied to grantmaking in support of other social justice causes?

MF: For me, the most important lesson was that foundations have a unique ability to get organizations to come together, develop plans to win, and then work together at multiple levels — from research to field work to litigation — to get over the finish line. Of course, that also requires foundations to be willing to take the risk of funding the game plan and playing hardball when groups deviate from it. Setbacks are inevitable when you're working on making big, societal change, so it's critical to learn from mistakes and be able to move forward.

After the historic marriage equality decision, we identified eleven lessons that we learned along the way and might be worth consideration among funders of other social justice movements. We've put together a report and a video about those lessons, which include the need to hire staff with social movement experience and to invest early in high-impact, multi-dimensional public education efforts that are data driven, thoroughly tested, and tailored to targeted communities and sectors.  

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Winning Marriage Equality

June 24, 2016

Marriage_equality_for_PhilanTopicOn June 26, 2015, history was made when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This victory for social justice would not have been achieved without the efforts of tenacious leaders and litigators, diverse LGBT organizations, straight allies, elected officials, celebrities, and, most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people toiling at the grassroots level. But a crucial, and largely unknown, force was also at work: the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped change hearts and minds — and moved the country toward marriage equality.

The Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC) was created in 2004 at a time when there was strong backlash against the idea of gay marriage. Less than a year earlier, the Massachusetts high court had ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a decision that prompted a media and political firestorm. President George W. Bush called for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and similar measures started making their way to the ballots in more than a dozen states. The LGBT movement was overwhelmed: it did not have the financial or operational capacity to mount the larger public education, policy advocacy, and litigation effort needed to deal with the onslaught.

A Vision to Win

That;s when a handful of foundations came together to create the CMC, which would work in tandem with Freedom to Marry, an organization founded in 2003 that would eventually become the engine of the marriage equality movement. Launched with a grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and led by Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry was based on a simple premise: Civil unions and domestic partnerships did not go far enough in removing obstacles for gays and lesbians in virtually every area of mainstream life. And by securing marriage equality, the LGBT community would gain rights in many other areas, such as in health care and the right to adoption.

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LGBTQ Groups Call for Unity in Wake of Orlando Shooting

June 14, 2016

The following statement of unity was issued yesterday by more than 50+ major LGBTQ organizations and funders in response to the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Arcus Foundation and other signatories, and is available in the following languages:

العربية | Español Français

_________

We the undersigned organizations working on the front lines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement share in the profound grief for those who were killed and many more who were wounded during Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Their lives were lost or forever altered in this devastating act of violence targeting LGBTQ people. Our hearts go out to all the family and friends touched by this horrific act. We know their lives will never be the same again.

This national tragedy happened against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping this country and we must not forget that in this time of grief. Unity and an organized response in the face of hatred is what we owe the fallen and the grieving. Collective resolve across national, racial and political lines will be required to turn the tide against anti-LGBTQ violence. Our response to this horrific act, committed by one individual, will have a deep impact on Muslim communities in this country and around the world. We as an intersectional movement cannot allow anti-Muslim sentiment to be the focal point as it distracts from the larger issue, which is the epidemic of violence that LGBTQ people, including those in the Muslim community, are facing in this country.

The animus and violence toward LGBTQ people is not news to our community. It is our history, and it is our reality. In 1973, 32 LGBTQ people died in an arson fire at an LGBTQ Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans. More than forty years later, similar acts of anti-LGBTQ violence are commonplace. Crimes motivated by bias due to sexual orientation and gender identity were the second largest set of hate crimes documented by the FBI in 2015 (over 20 percent). Murders and violence against transgender people globally have taken more than 2,000 lives over the last nine years. Bias crimes against U.S. immigrant populations, which include significant numbers of LGBTQ people, have increased over the past decade as anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated.

For those of us who carry multiple marginalized identities, the impact of this violence and discrimination has even more severe consequences. These intersectional identities and their ramifications are apparent at every level in the Orlando tragedy, which disproportionately affected Latino/a members of our communities, and has xenophobic consequences that threaten LGBTQ Muslims. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 24 reports of hate violence related homicides in 2015, and 62% of those victims were LGBTQ people of color. Transgender and gender nonconforming people made up 67% of the homicides, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. The violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people has continued into 2016 with 13 reported individual homicides this year alone. NCAVP research on hate violence shows that LGBTQ people experience violence not only by strangers, but also in their everyday environments by employers, coworkers, landlords and neighbors. The Orlando shooting is simply an extreme instance of the kind of violence that LGBTQ people encounter every day.

As LGBTQ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, we know what it looks like and feels like to be scapegoated and isolated in the midst of a crisis that actually requires solidarity, empathy and collaboration from all quarters. We appeal to all in our movement and all who support us to band together in rejecting hatred and violence in all its shape shifting forms. Let us stand united as a diverse LGBTQ community of many faiths, races, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds.

Signed,

The Arcus Foundation
Believe Out Loud
BiNet USA
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity, Inc.
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
The Council for Global Equality
Courage Campaign
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom for All Americans
Freedom to Work
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
Gay Men's Health Crisis
The Gill Foundation
GLAAD
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
GLSEN
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
The Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
The Johnson Family Foundation
Lambda Legal
MAP
Marriage Equality USA
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of La Raza
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Minority Aids Council (NMAC)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
OutRight Action International
The Palette Fund
PFLAG National
Pride at Work
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
SpeakOUT Boston
The T*Circle Collective
Tarab NYC
Transgender Education Network of Texas
Trans People of Color Coalition
Transgender Law Center
The Trevor Project
The Williams Institute

Weekend Link Roundup (April 9-10, 2016)

April 10, 2016

Robin-on-branchOur weekly round up of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

Black Lives Matter is both a sprawling social movement and a civil rights organization with more than thirty chapters across the United States. But that distinction, and many other  nuances, rarely make it into coverage of either the movement or the organization, writes Jephie Bernard, a student at the Columbia School of Journalism, on the CJR website.

Communications/Marketing

And not a moment too soon...  NWB's Vu Le rides to the defense of the Oxford comma.

Global Health

"Pessimism is fashionable. It's also wrong," writes Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther. "People are safer, better-educated, better-fed, and wealthier than they used to be. Democracy and human rights are spreading. Perhaps most important, people, and in particular the world's poorest people, are healthier." So why aren't we cheering? Because, says Gunther, echoing others, "the world's governments, aid agencies, foundations and nonprofits could be doing much better."

Grantmaking

On our sister Transparency Talk blog, the Surdna Foundation's Adriana Jimenez explains how the foundation's decision to move to a workflow- and cloud-based system grants management system has enabled it to work more collaboratively with grantees; increased collaboration and learning within the foundation; and improved its capacity to share data and lessons learned with the rest of the sector.

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5 Questions for...Pamela Shifman, Executive Director, NoVo Foundation

April 01, 2016

Of the 1.8 billion young people in the world, approximately half — some 900 million — are adolescent girls and young women. In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before the age of 15, 38 percent are married before the age of 18, and more than half never complete their primary school education. In the United States, girls and young women, especially girls and young women of color, face a different but related set of challenges. African-American girls are suspended from school, sent to foster care, and incarcerated at rates higher than other girls. Latina girls have the lowest four-year high-school graduation rates and highest pregnancy rates. And Native-American girls are two and half times more likely to experience sexual assault.

In response to these challenges, the NoVo Foundation, a private foundation created in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett that has long worked in the U.S. and Global South, last week announced a $90 million commitment to support and deepen the movement for girls and young women of color here in the U.S. The day after the announcement, PND spoke via email with Pamela Shifman, the foundation's executive director, about the investment, the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color, and how the initiative complements NoVo's ongoing support for girls and young women in the Global South.

Philanthropy News Digest: I think a lot of people were surprised by the size of the investment NoVo has decided to make in improving the lives of girls and young women of color in the United States. In fact, it's the largest commitment ever made by a private foundation to address the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color. In going "big," is the foundation making a statement about what it elsewhere calls the "invisibility" of girls and young women of color?

Headshot_pamela_shifman_philantopicPamela Shifman: We're making a major investment in this work because it is central to our mission. NoVo has always worked at the intersection of racial and gender justice, and we've included a focus on adolescent girls going back to our inception in 2006. We are a social justice foundation, with a deep commitment to dismantling the structural barriers that perpetuate inequality, so it's always been clear to us that we needed to focus on girls. To date, much of our work with adolescent girls has focused on the Global South. That work is essential to our foundation and will continue to be a significant focus of ours.

But the need is also great in the United States. We began working with girls and young women of color in the U.S. over four years ago and launched an initial strategy in 2014. We've been guided by the groundbreaking work of partners like Sister Sol, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, The Beautiful Project, Young Women Empowered, and many others. Our new commitment will allow us to deepen this work.

As we've pursued grantmaking in this area, we've been struck by the pervasive and deep-seated myth that girls, including girls of color, are doing fine. By being public about our commitment, we hope to join with others in sending a clear message: girls and young women of color face specific disparities that are holding them back. Women of color activists have led a national movement to name and address these disparities, and there is a huge opportunity for philanthropy, government, and others to step up and support this work.

PND: What kinds of structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color do you hope to address through the initiative?

PS: If you look at the lived experience of girls and young women of color, you'll find structural inequities almost everywhere. Let's start with education. According to a landmark report from the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy, across the nation black girls are six times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. Among indigenous girls, almost half, 49 percent, do not finish high school.

Safety — both inside and outside the home — is a huge issue. According to Black Women's Blueprint, 60 percent of black girls experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. Sixty-two percent of Latina girls report not feeling safe in their communities, and indigenous girls are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other girls. Twenty-two trans women and girls were murdered in the US in 2015, with women and girls of color making up a disproportionate number of the victims. The fear and threat of violence shapes every aspect of a girl's life, impacting her mobility, sense of safety, and bodily integrity.

Barriers to economic security also are very real. Thirty-five to 40 percent of Asian-American/Pacific Islander girls, for example, live in poverty, despite a widespread perception that suggests otherwise.

These disparities are deeply unacceptable in their own right, but they're even more troubling when you see how they combine into new disparities in adulthood. Today the median wealth for single black women is just $100, compared to $44,000 for single white men. Inequality starts early, and it must be addressed early if we want to create lasting change.

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Newsmakers: Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

September 21, 2015

Headshot_darren_walkerPhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in December 2013. Enjoy.

In September, Darren Walker became the tenth president of the Ford Foundation. Before coming to Ford, where he was vice president of the foundation's Education, Creativity, and Freedom of Expression program, Walker served as vice president for foundation initiatives at the Rockefeller Foundation and as chief operating officer of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, where he guided the organization's efforts to develop housing for low and moderate-income families in Harlem.

Recently, Michael Seltzer, a frequent contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Walker about the current social change environment, the influence of the foundation's activities on his life, and his hopes for the foundation going forward. Seltzer is a distinguished lecturer at the Baruch College School of Public Affairs and an affiliated faculty member of its Center for Nonprofit Strategy & Management.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is it like to be president of the Ford Foundation?

Darren Walker: Although I've been at the foundation for more than three years, in many ways I still have a lot to learn. I certainly didn't arrive here with any idea I would end up as president. When I walked through the doors of this institution for the first time, it was a transformational experience, because the Ford Foundation represents the ways in which my own life has been changed by philanthropy.

I'm a graduate of public schools. I attended public school in a small town in Texas, and I am also a graduate of the first Head Start cohort, a program that was developed out of Ford Foundation-supported research on early child development at Yale University. After high school, I attended a large land grant university -- thanks to Pell grants, another Ford Foundation-supported intervention -- so I know all about Ford's commitment to public education in this country.

After college, I worked on Wall Street and one day found myself at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, which was hosting a representative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a creation of -- you guessed it -- the Ford Foundation. LISC had awarded a grant to the Abyssinian Development Corporation for capacity-building initiatives that would allow it to realize the aspirations of the organization's founders, who had a dream in the mid-'80s that Harlem could be a community that could regenerate itself from within. And the Ford Foundation, through LISC, believed in that dream and invested in it. And that capacity-building grant made it possible for ADC to hire me. So my journey, like the journeys of so many others, has been deeply influenced by the Ford Foundation.

I was thrilled to receive a call from the foundation's board chair, Irene Hirano-Inouye, and have her tell me that the board had voted to appoint me president. Actually, I wasn't sure how to respond, beyond saying, "Yes!" because I know that with this job comes huge responsibility, and that I stand on the shoulders of some extraordinary people.

PND: The Ford Foundation has been a long-distance runner when it comes to addressing social issues like poverty. Today, we face some of the most serious social challenges we've seen since the 1960s -- both in terms of holding the line on the progress we've made and in putting forward new solutions designed to help low-income individuals and communities build assets and resilience. Are you discouraged by the magnitude of the challenges we face?

DW: It's easy to be dismayed by the current state of social justice in our country and around the world. But it is important to remember the remarkable progress we have made. There was a time, not too long ago, when every indicator of social mobility for low-income and marginalized communities was improving -- employment among urban black males in the 1990s saw tremendous gains, we saw significant reductions in the level of homelessness, and more African-Americans and Latinos were matriculating to institutions of higher education. Although it wasn't always even, for almost forty years, from the early 1960s through the 1990s, we saw progress. We've fallen back some, so it's particularly important we remember that history and not be discouraged. A certain set of circumstances contributed to the conditions which prevail today. That said, we have faced these problems before and made huge progress in addressing them, and we can do so again.

I am actually hopeful and quite excited about what the Ford Foundation can do to address some of these challenges. There are thousands of new foundations out there, and together we have an opportunity and the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of poor and vulnerable people. That is very exciting. So, no, I am not discouraged. I am energized. We have work to do, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The journey toward justice is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back affair. That process will always be with us.

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The Art of Memory

September 18, 2015

PhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in October 2010. Enjoy.

Earlier this month, in Buenos Aires, closing arguments were made in one of the legal cases brought against the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983, the period of the so-called Dirty War. The case, referred to by the names of the three clandestine military centers ("Atlético-Banco-Olimpo") where 181 victims were detained, is one of hundreds that have been opened since the amnesty laws that protected members of the military from being prosecuted for crimes against humanity were struck down. The trials are open to the public, and the courtrooms have been packed by families of the victims and citizens interested in a resolution to this painful episode in the country's history.

Architecture, sculpture, and painting; music; film and video; poetry, drama, prose -- all have been employed to tell the tragic story of a people's loss and pain after similarly brutal episodes in the past. The arts are fundamental to the process of memorialization.

In Argentina, the process has included myriad plaques and other expressions of remembrance and remembering. At the national level, a group of ten human rights organizations gained the support of legislators in 1998 to establish the Park of Memory on the banks of the river that forms the country's northeastern boundary, the Rio de la Plata, and construct the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism. In short order, an international competition to commission additional sculpture and a visitors center for the park was launched.

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[Excerpt] 'When the Past Is Never Gone'

September 03, 2015

Guard_superdome_katrinaAs people around the country mark the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it's entirely appropriate that many should feel the need to pause and reflect on what the storm and its aftermath reveal about our troubled racial past. The images broadcast to the world from a flooded New Orleans — of panicked families stranded on rooftops, of National Guardsmen ignoring pleas for assistance from the mostly African-American crowds gathered at the squalid Superdome, of armed sheriffs denying safe passage to New Orleanians trying to flee the city on foot — were a reminder in 2005, as they are today, that the past is always with us.

That suggestion, as Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, notes, has been advanced many times, by many people. In an essay accompanying the foundation's most recent annual report, Lewis, paraphrasing Edward Ball, the author of Slaves in the Family, writes: "[T]he policing of black bodies, and the legislated use of extralegal actions, has its roots in an earlier America, where every black person was assumed to be some white person's property and many whites presumed themselves deputized to reconnect property and owner." It is an observation that lays bare the immorality of America's "peculiar institution" — and one that many would argue has no relevance to our own "post-racial" century. Lewis, a noted social historian and Foundation Center board member, isn't one of them. Like an "apparition out of time," he writes, "slavery's ghost — and the specter of race and difference — never seem to leave us."

One way to make sense of "slavery’s lingering presence," Lewis suggests, is to ask and try to answer questions about the institution through the scholarship of the humanities and the arts. For half a century, the Mellon Foundation has been one of the important private sponsors of such inquiry. Indeed, under Lewis's leadership, it has reaffirmed its commitment to scholarship and the humanities. Why? Because, in a world characterized by rapid change, the humanities matter — maybe more than ever. Foundation Center, for its part, collects and analyzes data related to how foundations like Mellon address social challenges deeply rooted in the past, from black male achievement to education reform to diversity in philanthropy. Philanthropy, by itself, can't solve these problems, any more than it can erase the legacy of slavery. But without a solid grasp of what it has done to address racial inequities in the past — and is trying to do in the present — it cannot expect to achieve its aims in the future.

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Knowledge Is Power: LGBTQI and Human Rights Funders, Disaggregate Your Data!

July 20, 2015

Lgbt-handprintWhen several LGBTQI funders set out in 2013 to better understand the landscape of funding for trans* human rights, our first stop was the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's groundbreaking data set on global human rights funding. To our surprise, we found very little information about funding for trans* people specifically. When I went looking last month for data on funding dedicated to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, I found the same gap. This, I realized, is because most foundations report their funding for "LGBT" people as just that: "LGBT."

We know, however, that the LGBT acronym masks a huge diversity of communities, needs, and human rights priorities. Lesbian and queer women may be more concerned with addressing family violence or changing cultural narratives about sexuality than overturning a colonial sodomy law. Trans* activists may be focused on ending the discriminatory policing of trans* women of color or passing laws that allow people to self-determine their legal gender. Intersex activists are seeking specific protections against non-consensual genital surgeries and other rights-violating medical interventions on intersex bodies. From Astraea’s nearly forty years of supporting queer and trans activism with a racial, economic, and gender justice lens, we also know that foundation funding for LGBTQI rights does not match this diversity of agendas. Without dedicated attention to lesbian and queer women, trans*, and intersex folks, "LGBT" too often means the leadership and priorities of cisgender gay men.

Without attention to other identities we hold, "LGBT" also often means the more privileged aspects of our movements in terms of race, class, and age. It would be easy to look at the LGBT funding dedicated to marriage equality in the U.S., for example, and say that our work is getting done. But we know that LGBTQI justice will only come when all people experience legal and lived equality, and when we are all free from hatred, discrimination, and violence. That is why we need an LGBTQI agenda that dismantles racial, gender, and economic inequality, and why we need to look not only at the gender breakdown of "LGBT" but also the proportion of funding that supports organizing by and for communities of color, as well as poor and working-class folks. Our data must reflect the intersectional reality of our lives and our movements.

This year's Advancing Human Rights report tells us that LGBT funding represented 5 percent of all foundation human rights dollars in 2012 and has held relatively steady over the past three years. If we are going to meet the demand from growing LGBTQI movements pursuing human rights around the world, we absolutely need to grow the overall pie. But we should also look at where the funding available to us is going. Which constituencies are receiving support? Whose agendas are they funding and amplifying?

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Being Counted: Funding for People With Disabilities

July 16, 2015

"It's a sad truth that in many developing countries people with disabilities simply don't count. No data is collected on their disabilities nor their abilities, so it’s as if they just don’t exist…."

— Former UK parliamentary undersecretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) (quoted in the Guardian)

Disability_symbolsRecognizing that, to date, development goals have not been reached because people at the margins have not been included, the concept of "leave no one behind" has been a key part of the post-2015 development process. Among those left behind have been people with disabilities who, until the publication of the first World Bank/World Health Organization World Report on Disability in 2011, were not specifically enumerated among the world's population.

As it turns out, people with disabilities make up an estimated one billion people around the world. That is 15 percent of the world's population, or one in every seven people. Further, children with disabilities are the single largest group excluded from school, making up 30 percent to 40 percent of the out-of-school population according to UNESCO. Women with disabilities are 40 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than other women, and 20 percent of the poorest people in the world are people with disabilities.

Despite these dire statistics, most countries in the developing world either do not count their populations with disabilities or do not use standardized methods to do so, meaning that official data on persons with disabilities and the conditions they live in is poor or absent.

Until recently, this was also the case among human rights funders and human rights organizations. Disability — considered a charity or medical issue — was not delineated as a human rights concern. Indeed, it was only in 2010, following the implementation in 2008 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that even as formidable an advocate as Human Rights Watch started systematically reporting on rights abuses against persons with disabilities.

Thus, when the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center initiated a project in 2010 to map global human rights grantmaking, I was excited that the project would include people with disabilities among the recipient populations to be tracked. For the first time, people with disabilities would be listed as a population of concern for funders making human rights grants.

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Funding the Marriage Equality Movement: Lessons in Collaboration and Risk Taking

July 06, 2015

Rainbow-flagThe marriage equality movement in the United States has been fueled by the strategic and coordinated efforts of legal groups, advocacy organizations, and a small but active community of grantmakers. The historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 26 to extend marriage equality nationwide was preceded by a gradual legislative sea change and a dramatic shift in public opinion. In 2001, a majority of Americans opposed the idea of allowing same-sex couples to marry. In 2015, polls showed a reversal of the numbers, with 57 percent of Americans favoring marriage equality.

One of the key funders behind this shift was the Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC), an initiative of the Proteus Fund that has partnered with individual donors and foundations to award roughly $2 million in grants each year since 2004 for a broad range of publicly visible education activities aimed at advancing marriage equality. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, it's worth looking closer at how CMC, as a funder collaborative, contributed to the success of the marriage equality movement. The CMC story also offers lessons about the role philanthropy can play in advocacy, as well as how funders can collaborate and take risks to achieve greater impact.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, federal law defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. By 2004, marriage equality had gained traction with a number of key legislative wins, including the approval of civil unions in Vermont, which granted same-sex couples some (but not all) of the legal benefits of marriage, and a landmark victory in Massachusetts that made it the first state in the U.S. to uphold the right of LGBT couples to marry. But it was also a year of setbacks for the movement, as a series of same-sex marriage bans were passed in thirteen states. According to CMC director Paul A. Di Donato, it was around this time that some grantmakers began to realize that achieving a critical mass of support for marriage equality would require greater engagement by the philanthropic community, not just a few relationships between individual foundations and big national players. With that in mind, a group of funders, including the Gill Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Overbrook Foundation, and the Proteus Fund (as a convener), came together around the idea that pooling financial resources and sharing collective knowledge could lead to broader change. Subsequently, they agreed to test the waters as a funder collaborative for a few years to see whether same-sex marriage would continue to gain traction as an issue. In 2007, when Di Donato joined CMC, same-sex marriage was still at the top of the LGBT agenda and the collaborative's members were still deeply committed to supporting public education activities aimed at advancing that agenda.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 11-12, 2015)

April 12, 2015

Lincoln_shotOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sectorFor more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Corporate Philanthropy

Indiana Business Journal reporter J.K. Wall looks at how Eli Lilly & Co. is shifting its corporate philanthropy from an approach focused on social responsibility to one that emphasizes "shared value."

Fundraising

In a post for the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, writer and consultant Cynthia Gibson asks whether organizations that work to foster a "culture of philanthropy," a mindset in which "fundraising is seen less as a transactional tactic and more of a way of operating," are more likely "to boost their giving levels and donor retention; strengthen trust, cooperation and engagement among board and staff members; and align mission and program goals more seamlessly with revenue generation." What do you think? Click on over to the Haas Fund site to share your thoughts.

Governance

Long admired for its no-tuition policy, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan began in 2014 to assess incoming freshman a tuition fee of $20,000 — a decision that led to student protests and media scrutiny of the school's financial dealings. Earlier this week, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation of focused on the Cooper Union board's "management of the school's endowment; its handling of its major asset, the iconic Chrysler Building; its dealings with Tishman Speyer Properties, which manages the skyscraper; and how the school obtained a $175 million loan from MetLife using the building as collateral." New York Times writer James B. Stewart reports.

Human/Civil Rights

On the D5 Coalition blog, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, shares some thoughts about what foundations can do to support LGBT communities in the wake of the "religious freedom" bill signed into law by Indiana governor Mike Pence.

International Affairs/Development

On the Global Dashboard blog, policy analyst and researcher David Steven looks at five ways co-facilitators have made the targets for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals worse.

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5 Questions for…Nancy Northup, President and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights

March 23, 2015

Nancy_northup_for_PhilanTopicMore than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a woman's right to have an abortion in Roe v. Wade, a number of states have passed laws designed to restrict women's access to reproductive health services, including emergency contraception and abortion. In Congress, meanwhile, the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortion services in most cases and has routinely been attached as a "rider" to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services, recently was attached to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act — a bill designed to protect citizens or permanent residents of the United States who have been trafficked and/or sexually assaulted or abused.

We asked Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization that uses constitutional and international law to secure women's reproductive freedom, about these legislative trends, efforts to push back against them, and the road ahead.

Philanthropy News Digest: Your organization recently launched a campaign, "The War on Women Is Over! If You Want It," that was inspired by Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" campaign. What are the goals of the campaign, and what kind of response has it generated?

Nancy Northup: We launched the campaign on the forty-second anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision with the goal of inspiring current activists engaging and educating new audiences about the profound threats to women's freedom here in the United States. We're thrilled with the support we have received so far, from men and women across the country. Celebrities like Taylor Schilling, Susan Sarandon, Martha Plimpton, John Lithgow and Yoko Ono herself have all thrown their weight behind this campaign, and we couldn't be more grateful.

We were inspired by the power and history of Yoko Ono and John Lennon's 1970 "War Is Over" peace movement, which brought together thousands of anti-war activists across the country and unified them behind a simple message. And we are incredibly fortunate and grateful to have the personal blessing of Yoko Ono as we go forward with the campaign.

PND: The inclusion of the qualifier "If You Want It" would seem to suggest that society — women and men — have become complacent about women's reproductive freedom in the decades since Roe v. Wade. Why is that?

NN: There are countless dedicated people — clinic escorts, providers, doctors, lawyers, youth activists, researchers, elected officials, writers, volunteers, and donors — actively engaged in the fight for women's reproductive freedom. The vast majority of Americans support women's access to safe and legal abortion as part of a full range of reproductive health care. But the anti-choice community has waged a successful propaganda war, based on fear and misinformation, to marginalize the seven in ten Americans who want to see Roe v. Wade upheld, and that has made people feel alone and reluctant to speak up. This campaign is about giving the silent members of our majority an opportunity to make themselves seen and heard.

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    — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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