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NoVo Foundation: Empowering Marginalized Women to Drive Change

December 08, 2018

Too often funders doubt the ability of grassroots leaders to drive change, but NoVo Foundation's grantee partners are proving them wrong.

NCRP-2013logo-color-no-taglineNoVo believes that centering the leadership of people who live every day with injustice is the single most powerful way to create transformative change.

The foundation's consistent adherence to its values was a major factor in it being named an NCRP Impact Award winner in 2013. In making the announcement, NCRP highlighted the foundation’s investment in training, coaching, and networking grassroots women leaders through its Move to End Violence initiative, which continues to support leaders in the U.S. working to end violence against girls and women.

Today, NoVo is putting these values to work in even more ways.

Against the backdrop of the #MeToo revolution, NoVo has spent the last year convening hundreds of donors and funders to hear directly from activists working to end violence against girls and women. In New York, London and Los Angeles, these activists challenged philanthropy to meet this once-in-a-lifetime moment of opportunity for transformative change, made possible by millions of girls and women speaking truth to power, sharing their stories, and demanding safety and dignity. Now that effort is poised to bring new resources to the table. In the coming weeks, NoVo will stand with a dynamic group of funders to launch a new landmark fund to end gender-based violence and build women's power.

In 2017, in response to Donald Trump's election, NoVo announced the launch of the Radical Hope Fund, a new $34 million commitment to support bold and transformative social justice work around the globe. In its first year, the fund has supported nineteen projects spanning six continents that leverage new partnerships for innovative and transformative social justice work.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition, which includes women leaders from more than nine organizations, received $2 million over four years to advance a new initiative, Radical Hope Florida, aimed at sharpening the feminist lens of existing racial, economic, and gender justice organizations in the state, transforming the values and politics of Florida.

The Center for Justice at Columbia University received $2.5 million over four years for the Women Transcending initiative, an effort to support a network of women impacted by mass incarceration and help them organize to transform the structure of the justice system.

The Radical Hope blog raises up the social justice work of these and other grantee partners for anyone who is interested. NoVo notes that the Impact Award was an endorsement of the power of their grantee partners’ work, and the blog lends additional credibility to the voices of those who often go overlooked by society.

NoVo also is one of the initial partners in Grantmakers for Girls of Color, a network committed to expanding support for girls of color in the U.S., and it is launching The Women’s Building at the site of a former women’s prison in New York City. The transformative space is expected to provide leaders working to end violence and discrimination against all girls and women with a place where they can collaborate and leverage their shared power to create lasting change.

NoVo Foundation models what it means for a foundation to be anchored in its values. Through its grantmaking and other practices, it invests in collaborations with others who share its goals and vision, while making space for its partners to operate in similar fashion.

The foundation would not have achieved the impact it has, however, if it wasn't willing to put its trust in the innovation and wisdom it routinely finds in marginalized communities.

The lesson? Funders can achieve the broader social impact they seek when people who are directly affected by injustice have access to unrestricted funding, platforms on which to share their vision, and a seat at the tables where philanthropic decisions are made.

Headshot_jeanne_islerJeanné L.L. Isler is vice president and chief engagement officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

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