320 posts categorized "African Americans"

Learning from trust-based philanthropy and participatory grantmaking: A commentary by Kim Moore Bailey and Laura Rodriguez

August 15, 2022

Women_high_fives_GettyImagesIn 2021, Justice Outside’s Rising Leaders Fellowship program brought together 20 early-career nonprofit professionals, most of them Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), to get hands-on experience with philanthropy. Fellows had the opportunity to design a $40,000 grantmaking program and decide to whom they would award grants and how they would distribute those funds across the selected grantees. They were invited to examine all the “rules” they knew about philanthropy.

Funded by the Environmental Education Funders Collaborative (EEFC), a network for Bay Area funders, the Rising Leaders Fellowship offered an opportunity for young people—who are often on the receiving end of grants—to reimagine and have agency in grantmaking. Supported by Justice Outside, they discussed wealth disparities generated by capitalism and white supremacy culture; and how trust-based philanthropy and participatory grantmaking can be antidotes to inequities in philanthropy.

What’s more important than what they learned, however, is what they can teach us....

Read the full commentary by Kim Moore Bailey and Laura Rodriguez, president and CEO and chief program officer, respectively, of Justice Outside.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Sustaining progressive change through community-based participatory research: A commentary by Sarah Bobrow-Williams

August 12, 2022

Doctor_woman_patient_GettyImages_croppedHow many of us have spent countless days producing exacting research reports informing the most salient social issues today—only to find a box of undistributed reports in the office storage closet a year later? Even the most impactful research aimed at influencing public policy makers and other targeted audiences has a short shelf-life. By contrast, participatory action research (PAR), also known as community-based participatory research, can make a far greater, longer-term impact—especially when the intended audience for the research includes communities that are the most marginalized and affected by the issues being studied.

Many marginalized communities have long and often sensitive histories of being “researched”—being the object of the research, while the job of identifying, defining, and assessing the issues is left to outside “experts.” Regrettably, excluding instead of centering the expertise of community members who are directly impacted by the issues not only leaves them feeling used but is a missed opportunity to catalyze and sustain progressive community change on many levels.

Those of us who have worked alongside communities have witnessed the consternation and dispiritedness felt by individuals when they are placed under the microscope without being given the opportunity to define challenges as they experience them. This omission also precludes the synergy and devotion that is often generated by problem solving from multiple perspectives. Conversely, community-based participatory research offers a collective, dialogic process for expression, reflection, perspective taking, and information sharing, and, ultimately, creative solution-based action among stakeholders. This process helps form a nexus of dynamic connections and relationships that can lead to sustained change over the long term....

Read the full commentary by Sarah Bobrow-Williams, a community-based participatory research consultant for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI).

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Ensuring equitable access to mental health care in communities of color: A commentary by Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.

August 03, 2022

Youth_mental_health_FatCamera_GettyImages-1317882681All people deserve equitable access to quality and comprehensive mental health care. But unfortunately, some of the populations most in need of such care have historically been, and continue to be, the most underserved.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress such as sadness, hopelessness, and feeling like everything is an effort. And according to one survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Latinx adults reported significantly higher rates of depression during the pandemic compared with other populations. Yet in 2020, only one in three Black adults with mental health conditions received treatment. And only 10 percent of Latinx people with a psychological disorder contacted a mental health specialist.

We at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have been reflecting on these disparities during July in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named after a pioneering mother who strove to end stigma associated with mental illness, particularly in communities of color. But we must also commit beyond raising awareness—to taking action....

Read the full commentary by Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

(Photo credit: Getty Images/FatCamera)

Learning environments that prioritize trust building: A commentary by Cierra Kaler-Jones and Jaime T. Koppel

August 01, 2022

Female_teacher_middleschool_class_GettyImagesIn the last 20 years, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office moved more than $1 billion in grants for school policing, hardening, and militarization. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed quickly in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, is another effort that advances the illusion of “school safety” by increasing funding for police in schools, threat assessments, and school hardening—despite significant evidence that surveillance technologies and police presence undermine students’ trust. According to the U.S. Department of Education, millions of students attend schools where there are police officers but no counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers. Further, Black and brown students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities face the brunt of the harms of policing. Since investments in school policing have ballooned in recent years, many students and staff have never been in a school without police and policing infrastructure. This reinforces the myth that safety comes from police. Why keep investing in a strategy that’s never worked?

Philanthropy is too often complicit in these efforts. As a sector, we overwhelmingly invest in tidy policy wins that seem attainable within a grant cycle or two. We privilege groups with larger budgets, typically because we believe they have the greatest likelihood of “winning”....

Read the full commentary by Jaime T. Koppel and Cierra Kaler-Jones, co-director and director of storytelling at Communities for Just Schools Fund.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Advancing racial and social justice is a core responsibility for Christians: A commentary by Emily Jones

July 29, 2022

Black_womens_lives_matter_max-bender_unsplashAs the executive for racial justice for United Women in Faith, I think regularly about how to inspire our hundreds of thousands of members to make the world a more just and equitable place. United Women in Faith is committed to putting faith, hope, and love into action to improve the lives of women, children, and youth. There is no shortage of work for our members to do. There is no shortage of issues competing for our time and attention. But we have decided to focus on pushing back against the criminalization of communities of color—especially children of color. Every year, we work hard to inspire our members to do their part to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.” We do this by aligning with and supporting the campaigns of groups such as Dignity in Schools and others who have been doing this work far longer than us. We also support our members to engage in advocacy work at the local, state, and federal levels.

We believe that advancing racial and social justice is a core responsibility for Christians. It is not enough to be engaged in our churches if we are not also working to dismantle systems of oppression in our communities. United Women in Faith’s board of directors recently voted to grant $500,000 in funding to mission-aligned groups led by Indigenous and Black women: $250,000 to Brittany K. Barnett’s Girls Embracing Mothers and $250,000 to Tia Oros Peters’ Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples. Girls Embracing Mothers helps girls with incarcerated mothers to fulfill their unique calling and break the cycle of incarceration. The Seventh Generation Fund is the oldest organization of its kind and is dedicated to Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and Native nations’ sovereignty....

Read the full commentary by Emily Jones, executive for racial justice for United Women in Faith.

(Photo credit: max bender via unsplash)

Review: 'Nonprofit Neighborhoods: An Urban History of Inequality and the American State'

July 27, 2022

Book_cover_Nonprofit NeighborhoodsIn 2014, when Massachusetts launched its “pay for success” social impact bond program—in which private investors would front the funding for nonprofit efforts to address a social issue—it was hailed as an innovative, data-driven public-private partnership that would deliver demonstrated results and cost savings. Yet, as Claire Dunning illustrates in Nonprofit Neighborhoods: An Urban History of Inequality and the American State, it was just the latest chapter in a long history of public-private initiatives that so far have not fulfilled their promise.

An assistant professor of public policy and history at the University of Maryland, College Park, Dunning defines “nonprofit neighborhoods” as “places where neighborhood-based nonprofit organizations controlled access to the levers of political, economic, and social power and mediated the local manifestations of the state and market.” While that definition might suggest the nonprofits have power, Nonprofit Neighborhoods illuminates how, through government and public-private grantmaking, nonprofits in Boston’s low-income and minority neighborhoods came to provide the services that government should have provided and, even more disturbingly, how that funding mechanism was used to appease, manage, and control grassroots movements for policy reform and inclusion....

Read the full book review by Kyoko Uchida, features editor at Philanthropy News Digest.

Supporting BIPOC-led climate work creatively: A commentary by Kim Moore Bailey, Danielle Levoit, and Michele Perch

July 18, 2022

Delaware-River-Watershed_Thomas Kloc_GettyImages-1348223576Foundations across the United States have increased funding for racial equity and social justice over the last few years, but more needs to be done to support the organizations at the forefront of this work. A 2021 report by the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) found that, in 2018, the latest year for which complete grants data is available, just 6 percent of total philanthropic dollars supported racial equity work and only 1 percent supported racial justice initiatives. Similarly, in research by Echoing Green and the Bridgespan Group, an analysis of approximately 1,000 early-stage organizations found Black-led entities reporting 24 percent less in revenues and 76 percent less in unrestricted net assets than their white-led counterparts. There is a growing awareness of disparities like these; in fact, the PRE report noted a five-fold increase in the number of funders investing in racial equity and racial justice in the U.S. over the past 10 years. But even with increased support, the level of investment remains low as a percentage of overall philanthropic dollars and has not translated into commensurate resources for Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led (BIPOC) organizations. So how, as a philanthropic community, do we address this critical gap?

To truly advance equity in philanthropy, foundations must continue to increase financial investment, and the sector must also do more through new partnerships, approaches and grantmaking innovations to create opportunities that can deepen philanthropic impact. This will support BIPOC-led organizations in driving meaningful work anchored in social change.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) and the William Penn Foundation (WPF) recently embarked on an innovative partnership with Justice Outside to advance racial justice and equity in environmental conservation and, more broadly, to rethink how our foundations can better support BIPOC-led initiatives....

Read the full commentary by Kim Moore Bailey, Danielle Levoit, and Michele Perch. Bailey is president and CEO of Justice Outside, Levoit is a program officer for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Perch is a program officer for watershed protection at the William Penn Foundation.

(Photo credit: Thomas Kloc/Getty Images)

Racial justice at the forefront of impact investing: A commentary by Ian Fuller

July 15, 2022

Young woman_megaphone_protest_social_justice_GettyImages_LeoPatriziFollowing the racial reckoning of 2020, billions in corporate and individual donations to Black-serving and Black-led organizations changed the landscape of investment advising. If investment advisory firms are to keep up with this trend, they must adopt a community-centered, racial justice approach to business.

In response to calls for racial justice in the wake of the murders of countless Black Americans following brutal interactions with law enforcement, $50 billion in corporate and individual donations poured into Black-led or Black-serving nonprofits, civil rights groups, and historically Black colleges and universities. This disbursement of billions is creating one of the largest windfall events for beneficiaries directly impacting and serving Black communities in our country’s history. Many of these institutions have never received donations of this size, or scale, at one time.

Since 2020, Westfuller, a Black-majority, woman- and LGBTQ-owned investment advisory firm I co-founded, has seen eight times as many nonprofit clients experience windfall events from wealthy donors. We saw this with billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott publicly donating more than $12 billion as of March 2022. In working with these organizations to manage their expanded financial portfolios, we’ve learned that for investment advisory firms to have an impact in this new landscape, it is essential to adopt a community-centered approach—concentrating on community economic development, revitalization, growth, and sustainability—with racial justice at the forefront of impact investing. It’s not a choice, it’s a necessity....

Read the full commentary by Ian Fuller, a co-founder and partner of Westfuller, a Black-majority, woman- and LGBTQ-owned investment advisory firm.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Leo Patrizi)

Effective violence reduction strategies: A Q&A with Jocelyn Fontaine and Anita Ravishankar

July 01, 2022

Jocelyn_Fontaine_Anita_Ravishankar_Arnold_Ventures_credit_Todd SpothOn June 2, Arnold Ventures issued a research agenda and an RFP focused on violence reduction, including gun violence, citing an increase in violent crimes and incidents over the past two years across U.S. cities “regardless of their size, geographic location, or political leanings.”

Jocelyn Fontaine is Arnold Ventures’ vice president of criminal justice research; she previously served a senior researcher in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where she directed projects focused on corrections and reentry issues, gun violence, violence reduction programs, and police-community trust-building efforts. Anita Ravishankar is director of criminal justice research; she was a founding member of The Lab @ DC and the research and innovation team within the DC Metropolitan Police Department.

Philanthropy News Digest asked Fontaine and Ravishankar about the rise in gun violence, the priorities of the new research agenda and RFP, how violence reduction intersects with racial justice, and the role of philanthropy in driving solutions.

Philanthropy News Digest: Presumably the development of this research agenda and RFP on solutions for reducing violence was under way well before the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. What do you see as the main causes of the surge in violent crimes and incidents nationwide—many of which have targeted specific populations for their race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other marginalized identities?

Anita Ravishankar: Gun violence has long been at unacceptably high levels in the United States. The nearly 30 percent nationwide increase in homicides in 2020, on the heels of massive social disruptions due to the pandemic, brought that reality into sharp relief. As we noted in our materials, the increase in violence was widespread, affecting communities regardless of their size, location, political leadership, or policy environment....

But we do not have precise explanations, which is unsatisfying and hinders policy makers’ ability to address violence. So through this research agenda we are prioritizing studies that can help us understand both the immediate causes of violence—e.g., how do we understand what the particular problem of violence is in a given jurisdiction and respond in the near term—as well as the underlying or root causes of violence that require longer-term and more holistic strategies or solutions to address. Our work focuses on the people and places most at risk of involvement in violence, as perpetrators of violence and victims of violence, which has not changed much over time, and understanding what works to support police solutions.

PND: The research agenda comprises three pillars: address immediate crises of violence, identify and address the underlying causes of violence, and promote effective police investigations to solve violent crime. Did the most recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde shift or sharpen your priorities for the research agenda in any way?

AR: Arnold Ventures has been making substantial investments to understand the efficacy of different gun policies and different violence reduction strategies for several years. The notable increase in community violence over the past few years made clear the need to increase our research efforts to match the urgency of the moment in needing answers on effective solutions, spurring our research agenda and RFP. The events in Buffalo and Uvalde are absolutely heart-wrenching, leading so many of us to want our elected leaders to “do something, anything” to prevent these tragedies from happening. Those leaders will need to understand what policies and practices are effective, however, and building the evidence is a critical contribution to ensuring that decision makers do have high-quality information to navigate these challenges. Identifying evidence-based policy solutions has been and continues to be a key driver of our research investments, across all of our areas of work.

PND: The announcement notes that “[t]he distribution of these violent incidents remains predominantly concentrated in communities that have been subject to chronic underinvestment”—which would suggest that violence reduction is a racial and social justice issue. How do you see the intersectionality of those issues?

Jocelyn Fontaine: Homicide remains the #1 cause of death for young Black men, and the second leading cause of death for young Hispanic men. These statistics are sobering and unacceptable. We must develop effective tools and responses—including policies, interventions, and resources–to address the problem of high levels of violence effectively to save lives and reduce victimization and harm. Yes, violence reduction is an issue of racial equity. Several studies have found that the majority of crimes often occur in a small number of specific streets or blocks and those trends are largely stable over time. Further, Black and Brown people are significantly more likely than white people to be victims of serious violence and homicide. As violent crime is concentrated in economically disadvantaged Black and Brown neighborhoods, which have been historically underserved and marginalized and where residents have a relationship with the police and the justice system that has been defined through a history of marginalization, oppression, surveillance, coercion, and control, effective violence reduction strategies is absolutely consistent with efforts to advance racial equity....

Read the full Q&A with Jocelyn Fontaine and Anita Ravishankar, Vice President and Director of Criminal Justice Research, Arnold Ventures.

(Photo credit: Todd Spoth)

It's time for philanthropy to invest in Black women: A commentary by Maria S. Johnson

June 19, 2022

African_American_woman_protest_GettyImages_Drazen ZigicMany of us are feeling disillusioned by the current state of affairs in the United States. This includes the rollback of reproductive rights, white supremacist mass shootings, rising costs for basic needs, and shortages of essential items like baby formula—which are occurring as we are still enduring a pandemic that has taken more than a million lives.

Reporting indicates that Black women and girls are disproportionately affected by these events. Black mothers have limited access to quality prenatal care and access to abortions. Black grandmothers who were community and charitable pillars were targeted and murdered at a supermarket, and low-income Black women are facing insurmountable rising costs and housing instability. All of this can feel overwhelming, insurmountable even. I get it. And yet, there is something we can do: fund Black women and girl leaders.

As a Black woman from the South, I have lived, worked, and been educated in racially hostile spaces, subjected to racist and sexist slurs, and doubted and thwarted throughout my life. I have also witnessed the power of Black women and girls to create beloved communities and alter the trajectories of their and others’ lives when offered resources and opportunities. Coming from that reality, I learned early on that we all need support to thrive. For as long as we have lived in this country, Black women and girls have been on the ground addressing many of society’s most pressing ills. Moreover, Black women and girls have bravely looked beyond societal problems to imagine and create new futures in which not only Black women and girls but everyone can live safe, happy, liberated lives.

This resourcefulness and visionary approach are hallmarks of Black women and girls, but philanthropy fails them....

Read the full commentary by Maria S. Johnson, founder and chair of the Black Women and Girls Fund in Baltimore.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Drazen Zigic)

A supportive and complementary approach to fiscal sponsorship: A commentary by E. Bomani Johnson

May 30, 2022

Minority_women_owned_business_GettyImages In 2017, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, in partnership with Race Forward and the Foundation Center, published an infographic showing that, despite population increases, annual foundation funding focused on people of color never exceeded 8.5 percent of total grantmaking between 2005 and 2014. In 2014, foundation grantmaking for people of color only accounted for 7.4 percent. During the same 10-year period, grantmaking targeted to African Americans as a percentage of giving to people of color declined from a high point of 21.8 percent in 2005 to 17.5 percent in 2014. Despite the long track record of Black-led organizations spearheading some of the most transformational culture shifts in our nation’s history, the data show that they are egregiously underfunded.

Among the many things the data reveal about the relationship between Black-led organizations and philanthropy, one thing in particular is very clear: Black-led organizations are not trusted to devise and direct their own healing.

Institutional philanthropy has long relied on the use of fiscal sponsors in awarding grants to smaller organizations regardless of their IRS status, or to groups that do not hold an IRS designation that would allow them to receive tax- or penalty-free grant funding. At Nafasi Fund, our major role as a fiscal sponsor is to provide smaller nonprofits or entities without an IRS-sanctioned designation with the financial management, legal, and administrative backing to make them “less risky” investments for individual donors, public funding sources, and private philanthropy. Given the historical and contemporary manifestations of white supremacy in the field of philanthropy and the numerous efforts to advance racial equity and racial justice to eliminate harmful policies and practices within the field, we need to take a new, supportive, and complementary approach to fiscal sponsorship. So we asked ourselves: What if our fiscal sponsorship approach was intentionally culturally restorative, instead of unintentionally harmful and extractive?...

Read the full commentary by E. Bomani Johnson, executive director of Nafasi Fund.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Investing in BIPOC-led firms and nonprofits with more than a check: A commentary by James Wahls

May 28, 2022

Black_woman_entrepreneur_rawpixel_McKinseyWith Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led businesses and nonprofits attracting increased public attention and large capital investments in recent years, do we still need additional initiatives? The short answer is yes. Society places the burden of success on entrepreneurs of color while often ignoring the systems that continue to cause them to fail disproportionately. We should be talking more about ways to reduce start-up risks and help businesses become sustainable over the long term.

I come to this work with 15 years impact investing, legal, and entrepreneurial experience. Having previously worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, I have managed or co-managed more than $240 million in impact investing allocations in grants, equity, debt, and direct investments. This includes leading or co-leading investments to fund entrepreneurs of color across the United States, along with investments in affordable housing, financial inclusion, job creation, and community development. I have always been passionate about catalyzing investments to people of color-led businesses and nonprofits. It is critical that we not just write the check but position entrepreneurs to continue securing investments and, we should hope, larger ones than what we have provided.

It is no secret that many BIPOC-led firms do not always have the support they need to start or grow their businesses. What most people do not appreciate, however, is the critical role of infrastructure development in enabling a business to grow. It is not just money that would-be entrepreneurs lack. Many need trusted partners who can support them in expanding their networks, conducting market research, solidifying business plans, applying for the requisite licenses and business insurance policies, researching funding streams, setting up payroll systems, etc. As many have shared with me, if you’ve never launched a business or nonprofit before, and no one in your family has done so, you may not know the ins and outs of getting it off the ground....

Read the full commentary by James C.D. Wahls, founder and managing director of Revolve Fund, senior vice president at Mission Investors Exchange.

(Photo credit: McKinsey via rawpixel)

Review: 'Upper Hand: The Future of Work for the Rest of Us'

May 20, 2022

Book_cover_Upper_HandIt is anticipated that over the next decade, over 30 percent of the workforce in the United States will need to be retrained or change jobs due to shifts in technology and automation. With this impeding shift, much needs to be done to ensure that marginalized Black and brown communities, who have already been left behind and disadvantaged by the digital divide, are able to adapt to and navigate this future.

As Sherrell Dorsey argues in Upper Hand: The Future of Work for the Rest of Us, “We’ve made getting into the technology space extremely complex. But it doesn’t have to be…we can include ourselves in the rooms and tables that will carry us into opportunities that enable higher salaries, strategies for navigating an education that won’t leave us in insurmountable debt, and career prospects that allow us to be pillars within our families and communities.”

This is exactly what Dorsey's book aims to do. She crafts a call to action for both individuals and society that uses personal stories, evidence, and clear action items as a guide toward achieving a more equitable future within this shifting landscape....

Read the full review by Kate Meyers Emery, digital communications manager at Candid.

Organize, mobilize, and train the most affected residents: A Q&A with Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice

May 13, 2022

Headshot_Peggy_Shepard_WEACT_for_Environmental_Justice_Allie-HollowayPeggy Shepard is co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. She is a national leader in advancing environmental policy from the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities. Previously, she was named co-chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council as well as chair of the New York City Environmental Justice Advisory Board, and was the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She serves on the executive committee of the National Black Environmental Justice Network and the board of advisors of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Shepard has been awarded the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment, the William K. Reilly Award for Environmental Leadership, the Knight of the National Order of Merit from the French Republic, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and honorary doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.

PND asked Shepard about the importance of organizing to build healthy communities, sustainable policies that would bring about change, the root causes of environmental racism, the benefits of science and community partnership, nonprofit climate change strategies, the legislative response to environmental justice, and the need for climate migrants from South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to receive equal attention to the impact of climate change migration in their regions.

Philanthropy News Digest: The lack of power and representation in political and economic systems makes it difficult for communities of color to build climate resilience. What is the importance of organizing low-income people of color to build healthy communities for themselves, and how does your background inform the support communities need in advocating for the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment?

Peggy Shepard: I discovered the power of a well-organized community early on in my career. I had the opportunity to experience the communities that had resources and strong advocacy and those that did not, such as the community in which I lived. I was a Democratic district leader in West Harlem when the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was built in our neighborhood after originally being rejected by other communities that were whiter and more affluent.

Once the plant started operating, the odors and emissions were unbearable. At that time, the facility had open sewage pools, so the odor of raw sewage filled the air in West Harlem. It was so bad that residents had to keep their windows shut, even on hot days. Even motorists along the West Side Highway would roll up their windows as they drove by.

A core group of us began to organize people and develop a plan of action. We learned that the emissions coming out of its smokestacks failed to comply with federal clean air standards and that the air pollution was having an adverse impact on people’s health. We began to share this information with people throughout the community and invited them to join our campaign to force the city to address these issues. It took longer than we expected, but after we sued the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation in 1992, the city committed $55 million to retrofit the facility, and our lawsuit was settled for a $1.1 million West Harlem Environmental Benefits Fund. We decided to create West Harlem Environmental Action, aka WE ACT for Environmental Justice, to institutionalize advocacy in underserved communities of color with low income.

Our theory of change is to organize, mobilize, and train the most affected residents to engage in environmental decision making. We are a base-building organization where our members provide direction to and engage with our campaigns through membership meetings, trainings, and working groups on Climate Justice, Healthy Homes, and Worker Training. As a result, they are able to testify at legislative hearings, lead rallies, and attend lobby days to educate their elected officials. With their support, WE ACT has been successful in contributing significantly to the passage of a dozen or more bills at the New York City Council and the New York State legislature, laws that protect the health of children from toxins, and that support decarbonization and electrification. WE ACT started a 501(c)(4), WE ACT 4 Change, to engage our members and community residents in civic and political engagement through trainings, briefings, and candidate forums. Community-based planning has been a hallmark of WE ACT, and we mobilized 400 of our members and community residents to engage in developing the Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan, which prioritized energy security and democracy. We maintain an active and well-organized membership who inform and support our work at the city, state, and federal levels....

Read the full Q&A with Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Allyship vs. righteous conspiracy: A commentary by Cheryl Dorsey

April 12, 2022

Anti_racism_allyship_protest_GettyImages_DisobeyArtGettyImagesAs social entrepreneurs have demonstrated positive results in addressing the world’s most complex problems over the decades, it is evident that continued investment in the sector can create lasting impact.

At Echoing Green, we’re committed to building upon social innovation as a practice and movement to challenge existing power structures and create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. For 35 years, we have found, invested in, and connected nearly 900 best-in-class social innovators transforming systems worldwide.

Core to our theory of change has been building cross-sector alliances for transformative social change. However, as the social innovation movement continues to build momentum, we have arrived at a critical stage where allyship is no longer enough. For organizations looking to further their commitment to racial equity, we must all move past being allies and move toward being co-conspirators.

Allyship vs. righteous conspiracy

Creating powerful and inclusive social movements requires actors across multiple sectors who are willing to roll up their sleeves and act. Passive allyship is often characterized by rhetoric not being matched with action or accountability. We’re witnessing this today on a large scale. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, organizations expressing a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial equity pledged billions of dollars. In 2022, those announcements have been replaced by calls for racial equity audits, which often reveal disappointing results.

Co-conspiracy, by contrast, as civil rights activist and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement Alicia Garza points out, “is about what we do in action, not just in language.” Co-conspirators leverage and cede the power and privilege they hold to work alongside on-the-ground leadership. They take action based on what they have learned and commit to listening and learning, instead of leading. Furthermore, they acknowledge and center the work already being done by leaders and communities closest to the issues, and offer meaningful support to advance their cause....

Read the full commentary by Cheryl L. Dorsey, president of Echoing Green.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/DisobeyArt)

 

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