258 posts categorized "Social Justice"

Remembering Urvashi

May 17, 2022

Headshot_Urvashi_Vaid_The_Laura_Flanders_Show_2014_CCOn Monday, May 16, I woke up to the devastating news that Urvashi Vaid had died. A pioneering LGBTQ+ civil rights activist, she leaves behind organizations, books, networks, movements, and ideas that will continue to inspire for decades to come. At a time when so many of the things Urvashi fought for are under attack it seems unfair that she should be taken from us. Instead, I choose to be grateful for how difficult she has made it for those would seek to walk back all the hard-won rights she dedicated her life to defending.

I knew Urvashi first as a colleague and then a friend. She served as deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society unit of the Ford Foundation from 2001 to 2005, during my tenure there as vice president for peace and social justice. By that time, she had already served as staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, led the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now National LGBTQ Task Force) and authored Virtual Equality. At that moment in her life, coming to Ford was a choice to step back, if only a bit, from the front lines of activism and multiply herself, her values, and aspirations through the work of others. Urvashi fully appreciated the centrality of power and somehow managed to make space, outside of her more-than-full-time job at Ford, to study political philosopher Hannah Arendt at The New School. Her own life experience and activism had taught her that power concedes nothing without struggle, and she used her time at Ford to support nonprofits, movements, and researchers working to achieve human rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and how they intersect to create identity.

Following her time at Ford, Urvashi went on to become the first executive director of the Arcus Foundation, devoted to LGBTQ+ social justice around the world, launched LPAC (the first lesbian super PAC), and co-founded the Donors of Color Network, the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network, the National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group, and the Equality, Federation, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable. Any one of these accomplishments would be the crowning achievement of a single lifetime, but for Urvashi they were building blocks for a vision of equality stronger than a single person or organization. Somehow, in the midst of it all, she managed to find abundant time for friends, for the family she dearly loved, and her wife and soulmate Kate Clinton. Even her long struggle with cancer was something Urvashi turned into an organizing opportunity, creating a support group for female cancer survivors, affectionately nicknamed “The Breasties,” of which my wife was a loyal participant through the years.

Urvashi is the only person I have ever known who was radical to the very core of her being. Everything she did, said, and lived for was informed by her values and ideals. But she was also a mensch in the most expansive sense of the word. Her undying commitment to equality was blended with kindness, generosity, and unfailing good humor (it is no accident that Urvashi is caught smiling in so many photos). Though as part of the Ford Foundation hierarchy, I was technically Urvashi’s supervisor, she went out of her way to reach out, listen, and talk at a time when the foundation was being heavily criticized from all sides for its work in Israel and Palestine. She did so out of friendship, solidarity, and a desire to ensure that we would all end up on the right side of history by realizing the long-term implications of decisions made under pressure.

Urvashi’s life and work lives on through everyone she touched.  She taught us that social justice is something for which struggle is necessary, day in, day out, 365 days a year. Changing the world takes power, resources, vision, organizing, even humor, but above all, and this was Urvashi’s true superpower, it takes unlimited love.

(Photo credit: The Laura Flanders Show, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Headshot_brad_smith_for_PhilanTopicBradford K. Smith is former president of Candid.

Belonging and prosperity: A Q&A with Norman Chen, CEO, The Asian American Foundation

Headshot_Norman Chen_TAAFThe Asian American Foundation (TAAF) was launched in May 2021—amid a rise in anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate and violence—to help solve for the longstanding lack of investment provided to AAPI communities and to build the infrastructure needed to improve AAPI advocacy, power, and representation. That month, TAAF announced that through its AAPI Giving Challenge and donations from its board, it secured nearly $1.1 billion in donations and in-kind commitments from partners—the largest philanthropic commitment in history fully focused on supporting AAPI communities—including $125 million from board members to support AAPI organizations and causes over the next five years. TAAF’s work focuses on several priority areas: anti-hate, data and research, education, narrative change, unlocking resources, and racial solidarity.

Norman Chen has served as CEO of TAAF since November 2021. Before joining TAAF, Chen co-founded Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) in September 2020 and created the Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the U.S. (STAATUS) Index, a landmark study of American attitudes toward Asian Americans. Prior to his leadership in AAPI advocacy and philanthropy, Chen spent his career as an entrepreneur, investor, and community leader building innovative life sciences companies and supporting nonprofit organizations in both the United States and Asia. 

PND asked Chen about TAAF’s mission to address the historic lack of philanthropic investment in AAPI communities through key initiatives such as the AAPI Giving Challenge, the factors behind the historic underinvestment in AAPI communities, TAAF’s Anti-Hate National Network and AAPI Action Centers, and key findings from the 2022 STAATUS Index.

Philanthropy News Digest: TAAF’s mission is “to serve the community in their pursuit of belonging and prosperity that is free from discrimination, slander, and violence.” The AAPI community is often seen by other Americans as quickly attaining prosperity—i.e., the model minority myth—while continuing to be perceived as foreign, as other, generation after generation. How does the foundation work to address the tension between those two components of its mission?

Norman Chen: Prosperity is a core piece of TAAF’s mission because we are addressing often overlooked social and economic challenges in AAPI communities—one being that we are the most economically divided racial group in the U.S., with the highest median household income and the highest intra-racial group income disparity. Contrary to the model minority myth, which perpetuates a misguided perception about AAPI socioeconomic success, prosperity is not equally accessible across AAPI communities or to AAPI immigrants who come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life for their families.

Belonging is part and parcel of our work because AAPIs continue to face other harmful stereotypes such as being seen as perpetual foreigners. For example, according to the 2021 STAATUS Index, one in five Americans agreed with the statement that Asian Americans as a group are “more loyal to their countries of origin than to the U.S.”

For these reasons, TAAF has sought to close critical gaps in support and make strategic investments in our communities. We are committed to accelerating prosperity and creating a greater sense of belonging for all AAPIs by bringing to bear more cross-sector support from partners who are also committed to these efforts....

Read the full Q&A with Norman Chen, CEO of the The Asian American Foundation.

Who is engaging, how, and on behalf of which social issues?: A commentary by Natalye Paquin

May 16, 2022

Young woman_megaphone_protest_social_justice_GettyImages_LeoPatriziFor nearly two and a half years, we’ve shared one collective experience around the world. And while most of us are ready to leave behind the years of fear, uncertainty, and loss, we should think twice before rushing to get back to our “old lives,” and for good reason.  

History tells us that pandemics and other crises can be catalysts for rebuilding society in new and better ways. If we seek to get back to our old ways, we—especially in the nonprofit sector—are missing an opportunity to take this historic moment to address the fractured systems and stark inequities the global pandemic has exposed, exacerbated, and solidified. We cannot be “done” when there is still so much to do.  

At Points of Light, we’ve been shining a light on the organizations and individuals serving as those catalysts for rebuilding society. We continue to uplift hundreds of stories of light so those changemakers who have taken action, supported their communities, and made each day just a little better for others can inspire a movement.

Beyond sharing stories, we also need to take this opportunity to meaningfully study the nonprofit sector and determine how organizations can make an impact amid this “new normal.” We’ve been asking ourselves: Who is taking action? In what ways are they engaging and on behalf of which social issues? And for those who are not engaging, why not?

Points of Light just released Civic Life Today: The State of Global Civic Engagement, a series of five in-depth reports that provide insight into the attitudes and behaviors of individuals and the barriers they face—globally and across the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and India—to help us begin to answer these questions. Here are some of the key findings from our research....

Read the full commentary by Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Leo Patrizi)

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.

How to support human rights, health, and well-being in Ukraine: A commentary by Christian De Vos

May 12, 2022

Migration crisis on the border with Belarus_GettyImages_NzpnIn its violent and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, Russia has launched indiscriminate attacks against civilians and the places where they gather, including hospitals, schools, and humanitarian corridors. Thousands of civilians, including children, have been killed and many more injured. Thousands more are in danger of dying in besieged areas cut off from water, food, and electricity. Almost five million refugees have already fled the country, while nearly eight million are internally displaced within Ukraine. Millions more remain at grave risk.

The global spotlight on and solidarity with Ukrainians have been inspiring, with governments, organizations, and individuals rallying in support of Ukraine and its vast humanitarian needs. Still, philanthropic funders can do more and do better to alleviate suffering in Ukraine, meet humanitarian imperatives, and support justice and accountability in several key areas of need.

Here we offer six approaches that should guide where and how philanthropic organizations can support human rights, health, and well-being in Ukraine....

Read the full commentary by Christian De Vos, director of research and investigations at Physicians for Human Rights.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Nzpn)

Writing checks isn’t enough: A commentary by Jill Soffer

May 10, 2022

Gas_turbine_power_plant_fossil_fuels_GettyImages_ThossapholI am a climate philanthropist. I write checks to environmental nonprofits and sit on several boards. I grew up playing in the woods of western Massachusetts; now I hike the Rockies. Season by season I’m sadly witnessing the damage wrought by drought and fires, and, like so many others, I hope to protect this planet from the worsening climate crisis.

I’ve learned that writing checks isn’t enough.

In 2020, when I learned about Enbridge’s Line 3, the tar sands pipeline being pushed through northern Minnesota, I eagerly wrote checks to support the Ojibwe water protectors working to stop it. These brave people were camping on the pipeline route in the freezing winter, lying down in front of bulldozers, praying, singing, and getting arrested. I was more than glad to help. But I soon learned the sad truth: While I was writing checks to stop Line 3, my bank, Bank of America, was loaning Enbridge billions of dollars to build it. My money was funding the very projects we need to prevent.

Frustrated, I called my bank and had a respectful conversation with the chief sustainability officer. One person’s phone call didn’t change anything; a few weeks later the credit facility for Enbridge was completed. I also thought of divesting—moving my money out of these banks. The divestment movement is powerful. But I’m not Harvard or a public pension fund—my divestment would be neither newsworthy nor financially impactful enough for my bank to notice. Were I to divest, I would forgo any leverage I have.

So I decided not to divest but to engage, and this shareholder season, a huge opportunity to stop these projects awaits....

Read the full commentary by Jill Soffer, founder of Our Part and Banking for Climate.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Thossaphol)

Review: 'Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality'

April 30, 2022

Book_cover_Public_Virtues_Private_VicesIt is lamented that large-scale philanthropy (like everything else) has become politicized and polarizing, subject to conspiracy theories and accusations of whitewashing and being too “woke.” In Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality, Emma Saunders-Hastings reminds us that contributing private wealth for the public good—by definition—has always been a political act.

An assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University, Saunders-Hastings writes like the academic she is, giving careful consideration to historical and contemporary theorists and practitioners—including Alexis de Tocqueville, John Rawls, Peter Singer, Rob Reich, and Erica Kohl-Arenas—and scrupulously qualifying her statements, devoting almost as much space to what she is not arguing as to what she is. She does not deny the merits of philanthropy itself, as Machiavelli did, but seeks “a theory of philanthropy that is political, not just ethical; that applies across multiple levels of idealization; and that is oriented to relational equality”—that is, relations of social and political (not distributive) equality.

“Democratic equality demands of philanthropy and philanthropic regulation not (or not only) better outcomes but changes in the ways that power is distributed and exercised within philanthropic relationships,” she writes.

The book focuses on two objections to philanthropy with regard to democracy: “philanthropy can be an exercise of plutocratic power, and it can be objectionably paternalistic.” The title’s “public vices” are “relational vices—usurpation, subordination, failures of reciprocity, and paternalism,” which can create or reinforce unequal political relationships, even when based on consent. Despite calls for reform, elite philanthropy continues to enjoy both social deference, which limits comparative evaluations of philanthropic donations, and institutional and legal deference, in the form of tax benefits, facilitation of foundation creation, weak oversight, and protection of donor intent....

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

The only promising pathway to bringing about the peace and resilience: A commentary by May Boeve

April 22, 2022

End fossil fuel-funded wars, support a just transition

Earth_nypl_unsplashFor years, the climate movement has been demonstrating to political leaders that a transition to renewable energy is the only promising pathway to bringing about the peace and resilience we all deserve. This Earth Day, our movement is calling for an end to fossil fuel-funded wars.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has underlined the insidious and often deceptive ways in which fossil fuels have leaked into every aspect of the global order. While Russia’s military has been built on the back of fossil fuel profits, in this context, energy dependency has proved to be both a weapon and a weakness. It has limited the global community’s ability to respond in a way that doesn’t disproportionately impact average people and communities for whom this war—and others—lies beyond their control.

We applaud the recent decisions of the United States and the United Kingdom to ban all imports of Russian oil and gas, and hope the European Union enacts its proposed ban on Russian coal. Still, more must be done....

Read the full commentary by May Boeve, executive director of 350.org.

(Photo credit: New York Public Library via unsplash)

Find more articles in Philanthropy News Digest about  philanthropy’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Find more updates and resources on Candids special issue page on the philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine.

Bold and intersectional funding: A Q&A with Ana L. Oliveira, President and CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation

April 13, 2022

Headshot_AnaOliveira_New_York_Womens_FoundationAna L. Oliveira has served as president and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation (The Foundation) since 2006, after leading Gay Men’s Health Crisis for seven years as its first woman and Latina executive director. Oliveira grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, earned an MA in medical anthropology from the New School for Social Research, and directed community-based programs at Samaritan Village, the Osborne Association, and Kings County and Lincoln hospitals.

Under Oliveira’s leadership, The Foundation has expanded its grantmaking—starting with a 20 percent increase in 2009, to $3.3 million—and awarded $9 million in 2021, bringing total grant dollars awarded to date to more than $100 million.

PND asked Oliveira about her priorities for 2022, the importance of investing in grassroots organizations, the fight for reproductive rights and criminal justice reform, and women’s and LGBTQ individuals’ advancement in the sector.

Philanthropy News Digest: In announcing that your foundation had reached $100 million in cumulative grantmaking over 35 years in support of community-based solutions to create a more equitable and just future for women, girls, and gender-expansive people, you noted that “we are also aware of the work left to do.” What are your top priorities for 2022? And for the next $100 million?

Ana L. Oliveira: The Foundation’s focus has been and will remain on investing in women and gender-expansive leaders to advance justice in their communities. This marks a pivotal year for The Foundation, as we celebrate our anniversary and will host the 35th annual Celebrating Women® Breakfast on May 11. Our top priorities in 2022 include deepening our practice of participatory and inclusive philanthropy, altering the traditional power structure of more traditional philanthropic approaches. We will deepen our proximity to community, increasing the presence of those with lived experience at all tables at The Foundation. We will continue to focus on funding those creating and organizing a city and a country that works for all through their gender, racial, and economic equity movements. We believe in a vibrant and participatory civil society, so we will also increase our support to those protecting and expanding democratic practices in the U.S.

We will also start our work to distribute our next $100 million in grants in the next 10 years! It will reflect our commitment to continued bold and intersectional funding that honors the leadership and vision of women and gender-expansive people....

Read the full Q&A with Ana L. Oliveira, president and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation.

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)

 

How the international community treats refugees: A commentary by Frank Giustra

April 08, 2022

Migration crisis on the border with Belarus_GettyImages_NzpnSelective empathy: An observation on classes of refugees

“These are people who are Europeans, so we and all other countries are ready to welcome them. In other words, this is not the refugee wave that we are used to, where we don’t know what to do, people with an uncertain past—are they terrorists?”

These are the words spoken by Bulgaria’s prime minister, Kiril Petkov, in reference to the millions of Ukrainians who have crossed into neighboring countries since the Russian invasion began on February 24. This sentiment, whether spoken aloud or not, is prevalent among many European politicians. It helps explain the stark contrast between the approach being taken with Ukrainians and that afforded to other refugees, such as those fleeing terrible situations in Syria, Afghanistan, and across Africa. European leaders are bending over backwards to welcome Ukrainian refugees. Meanwhile, people of African descent and other racial/ethnic minorities have faced discriminatory treatment as they flee Ukraine.

Fearing those who don’t “look like us” or who worship God in a different manner is neither new not unique to Europeans. Hungary’s populist leader, Viktor Orbán, labeling all refugees from the Middle East “economic migrants” in contrast to the “proper” Ukrainian refugees is not that dissimilar to Donald Trump calling Mexicans “murderers and rapists.”

To be clear: I am all for helping Ukrainians in this time of need, and I am supporting two humanitarian organizations on the ground there: CORE and World Central Kitchen. That said, I feel compelled to point out the inconsistency in how the international community treats refugees depending on their race, color, and religion....

Read the full commentary by Frank Giustra, founding partner of the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, co-chair of the International Crisis Group, as well as founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, Giustra Foundation, Acceso, and Million Gardens Movement.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Nzpn)

A fundamental realignment of power between funders and community: A commentary by Emily Yu, TC Duong, Brittany Giles-Cantrell, and Chris Kabel

March 30, 2022

Balance_power_dynamics_GettyImages_akinbostanci_553x482In recent years, amid calls for greater social, racial, and health equity, philanthropy has rallied together with communities to dismantle deeply rooted systemic inequities that jeopardize our nation’s safety, health, and prosperity. For many foundations, the pursuit of equity has become a powerful and unifying call to action. Yet supporting communities in the sustainable advancement of equity remains a challenge for the philanthropic sector.

As members of The BUILD Health Challenge®—a funding collaborative launched in 2015 to support partnerships among community-based organizations, health departments, and hospitals/health systems to reduce health disparities—we’ve hosted a series of conversations with community leaders, partners, and peers across the country to ask what their communities needed to advance equity and how philanthropy could be a more effective partner on that journey. The response was clear: There must be a fundamental realignment of power between funders and community—one that reflects and honors both groups' expertise and experience. The conversations surfaced four vital approaches to centering equity: 1) designing with, not for; 2) building equity capacity; 3) changing deeply rooted policy and practice; and 4) sharing power....

Read the full commentary by Emily Yu, executive director of The BUILD Health Challenge, TC Duong, program officer at Blue Shield of California Foundation, Brittany Giles-Cantrell, senior program officer at de Beaumont Foundation, and Chris Kabel, senior fellow in the Kresge Foundation’s Health program.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/akinbostanci)

A vision for equalizing education: A commentary by Yolonda Marshall

March 21, 2022

College_students_pexels-keira-burtonClosing the racial gap in higher education

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the path to higher education for first-generation college students and those growing up in underserved communities was rife with uncertainty and barriers. These hurdles disproportionately affect students in underfunded public school systems, many of whom are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The global pandemic  further exacerbated these challenges and uncertainties. With school buildings closed and periods of required quarantine creating gaps in attendance, students had to deal with significant disruptions to their learning. For a significant number of students from low-income communities the pandemic had added implications: Whether these students were tasked with the care of younger siblings or older family members while their parents worked essential jobs, or needed to take on a job themselves in response to family job loss, already underserved BIPOC students were taking on additional responsibilities outside the classroom.

As the CEO of Student Leadership Network (SL Network), a nonprofit committed to helping students from diverse, underserved communities access higher education, I am heartened by the progress we have made in our 25 years of leading equity in education. Yet we still see so many systemic inequities prevent equitable access for all students—particularly students of color—in pursuing higher education....

Read the full commentary by Yolonda Marshall, CEO of Student Leadership Network.

(Photo credit: Keira Burton via pexels)

‘How do the humanities figure in a socially just world?’: A Q&A with Phillip Brian Harper, Program Director for Higher Learning, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

February 24, 2022

Headshot_Phillip_Brian_Harper_mellon_foundationPhillip Brian Harper joined the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in October 2020 as program director for the new Higher Education grantmamking area. As part of the foundation’s new strategy to prioritize social justice in all of its grantmaking, the program supports inclusive humanities education and diverse learning environments, with a focus on historically underserved populations, including nontraditional and incarcerated students. In January 2022, the foundation announced grants totaling $16.1 million to 12 liberal arts colleges in support of social justice-oriented curricular development in the humanities.

A literary scholar and cultural critic, Harper previously served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University and, prior to that, taught at Harvard University and Brandeis University. He is the author of Framing the Margins: The Social Logic of Postmodern Culture (1994); Are We Not Men? Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African-American Identity (1996); Private Affairs: Critical Ventures in the Culture of Social Relations (1999); and Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture (2015).

PND asked Harper about the Humanities for All Times initiative, the role of a humanities education in advancing social justice, and the insights he brings to those philanthropic efforts as an academic and a writer.

Philanthropy News Digest: The grants awarded through the Humanities for All Times initiative will support curricula “that both instruct students in methods of humanities practice and clearly demonstrate those methods’ relevance to broader social justice pursuits.” Can you give an example of what such a curriculum might include?

Phillip Brian Harper: Yes, it would include courses that not only familiarize students with certain bodies of knowledge that are relevant to humanities inquiry—accessible, for instance, through a specific set of texts or in a particular archive—but also consciously and explicitly train students in humanities methods for conducting research and analysis on relevant materials: archival investigation, textual interpretation, oral history interviewing, etc.

Furthermore, it would provide students with some concrete demonstration of how those methods can be put to use in real-world social justice work. To give an example, one of the institutions that has received a Humanities for All Times grant, Austin College, will establish 18 different “humanities labs,” each of which would focus on a pressing social justice challenge—for instance, contestations over the definition of U.S. citizenship, appropriate modes of historical memorialization, or medical ethics questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic—and deploy humanities methods in exploring potential solutions to it....

Read the full Q&A with Phillip Brian Harper, Program Director for Higher Learning, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Equitable application processes in the social innovation space: A commentary by Sarah Gass, Noam Lindenbaum, and Emily Lezin

February 09, 2022

Business_handshake_fundraising_GettyImagesCreating more equitable application processes

Social entrepreneurs who apply to a program, fellowship, or funding opportunity are essentially raising their hands to say, “I have a vision for the future, and I want to take my best shot at making it a reality.” At UpStart, we support a network of entrepreneurial Jewish ventures and leaders—and we know that every decision we make on an application can have long-term implications for what our community looks like and who receives support in building it.

In October 2021, our friends at the Harvard Kennedy School of Social Innovation + Change Initiative (SICI) published “Transparent Gatekeeping: Part 2,” which sheds light on their application and selection processes in the (secular) social innovation space. Given UpStart’s role in shaping this space within the Jewish community, we wanted to take a page from SICI’s playbook and share the changes we’ve implemented in our own application and selection processes.

Our learning journey

As conveners of a network of Jewish social entrepreneurs, we take seriously our responsibility to not only level the playing field in selection and recruitment, but also develop what we call “equity-informed entrepreneurial leaders”—leaders with the capacity to acknowledge, account for, and disrupt systemic inequities as they build new Jewish initiatives. We’re sharing these changes in hopes that those in our network and beyond will be inspired to create more equitable application and selection processes....

Read the full commentary by Sarah Gass, Emily Lezin, and Noam Lindenbaum, director and program experience coordinator of the Entrepreneurs and Ventures and program operations associate in the Intrapreneurs and Institutions program, respectively, at UpStart.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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