It is possible and necessary for people to engage effectively in difficult conversations about racism, sexism, classism, and other inequities in the philanthropic sector. Each time you do so is an opportunity to explore your tolerance for ambiguity, conflict, risk, and discomfort, and to practice your skills in interrupting harm.

As staff of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we had a chance to learn this firsthand a series of anti-racism sessions last year led by Healing Solidarity, sponsored by the Ariadne Network – European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights. Building our capacity, courage, and resolve to have these honest and vulnerable conversations about racism is the only way we can identify internal policies and practices that inhibit equity within foundations’ efforts to support social change and human rights.

In multi-racial groups and in caucused cohorts (led by and for people raced as Black, People of Colour, and white), the discussions elevated what feels possible and offered a sense of what transformation looks like: it is not the work of one, but of the collective. It honours and builds on the work of those who came before us, and it is centered in healing the pain and trauma of racism and other oppressions, while encouraging solidarity through a common call to action.

The strength of the Healing Solidarity team’s approach was that it shines a light on and celebrates the knowledge and practices of activists, change makers, and grant-makers working not just in the UK and US, but across the Global South. It was humbling to hear from those doing social justice work across the world, understanding what grant-making practices look like that centres the voices of women and girls and people of colour. This offered us hope – a window into what change could look like, outside of the echo chamber that the philanthropic sector sometimes feels like.

In combining our reflections, we identified three key take-aways to challenge and support us in exploring our anti-racist practice:

  • Compassion. This work is hard, and it is triggering for us all in different ways. We’ve found that acknowledging and sitting with the discomfort it raises in us.
  • Brave, not safe. Because this work is hard and triggering, we must move beyond needing to feel safe, into being brave. This means actively thinking about what we can do every single time to interrupt harm when we see it occurring – either in words or actions. What more can we do, and how can we do better?
  • Truth. Anti-racist practice demands a levelling up and understanding of what racism is – in all its forms and in all the complex systems and structures in which it plays out.

Read the full article about anti-racism in philanthropic practice by Jane Tanner, Kamna Muralidharan, and Kate Hitchcock at Alliance Magazine.