Giving Compass' Take:
- Darren Walker shares an excerpt from his new book, From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, to discuss approaches in philanthropy that address root causes of inequity.
- How can understanding wealth gaps and power dynamics help donors move money in more equitable ways?
- Learn more about systems change thinking.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
In ordinary times, hope is a precious resource. But in these extraordinary times, it is radical—and a responsibility.
In the pages of my new book, From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, a choir of voices call on us to improve the systems and structures that shaped us, to engage with the root causes of our most urgent crises, not just the immediate consequences, even when those root causes implicate us. They challenge us to trust the people and communities most proximate to problems to shape the most effective solutions to those problems—to value their lived experience as equal to established expertise.
This requires moral leadership and moral courage: that we fix our eyes over the horizon, beyond the next earnings report or the next election, and toward a long-term vision for a more inclusive, equitable society. It also defies us to do something perhaps even harder: to step away from the extremes and from the edge, away from sanctimony and certitude, and to listen and learn with curiosity, and openness, and empathy—with tolerance for one another.
I’m pleased to share this excerpt with the radical optimism that we can, and must, and shall overcome. Through our triumphs and our defeats—two steps forward, one step back—we will continue our ascent from truth, to reconciliation, to the fullest measure of justice: absolute equality for all people.
Our converging crises of extreme inequality, racial injustice, and autocratic, anti-democratic impunity multiplied not just by each other, but also by a pandemic that has claimed more than 6.5 million lives (and counting)—pose grave peril to our survival, as does a changing climate that is pushing our life-sustaining ecosystems to the brink of collapse. The droughts and floods, the storms and fires, all are worsening. Further, the distortion of our capitalism, and the inequality it continues to produce, have overloaded this burden onto the backs of the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable.
We are staring down existential risk—and as a global and national community, our window to act is closing. If we only do what we've always done, the trauma of these last few years will be only the beginning.
In this context, philanthropy has, by necessity, initiated a number of bold experiments since the beginning of 2020. For one, we continue our work to treat courageous visionaries on the frontlines of social change with greater respect—as our partners, not our vendors—providing them the resources and flexibility to chart the way forward.
For another, we are using more of our assets more fully beyond our historic pattern of granting only 5 percent of our endowment value, each year, as required by the United States tax code. At the Ford Foundation, this was the guiding principle behind our $1 billion commitment to mission-related investments, which are proving the potential of capital markets to deliver both a financial and social return. And during the depths of 2020, the same philosophy led us to finance a $1 billion social bond, effectively doubling our payout rate and injecting a capital booster to the organizations meeting our cascading crises. Many of our fellow funders are deploying similar strategies to unlock the power of the other 95 percent.
With From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth, I hope to recenter attention and action across the public sector, business, and civil society on these approaches and others. After all, the ideas within this book, conceived and championed by a new generation of rising leaders, are demonstrating their mettle under fire.
Read the full article about generosity by Darren Walker at Stanford Social Innovation Review.