In the latest webinar in Arabella’s Future of the Social Sector series, Jeanné Lewis, interim CEO at Faith in Public Life, and Kara Inae Carlisle, vice president of programs at the McKnight Foundation, joined Senior Director Loren McArthur to discuss what’s driving the breakdown in social trust we are experiencing as a nation. They also talked about what role philanthropy and the social sector can play in countering these trends, and what approaches and frameworks have proven successful in bridging division. The conversation was far-ranging, energizing, and inspiring, and we encourage you to watch the recording if you were unable to attend. In the meantime, we’ve collected five highlights from the discussion below.

  1. Sometimes, distrust can be productive.
    Jeanné reminded us that minority groups that experience injustice at the hands of American institutions have long had good reason to distrust those institutions. Realizing that the injustices we face are systemic and not the cause of individual failures is disorienting and painful, but if we can channel that distrust and hurt productively, it can be a strong motivator to address inequity.
  2. Dominant institutions have intentionally deepened division to consolidate their power.
    Taking a long view, Kara explained that throughout the American story, dominant institutions have intentionally codified systemic racism in laws and practices to centralize power in the hands of the few.
  3. As Kara put it, “Diversity is a fact, not a choice.”
    Existing in diverse societies can be more uncomfortable than our idealized narratives make it out to be, but it is also a rich opportunity to make meaning together.
  4. Identity politics are deeply rooted in American history and public life.
    Despite far-right talking points, both Jeanné and Kara emphasized that America was founded on identity politics—that is, our founding documents were written to honor a specific and limited set of identities. Given this, Jeanné expressed that she finds the idea of universal American values problematic, as groups with the most power tend to force others to assimilate to the dominant interpretation of what it means to be American.
  5. Philanthropy cannot remain on the sidelines.
    Both panelists discussed philanthropy’s significant potential to strengthen the social fabric, given its position at the epicenter of different types of power and ideas. Jeanné raised the importance of acting equitably and inclusively at both the micro and the macro level, dismantling false notions of scarcity and empowering grantees to respond creatively to complex problems.

Read the full article about addressing distrust at Arabella Advisors.