Giving Compass’ Take:
• Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses how to reorient philanthropic investments for justice-oriented impact.
• The upshot here is that systems-level change requires us to take a healthier view of ourselves in relationship to those we serve and build more collective action grounded in those ideals.
Close your eyes and think about why you chose to serve at a nonprofit or a philanthropic institution. Think about the hope you had for communities, the programs you wanted to develop, the lives you desired to impact, and the fulfillment you envisioned feeling when you went home at night, believing you’d made the world a better place through your efforts to eradicate poverty.
Now open your eyes and think about why it’s not working out that way.
Philanthropic leaders, however, you’ve answered that “why,” we’d like to put forward that the root of the gap between what we envisioned and reality is in the routine of our privilege, and our lack of empathy and authentic understanding toward those we’re serving. What we mean to say is that somewhere along the way, we developed a false view of ourselves and our own basic needs, and as a result decided we are drastically different from those we’re charged with serving.
This distance separated “us” from “them” and created a situation in which we were no longer able to see that the very things we bet on for our own children, spouses or partners, and families to achieve our dreams are the same bets we need to place in our daily work with communities. Instead, poverty became the new werewolf, and we had a silver bullet solution to try to put the monster down. We created isolated strategies that, in a way, made it acceptable to walk past suffering, because it didn’t fit into our program portfolio.
With partial investment strategies, we can create only outliers of success. These success stories, sprinkled throughout our annual reports and materials, arise from instances where a momentary low tide enables a small few to maneuver a life raft through a stormy sea to shore. But if we don’t comprehensively change the network of systems producing the storm of inequality, eventually the sea will swell and consume the escape route for all those behind. Some ways we can improve in this area:
We fully understand the importance of niche expertise. No singular institution or organization can be effective at fixing the multitude of challenges broken systems have unloaded on our communities, nor should they.
Specific public value
In defining public value, we must be careful to not miss the mark with respect to what we can actually impact. For instance, if our mission is to train high-quality teachers, we might focus on recruiting quality candidates into a teaching pipeline, training them on professionally proven pedagogies, and creating some sort of career pathway in which they have room to advance and perhaps train or positively affect the induction process of other teachers.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for Impact Philanthropy, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and Impact Philanthropy.
We started referring to communities as “those people”; we stopped saying their names and started saying the numbers given to us by evaluators. We fooled ourselves into believing we had more to give than we had to learn, and we created strategies for them without them.
An essential characteristic of a paid-in-full investment strategy is a long-term focus, meaning investments are sustained over multiple years, geared toward building capacity over time, and adaptable to the changing conditions within the community.
Crucial to any paid-in-full strategy is ongoing leadership by the community. Nonprofits and philanthropists need to be responsive to community leadership in creating and implementing strategies, rather than simply delivering their own solutions.
With partial investment strategies, we can create only outliers of success … Instead, we must co-create a new normal for systems-level change and equity, and the social sector — guided by the community — we must make paid-in-full investments.
Read the full article about paid in full investment strategies for philanthropy by Dorian O. Burton and Brian C.B. Barnes at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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