A broad ecosystem of nonprofits, coalitions, and leaders of color are working across the United States to transform the criminal legal system to one that is just and equitable. Insights from those doing the work and a look into the progress, victories, as well as opposition from powerful interests, offers philanthropies lessons on how to effectively support the movement.

A question that The Bridgespan Group is increasingly hearing from institutional foundations and high net worth individuals is: when it comes to movement building, is there a place for philanthropy?

The short answer is yes.

For funders interested in criminal justice reform, in particular, movement building is central because it strives to reimagine the criminal legal system and the harm that it causes. That kind of transformative systems change is the very work, as complex as it is, that movements, as complex as they are, are designed to do.

However, movements operate over long timeframes with unpredictable waypoints. So it’s understandable that some funders, even those who recognize the purpose and value in movements, find it difficult to see philanthropy’s role or how different mindsets can support movements more effectively.

To explore these issues we took a deep look into the ecosystem seeking transformative change of the criminal legal system in the United States. Our research included interviews with more than 40 movement leaders, funders, and others, as well as a review of literature, to understand how social movements can achieve equitable change. We also examined the movement behind the 2018 passage of Amendment 4 in Florida, which knocked down the ban on voting for people with felony convictions and marked the single largest addition to the nation’s voting population since the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Read the full article about the movement to reimagine criminal justice by Alexandra Williams, Allana Jackson, Leslie Hicks, Yizhi Hu, and Cora Daniels The Bridgespan Group.