“Conflict is the midwife of consciousness.” – Paulo Freire

In my lifetime, I have never felt more hopeful. The cacophony of unlikely factors that focused our vast nation (and much of the world) on the tragic murder of George Floyd ignited our generation’s consciousness. We were forced to examine our nation’s conflicted soul, and it demanded we choose our next move as Americans. Much like what happened in May of 1963, as White America watched in disbelief as firehoses and police dogs were used as weapons against peaceful protestors in Alabama, last May, the majority of Americans of all backgrounds swiftly responded that we must make changes for the greater good.

Then, as is the case now, there is always some form of opposition; forces seen and unseen working to hold our nation back, divide us, and misdirect energy and resources. This noise, however, did not prevent advocates and allies from passing major civil rights, voting, and housing legislation. Many of us have studied this era, examining what worked and what didn’t, allowing these lessons to serve as touchstones for our work in the social sector for decades to come.

What feels substantively different today, however, is that over the past 50 years, we have become more diverse, more studied, and more connected. We have the nation’s most racially and culturally diverse generation in our history, filled with brilliant thinkers and doers whose varied contributions have fundamentally shifted our understanding of who we have been and who we now are. The act of documenting histories and lifting up untold stories of triumph and tragedy have complicated the traditional American story. A huge shout out to all the justice-rooted artist-intellectuals, practitioners, poets, writers, organizers, elders, and youth, of all backgrounds, for your labor. We are now better able to see how present day conditions are a product not of individual failings, but rather of systems failing, setting us on a course of separate and unequal lives largely based on race, culture, and gender. Now with a more informed public, and a more grounded social sector, we are better poised than ever to come together with a shared urgency and ambition to heal, restore, and transform our relationships and our planet.

So, what does this mean within the philanthropic sector? This means that we must continue to act with the responsiveness and urgency we felt this past year. As a sector, we must continue to behave differently, so that actions taken during the pandemic to mitigate the most negative impacts anticipated from grantees do not stall. We must continue to listen and step up into our unique powers and privileges as funders, moving from spectator to participant. We must remember that the gravity of our challenges requires all of us to working together – accepting that we won’t be able to think our way forward or make change without balancing head, heart, and hands.

Read the full article about conflict as a sign of hope by Kara Inae Carlisle at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.