As we confront the many inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The New Deal, the Roosevelt administration’s sweeping policy response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, should be an inspiration. Its policies demonstrate that in mending the economy — the work of recovery — we can also expand the rights of American citizens. More than an attempt to restore markets laid low by the Great Depression, New Dealers fought to ensure that Americans had access to their basic material needs, from work to housing, unemployment insurance, and education.

But the New Deal’s failures are also informative, especially for philanthropists and the nonprofit sector. Some of the New Deal’s most important efforts at expanding the economic rights of Americans were far from universal. Women, people of color, and other vulnerable workers were locked out from the full enjoyment of these rights. When we look back, it’s clear that all too often private sector interests influenced the design of the New Deal, which perpetuated inequity even after the Depression passed.

As the Biden administration’s proposals make their way through Congress and spark a national conversation about rebuilding our economy, philanthropy has a unique moment of opportunity to bridge public and private sector concerns in service of real equity, transparency, and systemic change. By learning from the intended and unintended consequences of the New Deal, philanthropy can ensure America builds a more just economy in its recovery.

Read the full article about lessons from the New Deal by Dr. Angela Jackson and Micah McElroy at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.