We all want to live in a country where we are seen, where our values are understood, and where our communities are set up to flourish. Philanthropy brings the unique, if complicated, ability to be a catalyst for creating the conditions to make this possible.

But sometimes our role as a funder can keep us from listening to and following the wisdom of community leaders who are closest to solutions. Our commitment to dismantling structural racism is new, and we have much to learn from those who have been experiencing its effects for too long.

We are explicitly—but not exclusively—focused on racism as a root cause of health inequities in America for a few reasons. Racism is deep and persistent, and it intensifies ableism, transphobia, homophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments. The stress of racism is directly responsible for the ongoing Black maternal health crisis in this country. Entrenched racism manifests itself in many harmful ways, including the attacks on equity that last year’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action has enabled.

Over the past three years, we have partnered with 13 organizations working in communities most impacted by health inequities through our Equity and Social Justice Relationship (ESJR) cohort, which comprises the following organizations that receive general operating support from RWJF:

We created the cohort to listen to and prioritize the voices of leaders on the frontlines of social change, understanding that an essential part of our equity transformation is deepening our relationships with, and our accountability to, racial and health equity leaders.

We also wanted to shift RWJF’s practices to make them more equitable, through embracing the values of trust-based philanthropy—best practices to advance equity throughout the nonprofit sector that require funders to offer support to grantees beyond writing checks.

Read the full article about funding partnerships by Maisha Simmons and Patrick Cokley at PEAK Grantmaking.