Four Suggestions for Social Justice Funders

On a panel last month at the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy pre-Council on Foundations Conference, I presented  four suggestions for social justice funders to consider.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll write on each of these four and hope you’ll share your own thoughts with us.

Of the many approaches to social change, I turn most towards movement-building strategies.  As a funder, then, I’m constantly searching for the ways that my practice and work best align with the demands of such an approach.  Below is the first of four such ways that I’ve come to believe strongly in.

1.  Find a Political Home

www.caaav.orgSocial justice movements require scale and scale, in turn, requires a level of consistent connectivity among people and organizations.  Political homes – community-based and led social justice institutions or organizations that individuals are members of and with whom there is mutual investment and accountability – provide exactly this. We should find and join such places not only to contribute to an organization’s work, but, more so, as a space in which to be grounded, to continuously learn, to develop organizing skills, and to be only a phone call away for when those unpredictable political moments that can define social justice movements occur.

CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities has been my political home for the past seven years.  Time and again, CAAAV has not only responded to events and political openings, but also intentionally expanded the opportunity for others like myself to participate in those responses, from the ’06 immigration marches to the first United States Social Forum in ’07 to ’08 voter engagement efforts in Virginia.  Just as important, CAAAV allows me to participate in the often unrecognized day-to-day contributions that have been the backbone of every social movement. CAAAV, in short, facilitates my choosing to engage in action over indulging in apathy. And, it does so by offering strategic and coordinated ways to act with a community of people I’ve grown to trust.

As a funder, being a member of a community-based organization allows me to be in dialogue with those to whom I most want to be accountable.  It affords me the opportunity to understand at a deeper and more personal level the conditions faced by organizations that I support through grantmaking and to understand the realities of building such organizations.  Only through having a political home have I’ve been able to access the experience, political analysis and honest feedback with which to ensure that my work is relevant and complimentary to the many moving parts of our social justice ecosystem.

Like any home, political homes bring their own sets of challenges and demands on our time.  But, in the same spirit, they also position us to engage and engage better the world around us, allowing you and me to start from a place of love and support to which we can always return.

Next post in the series:  2) Build the Vehicles to Move us Forward

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