Strengthening Relationships, Networks and Leadership
The data are consistent: increasing racial equity and strengthening social justice remain challenges to our society. But closing disparities or gaps requires that people come together to support change, especially the kinds of solutions that will close these gaps. This requires relationships based on trust, the growth of networks, and capable leadership.
Barriers to progress include:
- Trust, of the kind that comes from respectful listening and talking, is essential for bridging divides, but is an insufficiently widespread commodity.
- The relationships, networks and leadership in minority communities that can advance good ideas are often only partially visible to predominantly white philanthropic organizations – and even less well understood –
- The networks of support to develop leadership in minority communities are not well-enough developed to advance the solutions needed to produce more equitable development.
- In rural areas especially, the costs of travel or long-distance communications needed to advance good ideas are significant and must be borne by the community.
- The legacy of Jim Crow — fear against coming together in common cause to explore problems and advance solutions — is still strong, inhibiting the full development of social capital. The risk of intimidation is still part of the collective memory of African Americans, which regrettably serves to keep down the spirit and energy needed to forge ahead.
Benchmark Practices. Progress is made when philanthropic organizations get good at these benchmark practices:
Supporting networks of people and groups to create the support and momentum needed to implement solutions that reduce disparities
Providing support for staffing and organizing such networks and groups supports civic engagement and the exchange of information and education on issues.
Supporting network meetings and conferences for exchange of information and education on issues is a cornerstone of policy development in all the arenas of American life, and the bedrock of America’s hotel and travel industry.
Supporting networks’ research and testing of possible solutions in settings where they can be fairly monitored creates energy and momentum in the search for productive remedies to injustice and unfairness. Convening funders, nonprofit and community organizations, policy-making organizations and other intermediaries can serve these same purposes, as well as create commitment, movement, and wider accountability.
Supporting and strengthening networks in rural areas is especially helpful in overcoming the effects of rural isolation and distance to enable development.
Producing materials to educate such groups and communities on the realities of equity and justice as well as on potential remedies helps to create a body of information that all can draw on. Creating excellent opportunities where all can learn from these materials is an essential companion piece.
Advancing a set of recommendations to larger audiences for consideration and action, drawing on the support of more and more people, increases the chances that progress will happen.
Supporting the organizational and leadership skills of those who want to be part of the solution
Strengthening the leadership and organizational skills of emergent leaders helps them interact productively with a broader section of stakeholders. Helping established leaders with this does, too.
Supporting networks and associations of a variety of racial, ethnic and cultural groups helps us strengthen our abilities and courage to step up, advocate for productive solutions, and play productive partnership roles.
Thinking through which skill sets can be useful to justice and equity partnerships is a worthwhile exercise necessary for reducing isolation and building common cause for productive solutions.
Learning to use a racial equity lens, poverty lens, rural lens, etc, as well as the lenses of white privilege and equitable development creates a whole new palette of opportunities. Communications skills, critical thinking skills, management skills, emotional intelligence skills – all look different when examined through these lenses. See Pathway on this site, Building Trust.
Nurturing the long-term quality of the social justice workforce
Recognizing that new and probably younger leadership is needed to help move philanthropy closer to issues of social justice and racial equity, philanthropy can support pro-active steps to assure quality in the next generation workforce.
Supporting workforce development in this arena helps to assure its future. Talent of color and diverse experience needs to be cultivated. Burnout needs to be prevented. Career ladders need to be extended. Leadership coaching and mentoring tailored to bridging divides and advancing agendas needs to be developed.
Developing the potential of careers in social justice and social justice philanthropy, if it were on the agenda of academic centers of philanthropy and philanthropic affinity groups, would help to legitimize social justice career tracks, extend career ladders, and open doors to possibility.
Benchmark Signs of Progress. Philanthropy gets high marks for progress achieved on this pathway when you can see signs that…
- A particularly counter-productive legacy of Jim Crow – the fear of coming together in common cause to explore problems and advance solutions — is losing its grip, such that there is greater participation in efforts to address inequity or injustice.
- The networks of support to develop leadership in minority communities are getting stronger and better able to advance the solutions needed to produce more equitable development.
- The relationships, networks and leadership in minority communities that can advance good ideas are increasingly visible and better understood by predominantly white philanthropic organizations.
- Trust, of the kind that comes from respectful listening and talking, is an essential and increasingly available commodity for bridging racial divides so that you can create and implement solutions beneficial to all.
- The leadership that can knit communities and agendas strong enough to close gaps is increasing in quality and numbers.
- The costs of supporting networks, especially in rural areas, are increasingly supported. borne through philanthropy.
Examples of Good Practice
The Dade Community Foundation, through a partnership with other funders, has created a Fund for Community Organizing, “to foster grassroots community organizing as a vital strategy to building strong, equitable communities.”
The African American giving circles affiliating with the Community Investment Network encourage their giving circle members to get to know each other and draw on their own experiences to frame their interests in “giving back.”
The Community Foundation of South Wood County (Wisconsin) is a primary partner of an advanced leadership institute drawing highly diverse segments of the community. Members meet over several months to gain new perspectives and form relationships. In a rural community threatened by global economic forces, they make forward movement possible.
One focus of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy is to help the field face the twin challenges of building a strong career pipeline that continually refuels the field’s talent, and ensuring healthy inter-generational transfer of leadership in broader civil society. EPIP builds networks of emerging and experienced colleagues by creating local chapters in communities across the U.S. and the world.
The Initiative For Nonprofit Sector Careers , a project of American Humanics, is a national campaign to recruit, prepare, and retain a skilled and diverse next-generation of nonprofit sector leadership.
Resource Generation is a national organization that works with young people with financial wealth who are supporting and challenging each other to effect progressive social change through the creative, responsible and strategic use of financial and other resources.
The New World Foundation supports sabbaticals and leadership transitions for community organizers.
AJAMM , a ministry for African American women ministers, makes leadership development central. The women influence change both inside and outside church walls, becoming models through which social change can happen.
Southern Partners Fund focused on the realities of life in poor and disenfranchised communities. Their democratic philanthropy – member organizations of the Fund have equal voice in decision-making – addresses inequities in the South.
The National Center for Black Philanthropy is to promote giving and volunteerism among African Americans, foster full participation by African Americans in all aspects of philanthropy, educate the public about the contributions of Black philanthropy, strengthen people and institutions engaged in Black philanthropy, and research the benefits of Black philanthropy to all Americans.
Association of Black Foundation Executives promotes effective and responsive philanthropy in Black communities.
Hispanics in Philanthropy strengthens Latino communities by increasing resources for the Latino and Latin American civil sector and by increasing Latino participation and leadership in philanthropy.
Native Americans in Philanthropy seeks to engage Native and non-Native peoples in understanding and advancing the role of philanthropy through practices that support traditional Native values.
The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation , a regional foundation focusing on rural development, supports networks of people working to advance economic and social justice.
Faith Partnerships, Inc , a network of African American churches largely in North Carolina, facilitates partnerships across denominational, county and international lines. This work brings them to partnerships with majority networks of banking entities and political bodies.
The South Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations is expanding the Community Development Corporations movement by raising leaders’ motivation, commitment, spiritual connection and energy. Participants gain confidence to interact with county boards of supervisors, banks and the state legislature.
The Heifer Foundation , an international body, connects donors with local interests to similar developments around the world, greatly increasing their worldview.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families frames key messages for policy development. Proposals are crafted and supported through the legislative and implementation process.
To create a program of Individual Development Accounts in the state of Arkansas, the Southern Good Faith Fund helped write legislation drawing on ideas surfaced from numerous community discussions.
The National Rural Funders Collaborative supports “learning communities,” helping participants from different settings identify common elements of strategy.
Appalachian Ohio Regional Investment Coalition formed a regional network for advancing rural development policy.
Social Citizens: Individuals who are energetic and passionate about social causes; brimming with new approaches and ideas for problem-solving; disposed toward sharing the responsibilities and rewards of affecting change in the world; and equipped with the digital tools and people power to make it happen. By Alison Fine, 2008. Available from the Case Foundation.
Funding Community Organizing: Social Change Through Civic Participation. Available from Grantcraft.org
Towards a More Democratic Vision of Rural Community Giving, by James Richardson and Athan Lindsay. Available from National Rural Funders Collaborative, http://www.nrfc.org
Relationships as Infrastructure in Southern African American Communities, produced by Betty Emarita for this project, available on this site in Resources.
Providing Culturally Appropriate Technical Assistance , produced by Betty Emarita for this project, available on this site under Resources
Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in Mew Mexico by Lisa Ranghelli, National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, 2008
How People Get Power, second revised edition, by Si Kahn, National Association of Social Workers Press, Washington, 1994; first edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1972.
Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders, second revised edition, by Si Kahn, National Association of Social Workers Press, Washington, 1991; first edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1980.