October 11, 2018

Five Principles for Engagement on the Future of Work(ers) and Two Big Ideas

In these videos, Sarita Gupta (Jobs with Justice) talks about collective bargaining and the future of work and Michelle Miller (Coworker.org) describes the concept of “surveillance capitalism” and data generated by workers. Please watch and share these videos! 

Below, Emma Oppenheim (Open Society Foundations) and José García (Ford Foundation) share how they're thinking about the future of workers.

The future of work is everywhere. Between the two of us, we’ve attended countless conferences, meetings, report releases, or other future of work-themed events. In philanthropy, many of us are grappling with the changing nature of the economy and employment, and how it intersects with our programmatic priorities. The terrain is shifting quickly as new research is released and advancements are announced, and it can be hard to keep up with the ongoing conversations.

As members of Funders for a Just Economy (FJE), a program of the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), we’re coming together to track this arena, better described for our purposes as the future of workers, as a group—no one should have to do this work alone!

We think that two practices are missing from philanthropy’s approach to the future of workers. The first is a set of principles to guide our analysis as we drink from the proverbial firehose of information. We echo our colleague, Beth Gutelius', proposal of a set of principles for engagement:

  1. Change is certain, but its path is not. Many observers of the coming changes are quick to repeat dystopian predictions of mass unemployment and robot takeovers. Let us be clear that humans create technology, just as humans create policy and humans decide what is socially and economically acceptable in our society. There are myriad ways we can and should consider shaping the process of technological change as it plays out, and funders can play an important role in encouraging a thousand flowers to bloom in this arena.
  2. The effects of technological change will be uneven across race, gender, immigration status, and geography. These disparate impacts should occupy a central place in our analysis of proposed interventions.
  3. We can think about the future of work as another form of a just transition. In the climate change realm, this term means building a system to replace our current resource extraction and consumption culture with healthy, sustainable, vibrant, non-extractive economic and social opportunities. In the world of work, we can borrow a just transition framework, which will involve more forms of technology and change jobs and industries. The results of this shift—both positive and negative—will not be spread evenly. Funders are well positioned to support groups that are organizing and advocating for innovative policy solutions come from this framework.
  4. The role of the public sector will be crucial in setting and enforcing workplace standards and delivering social protections. Especially after the recent SCOTUS decision in Janus v. AFSCME, there is no other institution better positioned to provide common frameworks and accountability measures for the employment relationship. Innovation and expansion of a range of crucial benefits will be important, including making programs more flexible and robust enough to meet the realities of the modern economy.
  5. Those workers most affected by an issue should be involved in shaping any proposal or campaign to address it, and the process should help build workers’ voice and agency to act. There are many ideas floating around that might improve the lives of workers, but workers themselves know best what they need, and those on the front lines, especially immigrants, trans and queer workers, women, and workers of color, should help to shape both policy and workplace conditions so that they are tailored for their reality.

In addition to a set of principles, we believe we must continue to grapple with these issues through regular meetings, conversations, and shared learning, or risk allowing others to continue to frame both the problem statement and the solution sets on the table. As a network with over 100 members and a long history of helping funders engage in collective learning and analysis, FJE is well positioned to play this role, and indeed is already stepping in to address this gap.

Last summer, FJE convened its members for an initial dive into the future of work to discern areas of overlapping interest. This year, FJE hosted a series of virtual conversations about prominent topics in the future of work swirl, like technology and automation, universal basic income, and laws that limit protections for platform company workers. We presented a workshop on the evolving worker justice movement during the NFG biennial conference in St. Louis, MO. And, we partnered with Sarita Gupta of Jobs with Justice and Michelle Miller of Coworker.org to hear their biggest ideas about the future of workers, the changing nature of employment, and where they see the worker justice movement heading. All of these activities helped to move us, collectively, toward a more nuanced understanding of the change underway.

We’ll undertake this collective work with a commitment to curiosity, adopting the framework of the five principles for engagement as a north star of sorts to help us assess information, proposals, and arguments about the future of work. We invite you to join us on this exploration!


 

Emma Oppenheim is program officer for economic advancement with the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs. She manages a grant-making portfolio that seeks to build an economy governed by policies that promote equitable growth and just distribution of resources, as well as a portfolio focused on strategies that harness technology to build the power, reach, and sustainability of organizing and advocacy.

José García is a program officer on the Future of Work team at the Ford Foundation. The Future of Work team seeks to bridge the gaps between consumers’ hopes and needs, workers’ experiences, changing business models, evolving technology, and political strategies, with an eye to shaping a collective agenda. By bringing together unlikely partners, José and the team aims to seed strong coalitions that can devise powerful solutions to the challenges wrought by the changing nature of work today.

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December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

We're currently in soft launch mode before we publicly announce the new site in 2019, so thanks for taking an initial sneak peek! Please excuse our digital dust as we finish testing all of the features of our new website. You can find a temporary archive of our old site at old.nfg.org.

What new features can you find on the site?

  • Search the entire website for news, events, and resources using the search bar at the top of every page
  • See where all of the members of our national network are based, right on our member map 
  • Discover more related content, tagged by topic and format, at the bottom of every page
  • Look up NFG member organizations in our member directory
  • Log in to view individual contacts in the member directory and register for events in the future

If your organization is an NFG member, first check to see if your account has already been created for you. Click "Forgot Password" on the log in page and try entering your work email address to activate your account and set your password.

Let us know at support@nfg.org if you come across any issues logging in, or anywhere else on the site. Stay tuned for our official launch announcement, and thanks for visiting!

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December 4, 2018

From Sector Newcomer to Board Member

Marjona Jones joined the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock four years ago after working in the field as an organizer for 14 years. She came to Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) through an existing relationship between Veatch and NFG: Molly Schultz Hafid, former assistant director at Veatch, also served as an NFG board member and co-chair for the Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) working group. “She was outgoing co-chair when I was hired at Veatch — the relationships she had built through that working group were important to me as well because I also worked around economic equity,” says Marjona. Initially, NFG was a space of learning for Marjona as a newcomer to the sector:

I joined [FJE’s] program committee, and then was invited to join the coordinating committee. It was an education! It was really about supporting the working group in order to create opportunities for funders to come together, hear about grantees, and think about how to create more space within philanthropy for this. That takes building relationships within philanthropy. That takes creating more breadth for funders to leverage what we have, and more, for our grantees. We’ve got to do that by educating one another within philanthropy.

NFG was also a space of affirmation and sustenance for Marjona, whose organizing background and perspective from the field anchors her work as a grantmaker and informs her relationships with grantees. At NFG, she found a commitment to racial and economic justice that matched her own. She has gone on to become centrally involved in NFG, joining Funders for Justice (FFJ), participating in Project Phoenix, and now serving on NFG’s board. 

An Intersectional Framework

NFG centers people in its work, helping funders understand the meaning of an intersectional analysis and apply it to their grantmaking. Marjona lifts up FJE’s Working at the Intersections program as an example:

Something I really want to share is a report that Working at the Intersections put out [titled Journey Towards Intersectional Grant-making] about best practices for how we want and need to support work at the intersections of identity. “Intersectional” is often just a buzzword, and so we thought it would be good to offer understanding around how that perspective plays out, and how it plays out within philanthropy too.

To me, it was a beautiful convening that we did [with Working at the Intersections]. It really opened up folks to talk about what it is we deal with as women of color within philanthropy. We need to be mindful about how that impacts the field of philanthropy, and how we move our work. There are layers that we have to be very intentional about if we really care about justice liberation and how all those things intersect. If we aren’t mindful of this, we can be really shortsighted then in funding program work because we are so siloed in philanthropy — ‘This week she will show up as a worker, next week she will show up as a woman, the following week as a person of color…’

Because of [Veatch’s’ general support grants], our funding isn’t requiring people to carve up their identities, which I think is a disservice. Requiring people to show up in this way sometimes impacts and distracts from the work.

In speaking about how NFG promotes an intersectional approach in the philanthropic sector, Marjona also highlights her participation in NFG’s Project Phoenix: Connecting Democracy, Economy, and Sustainability, a year-long cohort collective learning program for funders. For Project Phoenix, the term “new economy” means intersectional activities with an intention to support a democracy that works for all, an economy that provides good jobs and promotes local economic prosperity, the growth of ecologically sustainable and non-extractive sectors, and a re-prioritization of the role of capital in society to better serve these goals. Marjona shares how participating in Project Phoenix expanded her understanding about environmental grantmaking:

Project Phoenix really helped me understand my work a great deal, because it was focused on democracy and the environment. It was hard for me as a general support funder to see our role in moving that work because we have an environmental portfolio, but we didn’t have a way of supporting those intersections [of racial and economic justice].

Project Phoenix was helpful for me to understand all the different ways the work that we fund had a place [in the environmental landscape]. It was important for me to understand where we fit in the larger field of philanthropy. And it was also really helpful to understand our current socio-economic moment — capitalism, it extracts not just resources from the ground but it extracts resources from working-class, poor communities; it extracts people, it extracts lives, it extracts health. Prisoners are used as free labor to make goods and then those goods are sold back to us. It extracts our wealth — from the way the banking system works to the way it suppresses wages.  

So it helped me understand when you are talking about climate change and environmental protections, you need to be talking about worker protections, and housing, and health, and education. All of these things are connected. You can’t talk about these things in a vacuum. Those organizations that are focused on the environment without thinking about people need to be focused on people as well.

Amplifying Resources and Awareness in Critical Times 

Marjona shares an example of how NFG plays a powerful and responsive role in amplifying resources for racial justice through the network of funders with whom the organization has built a shared values framework and provided concrete, immediate avenues for funders to take action. With the organizers in 2014 who were taking a stand on the ground to protest the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Marjona understood the importance of supporting them with navigating the same criminal justice system that was being used to target and intimidate them. She worked closely with NFG’s Funders for Justice program staff to convene a conference call to mobilize resources and support the organizers’ legal costs: 

There were protests happening in St. Louis, and they needed emergency funds for bail support and organizers to work on legal aspects such as defending people, going with them to court, and helping them through the process. I felt that was critical because it is something that gets left out of grant proposals. People are going to put their freedom on the line — what happens to them once they are arrested, charged, and have to go to court? This is a concern especially in St. Louis, where folks are often new or first time offenders.

I remember emailing Lorraine [Ramirez, Senior Program Manager] at Funders for Justice, asking, ‘Can you send this out to the listserv?’ And she said, ‘Why don’t we do a call?’ I helped get folks on the phone, and they ended up getting support. It wasn’t a large call; it was just a handful of funders. But, I feel like if there had not been FFJ, I would have had to do that legwork myself, and to be honest, I don’t know if I would have been able to call funders individually to get that support while I had the work of my docket. I could not have brought people to the table so quickly on the strength of my own relationships.  

Because NFG has been organizing within philanthropy over the years with convenings and webinars, they have built up integrity in the field. People know to go to NFG if they have questions about black organizing and police brutality. So when NFG puts a call out asking if we can move resources for something, people will join and pony up.

Supporting Members to Engage Actively 

The ways that NFG supports its members to go deeper and develop a broader understanding of their role and potential for impact is important to Marjona in her work:

I think folks [at NFG] understand that we need to organize. They understand that philanthropy has to be as organized as we expect our grantees to be. NFG’s convenings and information sharing help create conditions so that can happen. A lot of [the staff at NFG] are former organizers... I said it before, and I will say it again, I don’t know if I would still be in philanthropy if it had not been for NFG.

Veatch has always had a commitment to racial justice, but we have increased our giving to over a million dollars to racial justice organizing — and part of that was from our work with NFG. We said to ourselves, ‘Yes, we are doing this, but we can do more. So let’s figure out how to be creative, and how to support our colleagues in being creative as well.’

After what happened with the Ferguson uprising, there was so much handwringing on the left. Helping to break through that to take action was important — because this isn’t just about Missouri, and this goes beyond Michael Brown. This is about the nation. It helped people do something, get in the game, and be public about how they were going to support that work. Was it perfect? Hell no! Especially when you have got money and power in the mix. But it did move funders in the right direction, and that’s what we need. Because it’s really easy to sit in our offices and say, ‘I [only] have this much money, and I have to get this docket out the door.’ But we have a greater responsibility. NFG helps you understand that greater responsibility, as well as how you can take that responsibility, hone it, and bring it into the program work