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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February 28, 2020

NFG Newsletter - February 2020

February is Black History Month and, in this newsletter, NFG honors Black resistance. Given the persistence of structural racism and the legacies of segregation, NFG has mobilized philanthropy to support POC-led organizing for equitable development since our start 40 years ago. Through our member-led and local advisor-led programming, we are lifting up how Black communities are reclaiming land ownership and addressing the racial wealth gap through grassroots power building.

At the beginning of the month, NFG’s Amplify Fund staff and steering committee spent a day with local organizers, non-profit leaders, and organizations in Charleston and Edisto Island, South Carolina — one of Amplify’s eight sites. Both national and local grantmakers learned alongside some of Amplify’s grantees, including the Center for Heirs’ Property PreservationLow Country Alliance for Model CommunitiesCarolina Youth Action Project, and South Carolina Association for Community and Economic Development, which are bringing together Black, Latinx communities and youth in the region to fight for community power, land rights, and environmental justice in the face of corporate power, criminalization of communities of color due to gentrification, and land theft.

This week, NFG’s Democratizing Development Program (DDP) hosted a two-day Health, Housing, Race, Equity and Power Funders Convening in Oakland, California. Over 100 participants grappled with how anti-Blackness and xenophobia fuel the complex housing & health crisis and community trauma, and heard examples of concrete organizing wins led by Black women from Moms 4 Housing and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Organizers from around the country urged grantmakers to significantly invest in long-term general operating support, community ownership models, POC leadership, and 501(c)4 funding for Black, Indigenous, and POC communities engaging in policy and systems change around housing affordability and justice. 

From Amplify’s funder collaborative to the DDP convening’s planning committee, funders organizing other funders has been a key part of our work. Funder members: how are you stepping up as an organizer and moving more resources for power building in Black, Indigenous, and POC communities? We invite you to connect with NFG staffprograms, and upcoming events — including our National Convening — and be part of our community where we bring funders together to learn, connect, and mobilize resources with an intersectional and place-based focus. 

Onwards,
The NFG team

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January 23, 2020

NFG Newsletter - January 2020

Animated fireworks with the text "40 Years Strong"

This year marks NFG's 40th anniversary. During our early years, NFG was one of the few spaces in philanthropy specifically focused on people of color-led, grassroots organizing, and power building as the key to effective social change strategies. Today, NFG continues to be many funders' political home at a time when moving resources to struggles for justice is critically important: communities of color are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis, growing wealth and income inequality, and climate change; white nationalist backlash is rising; and our democracy is profoundly threatened. NFG is a space to draw support, deepen relationships, and find co-conspirators as we propel philanthropy to shift power and money towards justice and equity.

In 2020, the NFG network is continuing to explore structural racism in health and housing, racial capitalism, migrant worker justice in rural areas, reimagining community safety and justice, and more. We will also return ‘home’ to NFG’s founding city — Washington, D.C. — for our 2020 National Convening.

As we celebrate 40 years, our dynamic community of grantmakers and grassroots leaders is what makes us strong. This newsletter spotlights The Libra Foundation, an NFG member that shares our commitment to organizing funders in moving more resources to frontline communities and movements.

Keep reading below for more opportunities to engage with NFG. Whether you are new to NFG or a long-time member, we look forward to collaborating with you to accelerate racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.
 
Onwards,
The NFG team

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