March 21, 2019

The Amplify Fund is Expanding Support for Power Building and Equitable Development in 2019

When Neighborhood Funders Group launched the Amplify Fund in 2018, it was with a singular core purpose: to bring together funders to learn, collaborate and mobilize resources toward power building and organizing for equitable development.

The Fund aims to strengthen the ability of communities of color and low-income communities to guide decisions about just and equitable development and to shape the places they live. This ambitious goal is grounded in the belief that, as a society, we need a sustainable political and governing infrastructure that prioritizes the needs of people above corporations. Communities that are underrepresented in our civic culture also need to be authentic stakeholders in the decisions that affect their daily lives.

One of our first questions in the Fund’s design was where this multi-site, place-based grantmaking fund would operate. From the outset, we knew we wanted to be in places where work at the intersection of power building and equitable development was being driven by impacted communities. This is typified by grassroots groups across Puerto Rico that are building power with hurricane-impacted communities to alter the course of disaster capitalism, ensure dignified housing, exert community influence over the application of federal disaster relief funds, and bring about a new energy future for the island.

We were clear we wanted to work in communities of color and with low-income people in places that were politically alive in the national arena and where the local politics speak to who we are as a nation, but are frequently overlooked by national philanthropy—like Missouri. Specifically, in the St Louis region, the 2014 murder of Michael Brown Jr. resulted in a new awareness of the ways in which the deep racial segregation and disinvestment of Black communities has had negative outcomes for the region as a whole. Yet, Missouri often is not included in national philanthropic funding strategies.

And, we could see we needed to work in places where we would have strong funding partners who could help us build momentum for long-term sustainable funding. This is the case among the funders that have formed the Fund for an Inclusive California, which is working across the state to build power with communities of color affected by the housing crisis.

In our vision, when people of color and low-income communities have the power to transform the places where they live, the results can shift historical inequities and result in a more just future. To that end, we continue to grow the Fund and are working now with a set of local leaders in North Carolina to determine our funding strategy there. And, this month, we culminated a process of further learning and analysis gained from talking with local leaders – funders and field leaders – and national leaders from across the country to determine additional places to support local work. Beginning in late 2019, Amplify Fund will be dedicating resources to four new places - Pittsburgh, Nashville, South Carolina and Nevada.

Everywhere Amplify works, we strive to increase organizing capacity in communities of color and low-income communities and to rely on their wisdom in developing solutions for long-standing inequities by supporting locally driven collaborations, movement building, and risk-taking. The way we work in each place is different, and tailored to the local context: 

  • Nevada and South Carolina will join North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Missouri, as places where we are co-creating grantmaking strategies with guidance from local advisors, including organizers, funders, and those impacted by the issues firsthand. That process will help us to determine where in each state we will specifically focus and what our grantmaking focus will attempt to help shift in the local landscape.
  • In Pittsburgh and Nashville we will work in a slightly different way, using targeted opportunity grants to support groups, coalitions, and campaigns and lean into timely opportunities to accelerate ongoing work with additional resources. 
  • In California, we are proud to continue partnering with Fund for an Inclusive California to engage a table of local CA-based funders and community leaders to help build the funding strategy in the state. 

Through our grantmaking and funder organizing in all eight Amplify places over the next three years, we will move resources to efforts led by people of color and low-income communities working to build power to advance their vision of equitable development. We will provide general operating support to local groups, coalitions, and tables that center racial justice and community power. And, to be effective in responding to local circumstances, we will continue to listen to and work hand in hand with local leaders to understand regional context and needs.

We are incredibly excited to work in partnership with local leaders in this expanded set of geographies to put power in the hands of people whose wisdom is best suited to influence the decisions that shape the places where they live. Amplify members currently include the Ford Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Moriah Fund, Open Society Foundations, Surdna Foundation, and The California Endowment. The fund is looking to raise at least $17 million to support grantmaking and programming for its eight places over a four-year period. To date, the member funders have pooled a good portion of this budget goal, but we’re not all the way there yet. We invite other funders in the NFG network and beyond to join Amplify’s current funding partners to increase support for communities working at the intersection of power-building and equitable development. 

For more information about how to join the Amplify Fund, please contact amplify@nfg.org.

August 14, 2019

Identify. Describe. Dismantle. Repeat.

Nicky Goren, president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, writes about calling out and then rejecting systems and institutions rooted in racism as a way to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist. This post was originally published here on Medium.

Nicky was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Meyer Foundation, which pursues and invests in solutions that build an equitable Greater Washington, is a member of NFG.


 

Nicky GorenRecently, the president of the United States openly targeted four women of color in Congress, overtly lying about and mischaracterizing things they have said and suggesting they, “go back to where they came from.” Later, at a reelection rally in North Carolina, he continued to stoke these flames of racism and hate as he appeared to bask in the glow of his supporters chanting, “send her back!” in reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. This, along with his tirade against Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and the Baltimore-area district he represents, was just among the latest in a long track record of openly racist comments, actions, stances, and tactics the president has used since long before he was elected to the highest office in the nation, and make crystal clear what he and his supporters seek to uphold.

We are long past any question about whether the president and many of the people around him and supporting him are racist. His actions and his words by any objective standard make it so. What is more important is to understand how our systems of government and white culture actively enable racism to continue to play out in our election processes, our governance processes, in virtually every aspect of our day-to-day existence in this country.

A great example is what happened after the president’s remarks when members of the House of Representatives condemned those comments through a resolution. In the context of that debate, some House members attempted to derail the resolution by turning to a House precedent that would preclude the speaker of the house from characterizing the president’s comments as racist; essentially, using precedent and procedure designed to inhibit the ability to call out racism in order to avoid confronting the very issue that is at the core of how we function as a country. If you can’t name it, you can’t address it. This is a prime example of how those in power (historically, white men) have created systems, processes, procedures, cultures, and norms, that allow them to maintain the status quo. We should all be scratching our heads.

We need to call out those in power who are silent or who use a so-called desire for civility — from the White House to the state house to our own houses — as a shield to maintain the structures of white supremacy that have gotten them to where they are and continue to oppress people of color in the United States on a daily basis.

White people who believe themselves to be socially aware need to understand how we are using our dominant cultural norms — that show up in ways including a general avoidance or reimagining of historical facts, an over-reliance on precedent, and outrage at the very idea of being thought of as racist — to shield ourselves, our systems, and those in power from accountability for equitable outcomes. Many of us are constantly deflecting and, thereby protecting, the way things are.

I challenge white people to become not just non-racist, but anti-racist — and to call out racists and racism when we see it. We need to hold those who are perpetuating systems, institutions, and practices rooted in racism accountable. And we need to recognize what we are seeing for what it is; not something from our ancient past that we can absolve ourselves from, but something that is deep in the DNA of this country. We must actively name and refuse to accept racism any longer if we want to move forward and reflect the standards of freedom and democracy we believe we stand for.

In the words of author, historian, and professor Ibram Kendi: “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it.”

Let’s keep going.

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August 15, 2019

Beyond Outrage: A Clarity of Purpose

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniWe live in dangerous times, and every passing news cycle contains another outrage, another violation of norms, another threat to our democracy, another threat to our planet.  

In the face of escalating racial attacks, (be it imprisonment of kids on the border or the racist rhetoric being tweeted from the white house) many have noted, rightly, that philanthropy as a sector has been too cautious and too quiet.  The Communications Network, in it’s recent piece, Silence Speaks Volumes, calls on foundations to use their voices in this moment.

Yes, it’s meaningful for people from all sectors of our society to condemn the Administration’s attacks on people of color.  And, for those of us working in the philanthropic sector, these times call on us to use all of our tools in defense of our inclusive, multi-racial democracy.  We are more than commentators or observers– as funders, our role is to resource a more just and equitable future. What we do in this moment will be far more important than what we say.  

As painful as this moment is, it is also a time in which the work to be done has become more clear. The vulnerability of our democracy has become more clear.  Racial anxiety and social divisions are being stoked in order to prop up a reckless system that benefits only the wealthiest. As we condemn the most recent of a long list of outrages, can we also use this moment to deepen our own clarity of purpose, and ensure that our funding will bring about a more just future? 

As funders, we can not only speak out but also take action to bolster our inclusive democracy.

  1. Support those most directly impacted by injustice. Instead of wielding of our own voice and power as a foundation, we can support those most directly impacted by injustice to build their voice, power, and leadership. They must lead the way to a more just world; it is our job to uplift and resource their visions and voices. National organizations such as Color of Change, New American Leaders, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, regional and state-based organizations such as Western States Center, Black Voters Matter and Workers Defense Project and so many others are seeding a future in which racial, gender and economic justice will be the norm.
  2. Invest in the creation and dissemination of narratives that reshape cultural attitudes around belonging in our country.  The recent escalation in the use of racist and sexist rhetoric is not happening in a vacuum– rather it builds on broader public narratives shaped by white supremacy and male dominance.  We need to normalize new narratives that humanize all of us, that value all of us. Organizations such as the Pop Culture CollaborativeReFrame, and the Culture Change Fund, for example, build capacity for narrative equity and culture shift.
  3. Question the default funding habits and practices that limit us from making a bigger impact in this moment. As funders, we sometimes have a blind spot for how our internal practices create unnecessary burdens and barriers for organizations that do the important work we support. This moment calls on us to question our practices, shift to ways of working that account for the gravity of the problems we face, and center the people who are leading the social change efforts we support. Could your foundation increase its payout, provide more general operating support, increase the length of grants, and minimize busywork for grantees? Could you shift your grant strategy to more boldly meet the moment or more directly address the imbalances of power in our society? The Trust Based Philanthropy Network has tools and stories of inspiration from foundations who have increased their impact by changing their practices.

So many of us in philanthropy are eager to do something meaningful in this tumultuous time.  Let’s challenge ourselves to use this moment to put our institutional values into practice. Let’s walk the walk as boldly as we talk the talk.