Building Strong, Healthy, and Resilient Communities in Ferguson and Beyond

The recent shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is a painful reminder of the deeply entrenched divisions and tensions that plague too many American communities fractured by decades of racial discrimination, poverty, and disinvestment. As in Ferguson, tensions often simmer just below the surface until starkly revealed by some precipitating incident.

As the nation continues to grapple with the tough questions raised by the events in Ferguson, it is encouraging to recognize that philanthropy has a role to play. Michael Brown’s death and the local and national reactions to it are an opportunity to advance meaningful social change. Health philanthropy, in particular, is uniquely positioned to address the issues that underscore the turmoil in Ferguson.

The complex challenges facing this community and others like it are deep and multilayered—social marginalization, crumbling schools, unaffordable housing, high unemployment, and an eroding social safety net. All of these challenges point to the underlying social, economic, and environmental forces that shape the health of communities. Violence, poor living conditions, and weakened social cohesion threaten the safety and well-being of neighborhoods. African-American men, in particular, bear the brunt of unequal treatment and diminished opportunities. They have the shortest life expectancy of all groups in the United States, and many die of homicide while still young.

While these problems may seem intractable, philanthropy offers multiple pathways to building strong, healthy, and resilient communities in Ferguson and beyond. Funders can bring their resources, innovative thinking, convening power, and broad influence to bear to create transformative change. Addressing underlying conditions in Ferguson and other communities will require long-term investments to improve education, housing, jobs, health care, and mental health services; to expand opportunities for young men and boys of color; and to reduce social marginalization.

This work will not be easy. It will require bold cross-sectoral solutions. It is critical that health funders partner with and learn from others, including racial equity funders, civil rights activists, police reform advocates, and social justice organizers.

Looking ahead, Grantmakers In Health will continue to lift up ways funders can respond to the needs of communities like Ferguson. We also hope to foster more funder conversations about social justice and health equity.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.36.27 AM                        Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.36.38 AM           President and CEO                                                  Program Director
 Grantmakers In Health                                          Grantmakers In Health

February 12, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Marisa Franco

Marisa Franco, FFJ Field Advisor and Director and Co-founder of of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building, speaks on the current political moment and how funders can contribute to movement work.

Tell us about the particular moment you are in with your work and place in the movement.

Entering into our fourth year, we are doing our best to be a vehicle to both respond to the real-time challenges our communities face and a place to find respite, connection, and replenished meaning. Given what the Latinx and Chicanx community faces, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time (and hop on one leg, juggle, and balance something on our head!) but we believe that through the continued growth where organizers, healers, change-makers, designers, and disrupters feel Mijente is a place to meaningfully contribute to collective liberation means we are going in the right direction. It is my view that our most critical task at this time is growth and recruitment - millions of people are becoming exposed to the injustice and summarily wrong direction we are heading in - our organizations must be open and accessible entry points for people to contribute to moving us in the right direction.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Ultimately I think that lots of what we reference as threats that are coming are largely here - crisis as a result of climate change is here, it’s being felt across the planet. The extreme backlash and attempt to re-entrench power due to demographic change is here, occurring in localities across the United States. Authoritarianism is a growing threat beyond Donald Trump and within the domestic United States. Given all of this, at the very least I think it’s critical we start to widen our panorama of political understanding to include outside of the United States and make the connections internationally. Rest assured, our adversaries are in coordination - we ignore our movement siblings and the struggle outside of the United States to our own detriment.

What should funders be understanding in this political moment? What should funders be doing to support organizations and movements?

What’s important to understand in this political moment is how the volatility impacts the plans, perspective, and morale of people in organizations and social movements. It has become more and more difficult to lay out plans that feel real given how normal it's become for so much to turn upside down pretty regularly. Some understanding and support of this from funders, particularly when it means proposed work is not carried out in the way it was initially described, is very helpful.

Continued support for rapid response tactics is critical, as well as funds that help convene key groups and/or leaders in this time goes a long way. In times like these, those that are able to adapt and move quickly are well positioned to make impactful changes. These folks have got to be able to do so with enough support and not too many hurdles, hoops, and paper to be able to move. So some of these existing practices around simplifying processes, making funds available for rapid response activities, and pop up convenings is something that has been helpful thus far and is important to continue.

December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

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