November 2, 2016

Place Based Community Change: The Time is Now

This September, the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Neighborhood Funders Group convened 100 local, regional, and national funders for Towards a More Resilient Place: Promising Practices in Place-Based Philanthropy. Here, Dawn Phillips, of Right to the City Alliance and Causa Justa :: Just Cause outlines an agenda for place-based change that acknowledges our past and looks to local solutions to guide the future.

Dawn PhillipsBy Dawn Phillips, Right to the City Alliance and Causa Justa :: Just Cause 

The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Neighborhood Funders Group’s Towards a More Resilient Place: Promising Practices in Place-Based Philanthropy convening was provocative and insightful. The gathering explored the importance of place-based community change and its potential to support community transformation towards resiliency and cohesion. If we are to fully realize the ideas discussed at the convening, there has to be clarity about what the approach entails and philanthropy’s role in supporting it. This is that action plan.

Place-based community change is political change. It must transform systems of race, class, and gender injustice. It is a commitment to support communities addressing racialized disinvestment, the role that government has played in driving inequitable development and the fiscalization of land and housing. It has to build the participation and leadership of those historically disenfranchised to advocate for their collective interest. It has to connect the struggles of communities and sectors previously divided and build an inter-sectional movement for social change. Ultimately, it has to develop the capacities of everyone involved to imagine a healthy, just, and people-serving society.

Place-based community change is strategic. It must address immediate issues facing communities as well as change conditions over the long term. It has to engage solutions that promote community stabilization in the short term, support community-led planning and development in the medium term, and ensure community control and ownership in the long term. It has to support communities to stay in place and benefit from new investment and development in their neighborhoods. It has to ensure that vulnerable, longtime residents are central in designing and deciding the type of development most needed in their communities. It is a commitment to supporting anti-displacement efforts that promote truly affordable housing, strong tenant rights, and housing security for those who need it most. Place-based change is particularly important because the most dynamic and innovative solutions are being developed at the local level right now.

Place-based community change is both possible and necessary. Our communities are a reflection of many decades of public policy and investment. From housing covenants, redlining, Urban Renewal, suburbanization, policing, and immigration policies, there are a myriad of public policy decisions that create our communities today. If public policy and investment created our neighborhoods, then we can and must redirect those policies and investments to reimagine a new reality. This is a moment of multiple, interconnected crises—historic racial and economic inequity; anti-Black racism; deepening violence against immigrants, communities of color, and women; and much more. It is critical that we stand up to realize transformation at the individual, community, and societal levels. Change is possible and necessary.

There is a clear role for philanthropy in supporting place-based community change. Tell the truth about this moment, name the crisis facing low-income and communities of color nationally, and speak clearly about the need for racial, economic, and gender justice. Lift up the stories of those most impacted by the crisis, and center their voices and experiences in conversations. Talk about the crisis in terms of its impact on the lives of people, not just in terms of data and statistics. Lift up the vision, ideas, and work of organizations building the power and capacities of impacted communities. Leverage your credibility and relationships to support this work. Invest in basebuilding and organizing—not just today, but for the long term. Support impacted communities in coming together, developing shared vision and plans, realizing those dreams, and being able to maintain their collective needs over time. Become an organizer in your field. Support your peers in developing a similar perspective and approach, and work to build broad support for place-based change. Philanthropy can and must be part of this change.

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October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin 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 Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.