This September, 700+ philanthropic leaders gathered in New Orleans for CHANGE Philanthropy’s 2017 Unity Summit. The summit was the largest of its kind and brought together a growing movement of about 300 organizations led by a coalition of core partners, which included Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE), Funders for LGBTQ Issues, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP), Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP), National Council for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), and Women’s Funding Network (WFN).
The vibrant tapestry of New Orleans—with its incredibly diverse people, French and Spanish Creole architecture, Afro-Caribbean and French cultural and religious influences, legendary music, growing innovation industry, and ohhh the food—served as the perfect backdrop for this gathering of change agents seeking to elevate the practices of individuals and organizations working to move the needle on the advancement of equity in the philanthropic sector.
Through numerous plenary and breakout sessions, affinity working groups, community trips and experiences, the summit aimed to prepare participants as they push philanthropy into conversations that will deepen equity in a strategic way. The summit created a safe space for courageous conversations on how the field can be better. Participants were encouraged to acknowledge inequitable practices and systems, to be more grantee- and community-centered and less transactional, to hone their change management skills and to speak up, regardless of their titles or perceived levels of power. Though we are all operating in different contexts and often using varying language, there were key takeaways and words of wisdom shared at the summit for those interested in advancing equity within their own organizations:
- Leadership must foster and show a willingness to experiment and to invest in advancing racial equity internally and externally. If they do not, a grassroots movement is key.
- Create a container to have courageous conversations grounded in trust and relationship-building within your philanthropic organization.
- Discomfort and difficult conversations are a part of the process—develop group norms to help navigate this essential dialogue.
- Build awareness. Foundations must deeply examine structural racism and inequity and how these relate to their grantmaking processes, organizational operations, and community relationships.
- Keep each other accountable, seek feedback from peers, and engage in actionable steps.
- It’s important for team morale and accountability to ensure there are small, incremental wins and visible, measurable progress.
- Individuals who can must use their privilege to go out on a limb, speak up, and take action when possible, but also step down and elevate the leadership of others in marginalized groups.
- Self care is important; we don’t want to be resilient—we want to be well.
- Change takes time; it is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourselves and extend grace.
To continue the journey towards advancing equity in philanthropy, CHANGE Philanthropy has launched the #Unite4Equity Campaign which provides guidance on advancing equity and changing philanthropy at every level.