R/evolution, the EPIP 2021 National Conference, held virtually from June 7th-11th, 2021, was both a hallmark event of EPIP’s 20th-anniversary year and a moment for reflection - a chance to take stock of how far we and the sector have come over the past two decades, challenge the norms of the present, and recommit to our work to shift the sector towards a better future.
The Evolution of Philanthropy
EPIP celebrated our 20th anniversary throughout the conference, inviting alumni to join us to reconnect and reflect, and leaving it all on the virtual dance floor at our 20th-anniversary dance party. We also looked at what we’ve learned from the philanthropy’s past, beginning with opening plenary session Philanthropy Reimagined: 20 Years of Changemaking, a conversation examining and challenging the role of the sector featuring Tony Simmons (ABFE, EPIP Board Chair), Sandy Nathan (Humanity United), Dana Arviso (United:Ed), and Jonathan Jayes-Green (Marguerite Casey Foundation).
“We need to create more on-ramps for people with lived experience to enter philanthropy, not just as staff, but also as trustees and board members."
“Change has to happen at the top and with momentum at the bottom.”
“Philanthropy has a role to play in the fight for power in this country.” -Jonathan Jayes-Green
These themes - of examining and understanding philanthropy in order to see how it can grow and change - continued throughout the conference, from the preview of Philanthropology, EPIP’s new curriculum that teaches the history, role, and potential of philanthropy through a social justice lens, to breakout sessions and micro-sessions that reflected on the role of evaluation in philanthropy, shared what the sector can learn from movement work in disability justice and Black feminist leadership, and redefined the concept of the “bad grant.”
- Words of Wisdom: "Black feminism asks us to see people in our fullness." - Ramatu Bangura (Children's Rights Innovation Fund)
- Resource: The Revolution Must Be Accessible (Disability justice toolkit from HEARD - also available in Spanish and ASL)
- Resource: Listening for Change (Evaluators of color share their experiences with foundations and evaluation firms)
Care & Community
Our second plenary, Collective Loss, Collective Care: What We Need From Our Institutions, a conversation between Storme Gray (EPIP), Beatrice Lors-Rousseau (Open Society Foundations), Keri Gray (Keri Gray Group), and Katie Carter (Pride Foundation), centered the conference in the commitment to healing justice that has been a hallmark of recent conferences. Their conversation touched on all aspects of what care means within philanthropic workplaces and the sector as a whole, including both what institutions can do to promote care and how emerging leaders can help bring care to their work and the organizations their institutions fund.
"Most of the structures that we deal with in philanthropy are of our own making." - Katie Carter
"Collective care is so critical, but we haven't always been given the tools to know what that looks like." - Storme Gray
"Care is not about taking space away from other things. It's about allowing more space to exist." - Keri Gray
Care and healing were prioritized throughout the conference, starting with the group nap that followed the Collective Loss, Collective Care panel. The conference also featured a group yoga session, affinity group healing spaces, including new spaces this year for caregivers and for AAPI participants, sessions on incorporating healing justice within leadership development, resetting your relationships and self-care within a virtual world, self-advocacy lessons learned from movement spaces, and a magic show that closed the conference with a moment of joy.
We also cared for each other, both in the healing spaces and in connection sessions throughout the conference, many hosted by EPIP's CHANGE Philanthropy partners. Being in community with each other is so important, to this conference and to our work, and we are proud to have used this regenerative and restorative space to launch two new communities of practice that will join our longstanding People of Color network - one for emerging women leaders of color and one for white allies.
- Resource: How Groundswell is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis
- Resource: all about love by bell hooks
The Revolution To Come
R/evolution's closing plenary, A World Without Philanthropy: Imagining Liberation, brought together H.D. Hunter (Storyteller & Community Organizer), Maria Cherry Rengel (Foundation for Louisiana), Kiyomi Fujikawa (Third Wave Fund), Derecka Purnell (Lawyer, Organizer, and Author), and Demian DinéYazhi´(Transdisciplinary Artist & Curator) to help envision the liberated world we'd like to co-create. We lift up the work that these innovative artists, abolitionists, funders, and creative minds have created thus far (click their names for samples of their artwork) and the quote that Kiyomi used to open the panel:
“Whenever we try to imagine a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction. Organizers and activists dedicate their lives to creating and envision another world, or many other worlds. … Art and culture themselves are time-traveling, planes of existence where the past, present, and future shift seamlessly in and out. And for those of us with collective trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction. ... Our ancestors dreamed us up and then bent reality to create us.” - Walidah Imarisha
Throughout the conference, we all spent some time imagining the revolutionary future of philanthropy and determining what might be needed to move us there, with sessions that explored how to build back better in the wake of the pandemic and use this moment to bring about systems change, how to seed change and transformation from within philanthropic organizations, and how to physically craft liberation through libation. We also worked towards our own transformation with a formal accessibility statement and a commitment to continue to incorporate accessibility in all our programming.
- Resource & Inspiration: Octavia's Brood - Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha
- Resource: How Philanthropy Can Support Systems-Change Leaders (report from Bridgespan)
- Resource: Resonance: A Framework for Philanthropic Transformation (a tool from Justice Funders)
- Tool: Padlet, an interactive tool for virtual learning and sharing