How Can We Grow the Work?

At a philanthropy gathering in late 2012, a session participant remarked, “raising money for social justice is like the church asking for money for love”. The analogy amused me and yet I was gravely concerned by the implication of that statement. In that statement was a reflection of our times where philanthropy is largely driven by language more suited to markets. Its product must be tangible, measurable and quick or it will be banished to the realm of the vague.

In such an environment, how can we make the case for philanthropy that seeks to alleviate the systemic causes of inequalities and injustice, for results that don’t come quick or easy? “How can we grow the practice of philanthropy for social justice and peace?” We put this question to practitioners of philanthropy for social justice and peace (PSJP) from around world and we were deeply inspired by their answers. They argue with conviction and evidence the need for philanthropy to espouse language and strategies not driven by metrics and markets but by a value-based framework that allows for systemic interventions that address power imbalances in society, pushes for long term planning, recognizes and supports the agency for change in the communities it seeks to serve, and seeks sustainable results no matter how difficult, intangible or risky.

The report ‘How can we grow the Work – Ideas from Practitioners from Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace’ produced by the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, is based on conversations with twenty-four practitioners. It is a step towards building such voices in philanthropy; voices that express a desire to shift the discourse and direction of mainstream organized philanthropy to one that put social justice and peace at its core.

The report highlights the need for building bridges and connections; it calls for opportunities to share, talk and learn from one another; to provide leadership and find allies. In doing so it stresses on the need to be inclusive, flexible and open, yet serious and rigorous in making the case and building an evidence base for PSJP.

Most importantly, to me, the report underscores the call by practitioners of PSJP to be self critical and to ask of themselves the questions they would ask of others.
In order to “grow this work” we are building the PSJP Network as a true community of practice “that is organic, self directed, nimble, spontaneous, and inclusive, driven not by dominant ideas but by diverse voices, with conversations relevant to context and tolerant of those at the periphery as well as the center.”

Read the report here and tell us what you think.