Sojourning for CHANGE

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Written by: Jeanné Isler

Date: November 01, 2016

The respected author Octavia Butler explored the potential and power of change in her acclaimed novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. In the stories, a disabled, Black teenage girl named Lauren Olamina was able to build a diverse community of people around the qualities of change because they needed a new perspective about the problems in their societies, which seemed insurmountable.

The problems that that we in philanthropy attempt to solve now – growing poverty, climate change and rampant violence – are not unlike those faced by Butler’s characters, and at times they can seem equally insurmountable. I sometimes get discouraged, and there are moments when I grow weary from the weight of advancing social justice. But then I remember I am not alone in this journey because thankfully, we have CHANGE.

For over 25 years, the members of CHANGE Philanthropy have been leaders in prioritizing the most marginalized and underserved in our communities, and in nurturing and promoting the leadership of individuals from these communities within the sector. Many of the CHANGE partners had early priorities of cultivating communities for people who wanted to thrive in philanthropy, but were marginalized from sector leadership.

Over the years, their programming has provided unique resources for philanthropy to not only diversify the profession but also to expand the sector’s understanding of and motivation for grantmaking for equity.

ABFE and Native Americans in Philanthropy have developed curricula to help our sector better serve Black and Native American communities. Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Women’s Funding Network have led innovative research about the gaps in funding across identities. Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and Hispanics in Philanthropy have created unique platforms to cultivate the philanthropic power of members of those communities, showing they are givers as well as recipients of philanthropy. And Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy has boldly nurtured a sector-wide conversation about power dynamics and opportunity within foundations and in grantmaking.

Just as Lauren did, CHANGE members have attracted a network of people who choose to engage with our society’s problems in transformative ways.

The impact of CHANGE Philanthropy goes beyond tools and resources. The partners have always been committed to collectively advancing equity in the sector, and more and more serve as a resolute conscience for philanthropy. As the membership, influence and power of each partner organization grow, so does the resounding call for equity in the echo chamber they’ve created. CHANGE’s message has contributed to our sector’s finally starting to recognize the urgency around leveraging philanthropy to address the impacts of systemic oppression.

This message strongly aligns with NCRP’s legacy of improving philanthropy’s accountability to those with the least wealth and access to opportunity. As NCRP moves into a period of deeper engagement with social justice movement leaders and the funders who want to support them, it is natural and timely that we formalize our partnership with CHANGE Philanthropy to advance our shared goals. We have long considered CHANGE partners as key allies, teachers and friends in our work, and as a new collaborating partner, we plan to add our perspective as a watchdog to philanthropy.

At the end of Parable of the Sower, Lauren and the others who followed her had an important decision to make. They had been journeying together, mostly for safety and convenience, but having reached a safe stopping place, they had to choose between stopping there to intentionally build a community together or continuing their sojourn. Ultimately they decided to stay together and build a place that became a haven for others and the foundation for work that could change the country.

CHANGE Philanthropy, too, is in a transitional moment – a pause during which we partners can take stock of where we are and build foundations for something greater.

We look forward to working more closely with all the CHANGE partners, including the other new collaborating partners, Neighborhood Funders Group and Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, to ignite CHANGE in philanthropy and advance equity.

Jeanné Isler is vice president for learning and engagement, and serves as NCRP’s primary liaison to CHANGE Philanthropy. She is also a loyal and shameless fan of Octavia Butler.