Social Justice Philanthropy

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Mike Shaw, Program Assistant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

By:  Mike Shaw

My day was consumed by a sustained challenging of my thinking about social justice philanthropy. Gara LaMarche, Atlantic Philanthropies, and Ben Jealous, NAACP, presented their thoughts on social justice philanthropy and generational change at the closing plenary of the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy pre-conference.  There was amazing energy amongst my next-gen philanthropist colleagues as they listened and challenged these leaders thinking and ideas. This was later followed my a mini-plenary session facilitated by Gara and presented by a panel of extraordinary leaders from the field. However, this time I was surrounded by a very diverse and lively standing room only crowd of COF attendees. What struck me is that even though this was the second well-attended plenary on the topic, there was the continued theme that social justice philanthropy is provocative and still having to prove itself.

It seems as though the success of our missions and initiatives is critically tied to effectively utilizing a social justice lens through all of our work. Van Jones summed up this value by saying “Green Economy. Great. Cleaner, greener communities. Great. But, would it be an economy or perception of communities that Dr. King would be proud of?”   The Dr. King test, or social justice lens to me, should no longer be considered provocative or edgy, but a standard. Deepak Bhargava stated that social justice is defined as “a moral focus….on people who have been marginalized, a commitment to social change” and that it needs to not only move beyond the redistribution of power, but act as a structural re-engineering of social constructs and systems.

As Van Jones spoke of moving from Social Justice 1.0 (sharing the pie) to Social Justice 2.0 (growing the pie), I look to our work in philanthropy and wonder if this notion should stop being considered provocative and be accepted as an inherent value. An inherent value for equity, opportunity and justice. Or do you think that social justice, by nature and movement, will always be seen as edgy and provocative?