"We have only our collective liberation to gain." Janis Rosheuvel and Sophie Robinson, Fund Black-led Social Change, NOW!

Call to Action

The current systems of domination and extraction are wreaking havoc on our social, economic and ecological stability as their negative impacts accumulate at a global scale. A Just Transition requires us to both evolve existing systems, like philanthropy, to realign them with the values of interdependence and reciprocity, as well as to build new systems, practices and institutions from the ground up that are rooted in an honoring of the sacredness of all life.

The best practices emerging in the philanthropic community to advance a Just Transition are rooted in the following:

  • Having the courage to tell the truth and sit with the discomfort about our past and present;
  • Cultivating the love and hope needed to boldly envision a different future that reflects our best values;
  • Making a commitment to build and repair relationships in ways that shift the power imbalances that are the source of harm;
  • Having the discipline and rigor to develop strategy and practice that allows us to recreate what we have; and
  • Building what we need to make the values of the new world manifest in the daily lives of people all over the world. [21]

The stories shared above provide just a few examples of the growing number of leaders who are actively exploring how to put the principles of Just Transition into practice, transform our philanthropic institutions, and transfer assets and resources into the hands of communities.

We are deeply inspired by the innovation and experimentation that is accelerating rapidly throughout the field by individuals who are boldly declaring that the old rules of the old systems must come to an end, that things can be done differently if we are willing to reimagine and practice an alternative, and that we must start now.

If you are inspired by these stories and would like to read more like them, we invite you to peruse the archives of the Liberate Philanthropy blog series, [22] curated by Justice Funders in 2018. Some leaders are beginning with a small pool of their assets to initiate learning and experimentation and build momentum within their institutions for more dramatic shifts in their giving over time. Others are making the commitment to transfer all of the wealth they steward to community control within their lifetimes. Foundations are even beginning to re- think the notion that their institutions should exist in perpetuity.

We hope that these stories, along with this framework, will not only inspire you, but that they will move you to take whatever action is in your power to facilitate a Just Transition in your own philanthropic practice or institution.

Until recently, social change philanthropy – at its best – was still based on the premise that through incremental steps, power could be built and shifted to move our society towards equity and justice. At this point in history, incremental approaches have no reasonable chance of addressing the scale of crisis we face. Only transformational approaches rooted in strategies with the potential to advance exponential change can put us on a path towards justice and liberation.

Philanthropy is a key sector in our society where we can choose to redeploy resources boldly and dramatically in service of a future where all of us can thrive. Through our social movements, everyday people are rising boldly to the challenge, and it is philanthropy’s role to act just as boldly to make the pivots that can forge a new collective path.

What is one thing you can do right now? Justice Funders invites you to partner with us on this journey towards creating a more just world. We support philanthropic organizations in reimagining and practicing a new vision of philanthropy that has been articulated in this framework. We provide a variety of programs, trainings and consulting services to support you in undertaking a Just Transition. If you are interested in partnering with us, please reach out at any time at justicefunders@gmail.com.

While a Just Transition for philanthropy may seem audacious, it is already underway. And we are faced with the reality that our collective vision of social justice – one in which power is truly in the hands of the people – will never be achieved without it. Unless we transition from the extractive practices of philanthropy, like the extractive economy overall, we will only head further down the path of fear, division and exploitation that our world is experiencing today. If we remain satisfied with the status quo, we will never truly create a world in which our planet and all people who inhabit it can thrive.

Furthermore, it will never be enough to simply resist the old systems, or to wield the tools generated from this system, to build the transformative world we wish to live in. Rather, we must repair the harms of the extractive economy while actively building the new one that will lead us towards a brighter future for all of us.

21. From: The Practice of Transformative Movement Building. Movement Strategy Center, 2016. http://movementstrategy.org/directory/ practices-of-transformative-movement-building
22. https://medium.com/justice-funders

Next Section: Acknowledgements