When Rodney King was beaten by police in the early 1990s, philanthropy organizations began diverting funds and resources to support Black men.
“That was a good thing. But that was external,” said Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia President Sidney Hargro. “But this time around, it needs to be much more comprehensive than how we looked at it before.”
Now, Hargro and his team are finding ways to create change and fix problems rather than patching up the effects of systemic inequity. The Network launched an Equity in Philanthropy cohort in May which aims to tackle ineffective philanthropy by focusing on internal practices of organizations.
The cohort is made up of 12 Philadelphia-area philanthropy organizations which will be considering an inclusive, encompassing view of equity expressed through 12 dimensions articulated in the Equity Maturity Model framework developed by the Walls Torres Group, a strategic management firm. The dimensions include aligned investments, fair consideration, courageous leadership, and dedicated oversight, among others.
The cohort organizations have been asked to identify up to 5 initiatives that each of them will begin work on within the next 12 months.
Hargro said the path to effective giving starts with understanding.
“If you don’t understand the barriers, both historic and current, a neighborhood faces on a daily basis, it’s difficult to serve those neighborhoods effectively,” he said. “Dig deeper. Ask why. What do we know about the root causes of these issues and what policies over the years have affected it?”
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The Philanthropy Network will support the participating organizations by hosting meetings throughout the year and funding six hours of customized consultation with Walls Torres founder and partner Daria Torres for each organization.
Hargro said it’s tough to determine if understanding barriers for varied communities can be learned by someone who hasn’t experienced it first-hand. But, he said, organizations can take a step toward being more conscious of their impact by looking at how they operate now.
“The idea is that we all will learn from this process,” he said. “Racial equity work is long-term, challenging and nonlinear. No one is saying ‘just do these three things and you will achieve racial equity.’ It’s a long journey.”
Hargro believes if these organizations and others can start looking at their philanthropy as a way to solve problems rather than support people facing these problems, giving could improve across the board.
“This is giving that attempts to move beyond what we call charity,” he said. “It moves to create sustainable change. You can never create change without addressing systemic and structural issues that serve as barriers.”-30-
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