Like all other forms of wealth in the United States, philanthropic wealth can be directly traced back to industries that relied on economic practices of extraction and exploitation, such as the theft of Indigenous land and genocide of Indigenous people, the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of African people, the systemic undervaluing of “women’s work” and the destruction of natural systems and the web of life. Because philanthropic wealth comes from these historic (and current) extractive practices, we must recognize that grants alone (which merely represent approximately 5% of a foundation’s financial assets) are insufficient to eradicate the harm these practices have caused.
The transition from a system organized around limitless extraction and wealth accumulation to one organized around regeneration and resilience within natural limits is a transition in which philanthropy can play a catalytic role. As human-made and natural crises accelerate, it has become clear that incremental approaches are insufficient to manifest the large-scale changes we seek. We must take bold and transformative actions that have the potential to advance exponential change and forge a new path that will allow future generations to thrive.
A Just Transition for philanthropy requires us to reject the accumulation of wealth and power, and to instead choose equity and justice. It also requires us to adopt new models for governing philanthropic resources – including financial capital, knowledge and human resources – to redistribute wealth, democratize power and shift economic control to communities.
Resonance: A Framework for Philanthropic Transformation is meant to support your philanthropic organization, irrespective of your starting point, in reducing extractive practices and increasing regenerative ones.
Here is an orientation to the contents of this framework:
- We present a detailed summary and analysis of the history of philanthropy in the United States from which current extractive practices are derived.
- We provide an alternative vision for our field.
- We share values that guide movement organizations (characterized as being accountable to organized bases of historically marginalized communities) leading restorative neighborhood and community efforts to facilitate a regenerative economy.
- We offer a framework to help guide philanthropy to be less extractive and more regenerative. We summarize case studies from peer philanthropies on their journeys to becoming more regenerative.
- We suggest some guiding questions to help you begin your own journey.
The purpose of this framework is to articulate a North Star. We offer stories and examples to encourage philanthropic organizations to begin practicing a new kind of philanthropy that can advance a thriving and just world. If you are inspired by this vision, we encourage you to partner with us to support your organization in operationalizing the ideas presented in this framework. It is our sincerest hope that this body of work will intensify and enrich your journey towards philanthropic transformation!