Lessons in Emergent Alignment

January 17, 2014 1 Comment

Lessons in Alignment“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that innovation relies on the genius of an individual. We produce and innovate together only in networks.”

– Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

 This is our second post about the Social Justice Funders Network. Read the previous post here

  • How might women of color working in philanthropy support each other in nurturing our radical selves?
  • How might funders advance racial justice and racial equity conversations in our philanthropic institutions in order to inform our practice?
  • What is the appropriate role for foundations in support of movements and movement building?
  • How might we be stronger allies to and supporters of youth organizing?

These are a few of the questions that members of the Social Justice Funders Network (SJFN) named as most prescient to explore with each other in 2014. After two and a half years of experimental learning and relationship building together across the usual boundaries of institutions, issue areas, and roles within the field of philanthropy, this network of funders has decided to pursue relationship and community building, substantive learning, and project incubation – all with a racial equity lens. Each of the questions listed above is the central question that a self-organized and member-led “pod” of interested members will take on. One of the cool things about networks is that everyone doesn’t have to do the same thing at the same time. Instead, simultaneous subsets of people can follow their passion, experiment together, and then bring whatever they learn from that effort back to the larger network.

Curtis recently summarized what we’ve been learning at IISC about supporting healthy networks for social change. What are we learning from supporting the Social Justice Funders Network in particular?

  • The conveners and funders (beginning with The Hyams Foundation) have embraced emergent alignment and focus as well as the importance of relationship building among peers since the beginning of this effort, thus making room for the shared passions and interests of network members to emerge organically.
  • SJFN member gatherings have been a rich space for building new as well as deepening existing relationships among funders, which has catalyzed unexpected joint activities – connectivity is a result that should not be underestimated!
  • Racial justice and racial equity area areas of varied awareness and focus of SJFN members’ work, yet these are also areas of shared interest and a shared sense of centrality to social justice funding.
  • SJFN has become an attractor for people of color in philanthropy as a supportive space, and it has become an attractor for people who are newer to philanthropy to meet like-minded colleagues and learn from one another.
  • While designing and facilitating meaningful member gatherings has been and will continue to be important, equal attention must be paid to weaving connectivity among members and supporting joint actions of member pods in between meetings.

1 Comment

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks Jen for a window into this important work! I have seen first hand how failing to attend to relationships and connectivity in another network focused on racial equity slowed the group down quite a bit. And, as a result, slowed their entire project and outcomes down as well.

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