Social Justice Funders Network

June 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Andrea Nagel and I have been facilitating retreats for the Social Justice Funders Network (SJFN) of Massachusetts for the last year and a half or so. What an honor! Network members include individuals who work at foundations both small and large across the state and who have intentionally created a space for learning and relationship-building across roles, institutions, and issues.

What we know about networks from our practice at IISC is that organic and previously unimaginable collaborations can emerge from spaces such as these when we don’t jump too fast to action and when we make room for self-organized projects among various combinations of network members at any given time (check out Gibrán’s recent post about the Barr Fellows network for another example based on this idea. The SJFN chose to focus their last retreat in April on the topic of race and power dynamics. As grounding for the conversations of the day, we watched Jay Smooth’s TEDx talk “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race” and the third episode of Race: the Power of an Illusion, we heard reflections on the story of Haymarket People’s Fund‘s journey to practice philanthropy in alignment with racial and economic justice values, and we drew inspiration from these three quotes:

“Many of the stories that we tell now are really designed to make us both comfortable and feel powerless. In a sense, I think we have to be willing to be uncomfortable, willing to demand more of ourselves and more of our country, and willing to make the invisible visible; willing to make the structures that support the system to be able to put them on the table, and engage in real examination of those.” – john powell, Race: the Power of an Illusion

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”

“Can we stop focusing simply on transactional moves we see as winnable and start working for the transformation of the institutions that perpetuate suffering? Can we speak to people’s deepest needs – to feel a sense of connection, to feel love? Can we realize that working for the elimination of social suffering is an integral part of any spiritual project? Can we have a discussion about values that is grounded in hope and acknowledgment of our connected being? I believe that we can, and I believe that we must, if we are to heal the self and have a future at all.” – john powell, Racing to Justice: Transforming our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.

About the Social Justice Funders Network (SJFN)

The SJFN network builds authentic relationships and advances learning among funders convened to shift power and systems that result in equity for all. At the core, the SJFN is rooted in four shared values of justice, respect, inclusion, and love. This self-organized network of individuals and institutions in philanthropy facilitates organic collaborations, nurtures creativity, and experiments as a decentralized network.

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