Darren Isom, a Bridgespan partner and co-author of the report, said, “The competing crises of 2020 presented on the national stage the long-standing racial and social inequities that are the everyday reality for far too many communities across the country. Place-based funders, with their unique understanding of both the assets and the pain points of their communities, were uniquely positioned to leverage their local leaders and change efforts as critical drivers of the systemic change the moment demanded.”
Bridgespan’s report highlights the practices and tactics employed by a mix of community and private foundations, whose budgets and roles differ considerably. According to Isom’s co-author and Bridgespan Partner Debby Bielak, “What bound these participants together was a shared commitment to tackling inequities, to learn alongside one another and to help other funders as they navigate some of the same thorny challenges and questions such as:
- How do we interrogate our personal and institutional mindsets and practices?
- How do we authentically engage communities—especially BIPOC communities that have been structurally held back from progress—so they can shape our thinking and strategies?
- How do we build power in BIPOC communities?
- How do we collaborate with and influence other key stakeholders in our region, including our own donors, to advance community priorities?
- How do we partner with public leaders and also push them to address the root causes—not just the symptoms—of seemingly intractable social challenges?”
This range of examples illustrate that “there isn’t ‘an answer,’” as Seattle Foundation’s Kris Hermanns, one of the peer participants, noted. “Especially in a time that feels incredibly hard and raw, it’s really nice to try and find an answer. To have something that you can grasp. What’s helpful with this learning community is that you find your answers based on the wisdom and experience, and even the f-bombs that people are willing to share. And you think about how you instill and translate that experience.”
(For more on how this learning community came together, see video featuring a brief conversation with the authors)
“In sum,” said Bielak, “This series is intended to be an entry point in keeping the conversation on these important issues going. We welcome feedback and any insights on the topic that donors have to share on leaning into equity through philanthropy.”
About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group (www.bridgespan.org) is a global nonprofit that collaborates with social change organizations, philanthropists, and impact investors to make the world more equitable and just. Bridgespan’s services include strategy consulting and advising, sourcing and diligence and leadership team support. We take what we learn from this work and build on it with original research, identifying best practices and innovative ideas to share with the social sector. We work from locations in Boston, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco.