Renewal in Service of Marginalized Communities

Is renewal possible without extraction? The answer is yes, but it is worth exploring why it’s often not how we operate. If you’ve done any equity work as an individual or organization, you have probably come to understand that despite good intentions, you may have been extractive of the very communities you’ve been trying to help. As a white leader of a legacy organization, I think about this concept often and we try hard here at Independent Sector to live up to the ideal of power sharing and true co-creation, but we sometimes fall short. We all do.

In the September Upswell Pop-Up, we had two examples of people who dug into their own lived experiences to renew institutions and society in a way that brings equity and justice for the most marginalized among us. Rather than extract from community for the benefit of a legacy institution or powerful entity, they are very intentionally using elite systems that they are a part of to shift power back to the people who are marginalized.

For Edgar Villanueva, his journey to undo the colonization in his own mind and life did not happen overnight, but once he started understanding his Indigenous roots and his relationship with money, he began to help philanthropy distribute funds in a way that centered equity and decolonization. Through his work as an author and consultant, he helps social sector organizations ensure racial equity commitments don’t stop with an all-staff training, and instead reshape how they invest into Black, Native, and communities of color.

Similarly, Tawakkol Karman, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, discussed her work to advance the non-violent struggle for the safety of women to fully participate in peacebuilding in Yemen. As a journalist, Karman had access to power and legacy in Yemen and she witnessed first-hand a civil war and repressive government control, but also used her passion for social justice and her lived experience as a woman in Yemen to organize weekly protests.

I’ll also spoke about this concept with my colleague and board member, Michael McAfee. As the president and CEO of PolicyLink and a follower of the wisdom and thinking of Independent Sector’s founding chair, John W. Gardner, he and I engaged in a powerful conversation about how best to renew organizations to uphold the values we most hold dear – justice, liberation, love, and mutual restoration of our communities, organizations, and society.

If you missed the Pop-Up, please check the On-Demand section of our Upswell website for the videos in a few days. These themes will continue to be a part of our going discussion at the Upswell 2020 Summit taking place October 14-16. Early bird rates end this Friday so please join us and tell your network.

We look forward to engaging with you now and into the fall. As always, reach out if there is anything we can do for you.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Society, COVID-19 Response, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Upswell