Decolonizing Philanthropy

As my little brother said in a text, “Watched the whole thing. You’re a bad mofo.” Which is about as good as it gets in terms of sibling compliments about an academic presentation on a heady social justice topic. Even if you don’t understand the term “decolonization” and aren’t in the field of philanthropy, check it out. I promise you’ll learn a few new things that will inspire and challenge you! xoxoako

Decolonizing Wealth: Seven Steps to Healing by Edgar Villanueva

Step 1: Grieve

Feel the hurt, shame, and sadness

Grief of the colonized

  • Cultures, people, and lands that were forcibly taken away
  • Hundreds of years of enslavement and genocide

Grief of the colonizers

  • Emotions of fear, guilt, and shame
  • Separation mindset that causes defensiveness and apathy

Step 2: Apologize

Acknowledge where philanthropic wealth originated

  • Theft of land and resources
  • Labor of enslaved people
  • Exploitation of low-wage workers
  • Ongoing income and wealth disparity
  • Tax shelters, breaks, and loopholes for the rich

Step 3: Listen

Tap into the wisdom of those we wish to serve

  • Challenge paternalistic benevolence
  • Value and center lived experience 
  • Stop controlling the conversation
  • Address and work through challenges

Step 4: Relate

Prioritize relationships and connections over results

  • Cultivate human connection
  • Value people over ROI and metrics
  • Seek information from all levels of the organization and community
  • Practice collective decision-making

Step 5: Represent

Include diverse people in decision-making processes

  • Diversify your board, leadership, staff
  • Create new leadership opportunities for community members
  • Prioritize deep, authentic knowledge that only community members can provide
  • Share decision-making power with community members

Step 6: Invest

Celebrate giving and put money towards your values

  • Measure effectiveness by giving, not endowment returns
  • Give more than the minimum 5%
  • Divest from unethical investments
  • Practice mission-related investing

Step 7: Repair

Use money to heal and achieve social justice

  • Fundraise to close the racial wealth gap
  • Make reparations for wealth that was stolen from BIPOC
  • Emphasize that this is to correct a current, not past, injustice

Decolonizing Wealth Paradigm Shifts

Please answer the questions for the paradigm shift that you would like to see at your organization.

I. DIVIDE > CONNECT

  1. How do divisions show up between your organization and the community it serves?
  2. What actions has your organization taken to connect with the community it serves?
  3. Referring to the “Seven Steps to Healing,” what actions can it take to better connect with the community it serves?

II. CONTROL > RELATE

  1. How does control play out between your organization and the community it serves?
  2. What actions has your organization taken to better relate to and share control with the community it serves?
  3. Referring to the “Seven Steps to Healing,” what actions can your organization take to better relate to and share control with the community it serves?

III. EXPLOIT > BELONG

  1. How does exploitation show up among your organization, your donors, and the community it serves?
  2. What actions has your organization taken to increase belonging among your organization, your donors, and the community it serves?
  3. Referring to the “Seven Steps to Healing,” what actions can your organization take to increase belonging among your organization, your donors, and the community it serves?

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