Movement Commons at Justice Funders

Notes on walking through the proverbial portal¹ to find power in our abundance

It’s the year 2031.² And you, and I, have just walked through the two heavy doors at the back of the large conference room, coffee in hand. The room is bustling with people, young and old, finding their way back to their seats.

This is the concluding session of an historic social movement gathering, attended by a representative of nearly every progressive social movement, gloriously pulled back together by this year’s unprecedented political opening.

From the front of the room, two speakers, standing behind podiums on a raised stage, begin speaking:

We reaffirm the following two truths:

That, while financial…


By Dana Kawaoka-Chen and Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

In the field of philanthropy, perhaps more so than in other fields, we talk a lot about legacy, usually as it relates to money, institutional longevity for purposes of notoriety, or transitions in leadership. Sadly, conversations about legacy and leadership rarely go beyond transition plans, depriving our movement from exponentially strengthening our capacity for, and practice of, shared leadership and self-determination. This is a problem. This is also an opportunity for us to continue moving toward deeper democracy.

This past year marked the 10-year anniversary of Justice Funders’ founding. As we reflected…


Ten years ago, a group of Bay Area foundation program officers with deep ties to social justice movements came together to form a network of grantmaking professionals committed to making philanthropy more responsive and accountable to grassroots, people of color-led movements advancing systemic change.

As philanthropic support organizations (PSOs) are typically created to serve philanthropy, meaning serve those with wealth and institutional power, there were limited models for how to create a new kind of PSO that was accountable to frontline organizations. …


Photograph by Ryan Sin. IG: @ryansincamera

Notes on Community Organizing in the time of COVID

Organizing can sometimes feel like pushing, hands outstretched, against heavy slabs of concrete standing on immovable pedestals.

Organizing requires convincing you, as one individual — then many, many more individuals after you — of three truths about power:

1) That you have power.

2) That, collectively, the power you have working alongside your community is multiple times greater than the combined power you and your community would have working alone.

3) And, that those who you’ve long understood to have power, are, in fact, not as powerful as we have been taught to believe.

This convincing is hard, necessarily persistent…


When Justice Funders was founded 10 years ago as the Bay Area Justice Funders Network, the philanthropic sector had been having conversations for nearly a decade about how to increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the field. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to be having a very different conversation: one about creating and promoting a shared framework for social justice philanthropy, deepening transparency and mutual accountability with social justice organizations, and organizing within philanthropy to mobilize increased resources for social justice movements.

Over the last decade we’ve seen some promising shifts in grantmaking practice, with more funders…


2020 has been a turbulent year, to say the least. A global pandemic and its resulting economic fallout for people of color, historic uprisings for Black liberation, and severe climate disruption evidenced by massive wildfires and hurricanes have all exposed the failure of the extractive, capitalist economic system. This week’s devastating news about the police killing of Breonna Taylor, that there will be no charges against the police officers for her murder, is yet another egregious reminder of the entrenched forces of white supremacy and anti-Blackness on which American capitalism relies.


There is hope in this moment, and NOW is the time.

By Rachel Humphrey and Kimi Mojica, Justice Funders

Photo credit: KEZI news

Since the uprisings for Black Lives began in earnest in May 2020, following the brutal police killing of George Floyd, the Justice Funders team has been engaged in conversations across our network, sharing reflections on dismantling white supremacy and anti-Blackness in philanthropy. Months later, we are still collectively witnessing, mourning, and protesting the attacks on Black lives, including the recent police shootings of Jacob Blake, Deon Kay and Dijon Kizzee.

In this time of deep racial reckoning in the US, we…


Doing so requires a radical expansion of the imagination and an investment in community self-determination.

By Jennifer Near, Justice Funders

Caption: Grassroots leaders in Boston share stories with funders about their organizing efforts to create models for community-controlled land, housing and capital

We are witnessing a catalytic moment in the long arc of history toward justice and liberation. It is a moment that provides an opportunity to deepen people’s awareness of how intersecting systems of oppression operate, and organize them to take action. …


Concrete actions for philanthropy to get us closer to a different future.

Photo credit: Kelley Wegeng

The disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities have brought much needed attention to the racialized impacts of the extractive, capitalist economic system of the United States. The recent police murders of Black people and the violent police response to the uprisings have also laid bare how Black and Brown bodies are considered dispensable in the pursuit of protecting capital and private property. …


Philanthropy has a moral obligation to support the systemic changes that reverse and repair centuries of harm.

by Maria Nakae, Senior Engagement Director, Justice Funders

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

In this moment of awakening about the deep-seated problems of white supremacy and anti-Blackness in the United States, people and organizations from all sectors of society are coming to terms with the need for real, systemic change. Over the last month, there has been a growing demand by movements of all kinds to defund the police. It is a demand that is gaining traction, and the reason for this is crystal clear: policing is an…

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