Sunday’s mini-plenary session “Social Justice—From Here to 2030” of the first-ever Council on Foundations annual conference Social Justice track was a breath of fresh air for many folks who have long wanted to make social justice a more explicit part of our collegial conversation.
The moderator was Gara LaMarche, fresh off his closing plenary address at the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy National Conference. (Gara, my latest Facebook friend, should be made an honorary millennial for his zeal for technology and obvious fluency with social networking tools.)
My initial big draw to this session was green movement rockstar and Green for All founder Van Jones (don’t try to deny it, it was for you, too!). Turns out, Van was only one of nine bright lights on stage, part of an incredible lineup of passionate and brilliant activists, advocates, and philanthropy folks. Any one of them would have made a terrific plenary speaker, and hats off to Council on Foundations and session designers for convening such an inspiring group. All had varying views of what social justice meant to them.
Van, who is “hanging out at Princeton” after an all-too-brief stint in the Obama administration, believes it is enshrined in the Pledge of Allegiance: “liberty and justice for all.” Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change believes the three pillars of social justice philanthropy are:
This session was packed with thought-provoking conversation, but I’ll hit a few highlights that stood out for me:
The panel offered advice to funders wanting to support social justice:
There was also a heated discussion of the use of metrics in the social justice field. Is it appropriate or fruitful to use metrics to measure social progress? Kumi said that social justice is a process, not the delivery of a set of products. Akwasi shared that in his native Ashanti, the word for measurement is both a quantitative and qualitative concept, and that we should look beyond the numbers to determine what the new narrative or story or reality is. Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core urged us all to focus on the bigger picture of determining what success looks like. What are the strategies to get to it, how long will it take to reasonably get there, and what will it cost?
Keep looking for the blue “SJ” symbol for more great sessions in this vein throughout the annual conference!
Caroline Altman Smith is the program officer at The Kresge Foundation and board chair of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.