As the power of women grows in society, their influence in philanthropy is simultaneously increasing. A recent study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, “How and Why Women Give 2015,” reveals that, due to significant progress toward social and economic equity with men, “women have never before had so much control over philanthropic resources.” On top of that, the world is going through an awakening about investing in the rights and well-being of women and girls like never before.With all this going on, major developments for women and philanthropy seem to be happening at every turn. Here is a review of some of the significant trends and emerging topics in women and philanthropy from 2015.
A small program attached to an equally small liberal arts college has been providing thought leadership and a legion of boots on the ground for reproductive justice since the 1980s. Where do they get their money, and how has this operation been sustainable?The Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program (CLPP) at Hampshire College was founded in 1981, and since that time, it has helped to fuel both movement-building leadership and activist strategy for the cause of reproductive justice. Marlene Gerber Fried, Faculty Director of CLPP and Professor of Philosophy, and Mia Sullivan, Director of CLPP, took some time to discuss their work with Inside Philanthropy recently, so we could learn more about how this organization was formed and stays funded.
Attention to race keeps growing in the United States, and that’s true for a bunch of reasons. But, for sure, philanthropy has played a role in elevating race to the top of the national agenda.
Well before the events in Ferguson last year, a number of top foundations were already investing in new work to address racial inequities and empower leaders of color. Most notably, ten top foundations partnered with the White House in February 2014 to address the challenges facing young men of color. And nearly a year earlier, 26 foundations had come together in Chicago, pledging new work in this same area. As we’ve also reported, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched a big initiative on young men and boys of color, Forward Promise, in 2011. Looking even further back, the Open Society Foundations began its Campaign for Black Male Achievement in 2008.
In her 2014 book, Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage, Isabel V. Sawhill argues that unplanned births are a main cause of poverty, and that one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty (as well as inequality) is to help women, particularly young women, prevent unplanned pregnancies.
This is hardly a new idea, but Sawhill’s research has given it more heft, and anti-poverty funders should be paying close attention. While reducing unplanned pregnancies isn’t easy, it’s arguably a much lighter lift than tackling many of the other factors that underlie poverty, and that’s especially true in light of advances in contraception, as we’ll see in a moment. Enabling women to better control their fertility is also a classic upstream intervention that forestalls the need to address a range of other social problems, delivering lots of bang for the buck. Still, for various reasons, many funders that work on poverty steer well away from this area.
In the United States, discussion of marginalized groups often revolves around terms like discrimination, rights, and integration. Elsewhere in the world, though, the focus is more on inclusion versus exclusion—which, arguably, is a more comprehensive and useful frame.
A commitment to battling exclusion is core to the Open Society Foundations, which has offices in over 30 countries and partners in dozens more. By now, the OSF story is the stuff of legend—how George Soros, the philosopher hedge fund king, used his market winnings to help bring down communism and went on to bankroll a global network of local foundations to advance the ideals of open society, making sure “no one has a monopoly on the truth” and no groups are consigned to the margins.
The MacArthur Foundation may be trimming its sails in some areas, like winding down its housing work, but that hasn’t stopped it from launching a new effort to reform America’s wasteful and unjust system of jails.
As we reported earlier this year, the foundation is putting up $75 million over the next five years to reform how U.S. jails operate, a new initiative that instantly made MacArthur one of the biggest funders of criminal justice reform in the country—and at an opportune moment when the pendulum is swinging fast against yesterday’s Draconian anti-crime policies. (The foundation has long worked on juvenile justice issues.)
Now the foundation has announced its winners for the Safety and Justice Challenge, awarding $150,000 to 20 jurisdictions across the U.S to foster innovation and reduce the use of jails.
The health and safety of sex workers: It’s not an issue most of us tend to think about every day, but it’s yet another example of how marginalized populations are often left out of essential public policy discussions on subjects like health care, housing, education, and workforce development.
That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to jump on the phone with some leaders in the field of health and safety for sex workers to find out what philanthropy is doing, and what philanthropy could do, about this segment of our community. We talked with Scott Campbell, executive director of the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF), and Crystal DeBoise, co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, to learn more about what is going on for sex workers, and what philanthropy can do to bring this issue in from the margins.