‘Social justice’ encapsulates the values of justice, fairness and peace within communities. Philanthropy for social justice examines structural arrangements that cause and maintain injustice and unfair treatment and focuses on changing those structures.
The Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP) Network is a global network of philanthropy practitioners working to increase the impact of grantmaking for social justice and peace and to shift the narrative in philanthropy to one that understands and embraces the importance of a social justice approach.
A social justice approach to philanthropy respects the role of those most affected by injustice as agents of their own change. While this may be close to the central tenet of Community philanthropy – local ownership of local solutions, not all Community Philanthropy addresses structural issues. However, there are interesting and inspiring examples that show us that where the two intersect and strategies that both deepen community engagement and employ a cohesive approach to address structural and contextual drivers of injustice, there is added value to the change that is brought about.
The Dalit Foundation is the philanthropic arm of a social movement for structural change in the Indian society. It supports grassroots initiatives that address beliefs and practices that perpetuate caste discrimination and unequal treatment of Dalits. Committed to the principles of sustainable and bottom-up change, the Dalit Foundation has recently partnered with the Global Fund for Community Foundations to further enhance community engagement in mobilizing resources for the Dalit Movement. The Prayatna Foundation, a former grantee of the Dalit Foundation and a small community based organization (CBO) covering 50 villages in Barabanki in India offers many lessons in rethinking community philanthropy with a social justice approach.
Prayatna Foundation’s over 5000 members belong largely to the Dalit and Muslim communities and almost all of them fall below the poverty line. Against a backdrop of poverty and traditional beliefs that foster differences between the two communities, the philanthropic content of Prayatna transcends monetary contributions and is based significantly on social capital. Trust, reliability, care/concern and a common ground of affinity resulting from centuries of structural injustices and exclusion are the most important elements in the shared responsibility of the CBO members for their development. The philanthropy of the community here plays an important role in transforming situations of potential conflict to one of collective responsibility.
As the PSJP Network moves forward building connections worldwide in order to deepen and broaden the impact of philanthropy for justice, peace, equality and fair treatment for all, I’m sure that we will encounter many such interconnected lessons for community philanthropy practitioners and social justice grant makers to increase the value, impact and sustainability of their work.
Chandrika Sahai, Coordinator PSJP