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Embarking on a Learning Journey to Shift Mindsets and Break Barriers

Worth and New Profit have been engaging with philanthropists, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and business leaders about how philanthropy and other sectors can transform and drive more progress in the fight for equity in America.

Photo courtesy of Jackson David via Pixabay

Something more fundamental than “change” is needed right now to set America on a path to realizing the true ideals of its founding. We must transform our mindsets and rearchitect the systems that have contributed to entrenched disparities. The challenge is clear, but so is the opportunity: These systems were designed by humans and they can be redesigned by humans. Indeed, visionary social entrepreneurs across America are showing us a path towards a more equitable future across education, workforce development, public health, criminal justice and other areas.

As part of ‘Rearchiteching the Future Through Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship,’ a six-part online series from Worth and New Profit, we have been engaging with philanthropists, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and business leaders about how philanthropy and other sectors can transform and drive more progress in the fight for equity in America.

We invite you to relive and review our learning journey with New Profit so far. We will continue to update this page with more resources and insights.

Session 1: A Tectonic Shift in Mindsets and Actions

Philanthropy, like other sectors facing a moral reckoning on racial equity, continues to have a vital role to play in creating an America that lives up to the promise of its founding ideals. But we must overcome the bias and barriers that have existed in philanthropy for too long if we hope to unlock the ideas, talent and collaborations that can drive us toward an equitable future.

Recent research has shown that entrepreneurs of color and from underinvested communities receive a disproportionately small fraction of total funding in philanthropy, even though they often are most proximate to many of the systemic challenges we face and have the expertise and systems-focused approaches needed to address them. Bridging the racial funding gap for entrepreneurs and other leaders, which can unleash a new wave of progress against entrenched inequities, will take a shift in mindsets among funders, first and foremost.

“Philanthropy is not restricted to the wealthy, or economically wealthy or the economic elite, right? We all have a role to play,” Tulaine Montgomery, managing partner at New Profit, explained during the first session. “That’s part of what inclusive impact is all about. It’s about building this multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational multi-economic—that’s not really a phrase, but I’ll use it now. It’s about creating a space where people of different identities and experiences all rally behind scaling up the investment in and support for proximate leaders.”

Further Reading:
Transforming the Social Sector: The Opportunity and the Need for Action
New Profit’s Inclusive Impact Initiative
This Data Should Change Philanthropy Forever
How Philanthropy Needs to Transform to Meet the Challenges of the Moment

Session 2: Using a New Lens to See and Invest in Transformative Change in Education

COVID-19 and an intense national focus on racial equity have changed the way social entrepreneurs work and their vision for the future of education. Leaders and their organizations have evolved their models amidst the crisis to pursue new pathways to take on systemic inequities.

“So, I’m hearing a number of calls to action, and what you all have said…invest in understanding the community’s needs and proximate leaders to advance communities to support against communities’ needs,” Shruti Sehra, managing partner at New Profit, where she its education portfolio.” I’m hearing about the combination of using social and political capital to advance policies and thinking about how do we support, on the other side of this, when our when our systems, our district leaders, states, superintendents of education and whatnot have the space to think  [about] supporting collaboration between innovators like this group, and those systems leaders to say: How can we change these systems and rearchitect them?”

Further Reading:
How Philanthropists Can Support Transformative and Equitable Change in Education
New Profit’s EdCatalyst Initiative
New Profit’s Personalized Learning Initiative
Transforming Education Systems Through Parent Empowerment

Connect With Speakers From This Session:
Education Leaders of Color
New Teacher Center
Envision Education

Session 3: Using a New Lens to See and Invest in Transformative Change in Work

Rearchitecting the future of work and workforce development is critical at a moment when millions of displaced and underserved workers are facing systemic barriers to even providing for themselves and their families. A wave of transformative possibilities—from reskilling to alternative post-secondary pathways and technological innovation to policy change—have started to take root, led by social entrepreneurs, and the time is now to invest behind them to drive towards equitable economic opportunity.

“We want to make sure that we’re actually centering proximate leaders who are thinking about workers and centering worker values,” Dr. Angela Jackson, a partner at New Profit who leads its Future of Work Initiative, explained. “For too long, we’ve had entrepreneurs developing innovations, supposedly to help workers, but not working with them. And so, our goal…is really to shift the power dynamic and to think about how we center workers and their lived realities.”

Further Reading:
How Philanthropists and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Future of Work
New Profit’s Future of Work Grand Challenge
New Profit’s Postsecondary Innovation for Equity (PIE) initiative
Designing a Future of Work that Works for Everyone

Connect With Speakers From This Session:
Beyond 12
Family Independence Initiative
The Workers Lab

Session 4: Using a New Lens to See and Invest in Transformative Change in Democracy

The glue for an inclusive, healthy and responsive democracy—like a healthy relationship—is trust. Democracy requires trust in the political apparatus, such as Congress, as well as trust between its people. The state of trust in our country, however, is a pit of brokenness. According to the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Americans are “low-trusters” who believe that people cannot be trusted and only look after their own self-interest. Interestingly, among this group of Americans, 40 percent believe we are overreacting to the COVID-19 crisis.

Trust not only impacts what we believe and how we engage with each other but also our ability to weather and address crises effectively. Democracy entrepreneurs are building innovative models to repair or dismantle the broken systems in our democracy to create an inclusive, healthy and responsive democracy grounded in trust.

“We know that philanthropy has not significantly invested in our democracy space, in this election,” explained Yordanos Eyoel, a partner at New Profit who leads its Civic Lab. “From the electoral perspective, what we’re seeing right now is what the reports are saying; $14 billion was spent on the 2020 elections alone, the most ever that has ever been spent on any election cycle. And that is three [times] the amount philanthropy and philanthropist have spent on democracy organizations over the last decade. And we know that philanthropy is the engine of civil society. But philanthropy is just not investing at the scale that it needs.”

Further Reading:
How Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming Democracy
New Profit’s Civic Lab
COVID-19 and Civic Distrust: Why We Need a Democracy Renaissance
Radically Imagining What an Inclusive, Healthy, and Responsive Democracy Would Look Like

Connect With Speakers From This Session:
Alliance for Youth Organizing 
Think Rubix
William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
Millennial Action Project

Session 5: Using a New Lens to See and Invest in Transformative Change in Rural America

Across the U.S., rural, small town and Indigenous communities struggle to access the resources they need for their people to thrive. While these communities often look out for one another in powerful ways, they receive a disproportionately small share of total U.S. philanthropy, vital resources for innovation, for transitioning to new economic footing and for bridging to other forms of capital. Given the national context, including rising inequality and polarization, it has never been more important to bridge this resource gap and engage with rural social entrepreneurs and communities that are taking on entrenched challenges.

“Philanthropy, in the past, mostly left rural places and small towns behind, mirroring and perhaps even exacerbating those divides,” explained Kim Syman, a managing partner at New Profit who leads its Systemic Solutions Initiative. “Consider that 20 percent of the people in our nation are living in rural places; 85 percent of the places in this country that are considered to be living in persistent poverty are rural; 7 percent of our nation’s foundation funding is directed to rural communities—and that includes universities and hospitals. So, there’s a rural philanthropic capital gap. And I would say this is not a rational adjustment to relate as a cost of living, for example, but actually a gap driven by many converging factors…And it represents a huge opportunity to be part of transformative work that has implications for all of us everywhere.”

Further Reading:
New Profit’s Systemic Solutions Initiative
How Social Entrepreneurs are Catalyzing Systems Change
Unsticking Stuck Mental Models
As the South Grows

Connect With Speakers From This Session:
Black Belt Community Foundation
Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

Wrap Up: Rearchitecting the Future Through Philanthropy

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