Putting Ourselves Out of Work

Of all the powerful ideas shared by presenters during today’s sessions at the Council on Foundations, the most powerful among them was the notion that philanthropy, done right, could make itself obsolete.

Essentially, this is the platform of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, which shared developments in its plan to form the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace Network. By funding effective social justice work, these proponents believe that collectively we can help dismantle the systems that leave too many people poor and on the margins.

The group invited discussion during two different sessions today. In the morning, over 60 people crowded into a tiny room to hear what has been brewing since 2007 and to receive a draft of a manifesto put together by the Working Group. The paper was informed by a planning meeting held in 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. (Kudos to whoever chose that meeting site.) Since then, the group has been honing in on the foundational components of the network, including its values, strategies & tactics, and community engagement models.

This is my first COF conference, and I’ve learned today that no session takes place without addressomg the issue of measuring impact. And with good reason. I’m happy to say that my organization, Frontline Solutions, is contributing to a growing body of knowledge on philanthropic support for social justice efforts. For the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), we recently authored a report that showed the positive impact of funder-supported nonprofit advocacy and organizing in the Gulf/Mid-South region. This report is the seventh in NCRP’s Grantmaking for Community Impact series. Look for it to be published in early May.

I can’t predict what will become of the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace Network. But I do know that if philanthropists can work toward a vision of putting themselves out of work, I’m on board.

Brian Baughan is Director of Communications at Frontline Solutions (helpingchangehappen.com), a social change organization that invests in the pipeline of social change leaders; provides consulting services to institutions in the nonprofit, government, and philanthropic sectors; and engages in field-building in three areas of expertise: Education, Social Innovation, and Males of Color.