Update From the Foundation

Occupy Philanthropy?

November 29, 2011

Does Occupy Wall Street require that foundations change? This morning’s Confluence Philanthropy (www.confluencephilanthropy.org) “Occupy MRI” web seminar confirmed that the Occupy Wall Street movement has ignited a transformation in the national conversation about the role of corporate influence in our democracy.

Occupy is now so much more than tents in public places (as important as that is). It has opened up space for conversation and action—whether about economic justice, foreclosures, the corrupting influence of money in politics, international climate policy, or the Keystone pipeline—in ways simply unimaginable a few months ago.

Presenters in the briefing thoughtfully argued that foundations that care about social, environmental, and economic justice are compelled to examine their strategies in light of Occupy in the same way that organizations dedicated to social change have to adapt to a more fertile field for their work. Many foundations are looking to “move their money” to community banks or into business investments that promote a just, green economy, or are voting their proxies and advancing shareholder resolutions in conventional companies, while others are making grants that support the alternative economic solutions that will eventually help build long-term prosperity for our country.

The leadership of some in our field—the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation (www.noyes.org/) comes immediately to mind—is inspiring. Here at Compton, we are deeply appreciative of their example as we continue with our planning efforts.  We’re seeking to understand the deep shift that appears to be underway not just in our country, but also around the world.

Ellen Friedman and Jennifer Sokolove

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