Optimizing People, Power, and Equity (PPE) in a Pandemic: A Venture Philanthropy Organization Explores Proximity as Expertise Through Participatory Philanthropy
Brown, Hassan Niheem
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CitationBrown, Hassan Niheem. 2021. Optimizing People, Power, and Equity (PPE) in a Pandemic: A Venture Philanthropy Organization Explores Proximity as Expertise Through Participatory Philanthropy. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
AbstractHistorically, philanthropy has been plagued by racial bias and power imbalances that show up in harmful ways (i.e., innovation and philanthropy being done to communities rather than with communities), even when well-intentioned. Participatory processes have the ability to decenter power from individual decision-makers, while delegating input and decision rights to a broader distribution of people. This is particularly important in philanthropy, as well as other sectors, where long-standing perceptions believe that well-off people know better what is best for communities than the people in those communities—there is an assumption that the individuals who are closest to the problem do not have the means nor the insights to support or lead in driving the solution.
As a social impact funder, New Profit has worked to expand its network of donors, grantee-partners, and convening attendees, to be more reflective of the ethnic, racial and identity characteristics that mirror the communities it supports through its investments. New Profit is a Boston-based venture philanthropy nonprofit, which has invested over $325 million of unrestricted funding into over 165 organizations throughout its 23-year history. New Profit is considered an intermediary that sits in-between smaller capacity-building organizations and large funders and family foundations. Currently, New Profit is prioritizing being increasingly proximate and representative of its constituents by deepening relationships with grantee-partners, diversifying its investment portfolio, and funding more organizations led by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous leaders who share lived experiences with members of communities in need. Additionally, New Profit aims to center community voice in its practices.
During my doctoral residency, I was tasked with leading the design, strategy, and implementation of a new participatory investment selection process for New Profit, which included the creation of a community council of parent leaders. I was embedded within New Profit’s Education Portfolio Team to design an investment selection process that integrated research and practice-based approaches in family and community engagement and systems change, with the organization’s current investment practices.
Throughout this Capstone, I will be discussing relational and power dynamics within the philanthropic sector with communities proximate to social issues, while also highlighting promising practices from the field and how they informed my work at New Profit. I will also share my own experiences, challenges and learnings from the past 10 months during my residency. A key question that I will address within this Capstone is: How do we make philanthropy more socially inclusive with the communities it intends to serve?
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37370257