Conclusion and Calls to Action
Echoing Green is proud of our work identifying, supporting, and connecting best-in-class social impact leaders. We firmly believe that raising up the voices of these leaders and building pathways toward trust-based philanthropy is a critical component of equitable and accessible funding for proximate leaders, who are best equipped to solve the world’s biggest problems.
It is necessary for philanthropies, foundations, nonprofits, and intermediary organizations—and specifically, we who work in these institutions—to ensure we do not perpetuate the systems creating injustice and inequality. This requires us to identify and name the systems that reinforce inequity, identify who benefits from those systems, and work toward dismantling them.
In this moment of time, there are clear opportunities to build new systems through coalition-building and co-designing alongside front-line, grassroots leaders. By working toward a true democratic movement that acknowledges inequitable power dynamics and historically biased funding decisions, we can create better systems that allow for more unrestricted capital directed toward leaders closest to the solutions. If we are to move forward, we must redistribute resources back into democratic forums of economic and political decision-making controlled by the communities from which the resources were extracted.
It is a difficult truth, but one that must be admitted openly if we are to build the understanding necessary to move forward: we live in a world where power and wealth are distributed inequitably and where those who control capital have extraordinary ability to determine what work is funded and who is funded to do it. Those who hold disproportionate control over these material resources can exert pressure to maintain those exploitative systems for their own benefit. It is incumbent on those who wish to build an equitable, collaborative world to take tangible steps to transform this dynamic.
Our Fellows, applicants, and we at Echoing Green often depend on the financial resources of large foundations, corporate institutions, governmental agencies, and wealthy individuals to fund our work. This model often, through not always, puts us in a disadvantageous structural position where we find ourselves debating whether we should moderate our vision for social justice. Put bluntly, we experience both systemic pressure and personal incentive to operate in ways avoidant of, if not aligned with, the interests of extractive and exploitative systems.
At this moment, more than any other in our institutional history, we feel the contradictions of this position. We worry about what open criticism of unfettered capitalism, the financial industry, or other broad economic systems might mean for the welfare of us and our institution—especially in these trying times. We feel the unspoken but powerful pressure to moderate our demands, yet look at the world and know that we must call for equitable, democratic systems of economic and political control.
Toward True Democratic Movement Building
Echoing Green is an optimistic institution that believes change is possible with dedicated, committed individuals from all walks of life. If we are to radically re-envision how entrepreneurship works, the whole of our community—from funders to Fellows—we must always center our work in honesty and solidarity with the communities and front-line leaders we serve. This is especially important when they call on us to join in the struggle to dismantle the practices of exploitative systems—including when our own embodies them. We will continue to build bridges and foster conversations with those in our funding community, while openly acknowledging the structural dynamic shared between us.
We know that many individuals and institutions deeply understand the challenges facing us and the struggles toward justice. We call on these committed individuals who control economic resources to do their part and take immediate steps to:
- Direct funding to front-line communities in the earliest stages of their growth, made in a way that acknowledges and seeks to rectify historical oppression based on race, gender, class, sexual identity, religious affiliation and geography.
- Spend significant funds toward the front-line responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and other persistent challenges that face our world. We can’t go back to business as usual. Until we start to do structural change, we’ll continue to have these crises.
- Spend down their resources quickly, aggressively, and without conditions of profitability.
- Transparent accounting is a cornerstone of honest governance. We call on funders to be transparent about where their resources come from and to take steps to cut ties with extractive or oppressive industries.
- All communities deserve the power to shape the decisions made about them. To empower this, philanthropic institutions should take substantive steps to transfer control of resources into forums of democratic decision-making.
The challenges that we face can only be solved if we—all of us—work together. We know that the Echoing Green community is dedicated to solving these problems and that collectively, we can transform how philanthropy works and serves the world. Together, we can break down barriers and welcome more voices into our methods of decision-making. Together, we can shift the dynamics of our industry to meet the obligations of equity and justice. Together, we can build new networks of power committed to ensuring everyone lives a dignified life.
These challenges will not will be easy to solve, but we must—and will—rise to the meet them. Join us.