Why working toward equity takes more than a checklist

In my neighborhood in Philadelphia, the effort to improve a physically dangerous, unattractive thoroughfare has come to illustrate one of the biggest challenges facing philanthropists who wish to infuse racial equity into their work: how to move past checklist fixes and address the underlying biases that shape their approach.  Washington Avenue runs across the city, including […]

Overcoming the barriers to transformative change in philanthropy

So you’ve decided you want your philanthropy to be more transformative. Or innovative. Or to better live up to your aspirations around equity.  Great.  But now what?  How do you put concrete action behind your intention?  We advise philanthropists who want to take real steps toward transformative change to get moving in three big ways:  We’ve worked with […]

Building coalitions for social change amid political turmoil

“We just can’t work with them anymore. Their political views are repugnant, even if they were with us before…”  “…But they’ve been an ally on our issue. We can’t afford to lose them. We should just look past the areas where we disagree…”  I hear this exchange play out again and again, and never more […]

Five Things I Learned in 2020

A few nights ago at dinner, my daughter asked, “What’s a train wreck?” My wife and I had used the expression earlier that day while describing our relief that 2020 was coming to a close.  When I explained the meaning of the phrase, she thought for a moment and said, “But it’s not all bad, Daddy; you […]

Lasting Change Starts with a Landscape Analysis

Every few months, I get a call from a philanthropist that goes something like this.  “Hey Mike, we know you specialize in policy and advocacy strategy. Could you write a strategic plan for our foundation?”  My response is always the same:  Before we can work together on strategy, we need to understand your landscape in […]

Sweeping Change and Moments of Opportunity

Forward-thinking philanthropists aren’t the kind of people to set up a scholarship fund and call it a day.  The funders that we work with are interested in driving lasting progress by changing systems, and that often means changing policy.  Right now, we are heading into what may be the most open window for major policy change […]

Using scenario planning to move forward during seasons of seismic change

Even in the best of times, making change and advancing equity and opportunity at a systemic level is challenging and complicated work.  With a pandemic raging, civil unrest rocking major cities, and a presidential election looming, it would be hard to call these the best of times.  The great social change and uncertainty we’re experiencing […]