Upstream and Downstream

August 2019: It’s been five years since the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri. Seared in our memories are the painful days and months that followed. For some of us, that meant engaging in civic protest, or collective mourning, or intensive searches for answers as our community sought to heal. Some Gateway Center for Giving (GCG) Members provided immediate respite from the unrest (what you might call downstream interventions, like diapers and medication for those who could not get them, as their access channels were disrupted); while others turned their attention to long-term strategies, funded advocacy, and prioritized public policy changes (upstream interventions). We saw new philanthropic support for workforce training, health clinics, and community leadership initiatives.

Re-examining massive inequities: As a membership association for grantmakers, GCG realized that it is uniquely situated to offer training, content and resources to all types of funders who want to foster equity through varying philanthropic strategies and responses. The GCG team has spent a considerable amount of our time learning alongside our members, many initially searching for ways to simply converse about subjects, like racial equity, that people seem afraid to broach. We’ve tapped speakers from all over the country to come to St. Louis and share their insights; we’ve amplified the work of local experts and community members; and we have made certain that our own Board of Directors is more representative and inclusive. In 2017, we updated the Missouri Grant Application (CGA) to include questions that specifically address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some GCG Members have adopted this tool and incorporated DEI into their own grant processes. At a national level, GCG leadership is actively participating in a working group formed by the United Philanthropy Forum that is working infuse diversity, equity and inclusion into philanthropic practices nationwide.

August 9, 2014 didn’t create our problems. But it exposed them to those of us without lived experience. It spurred a re-examination of how we got here, and where we’re going. Much has been written about the St. Louis region’s history of institutionalized racism; the vast disparities in health and education based on race, and the lack of access to wealth-building resources that trap people in generational poverty. The data is all readily accessible. See the Ferguson Commission’s Calls to Action; read the groundbreaking For the Sake of All report on African-American health and well-being; peruse Health Equity Work’s segregation report on dismantling the divide.

Though our ongoing programming, GCG has encouraged grantmakers to consider directing their giving in alignment with the powerful recommendations in these reports. Some new and existing funders have come to the table with dollars to support critical needs. Some funders have examined who is sitting at their table and engaging in their grantmaking decisions—and what voices might be missing from those conversations. Some Boards of Directors (like ours) have gone through anti-racism, anti-bias training. We know that training is not the end, but the beginning, if we are to achieve an equitable world, upstream and downstream.

What’s next? Show up. Please join us for the St. Louis Racial Equity Summit on October 11 & 12, 2019, a platform for elevating, connecting and activating the people, practices and resources necessary to achieve racial equity. 

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