The “Yes-And-And” Strategy: Equity as the 21st Century Growth Model

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO of PolicyLink.

by: Angela Glover Blackwell

I found Paul Connolly’s post earlier today (“Charity AND Change; Social Innovation AND Social Justice”) to be an interesting look at one of the issues I’ve heard come up again and again at this conference. Connolly wrote:

[S]ome of the panelists observed that too many philanthropic dollars were devoted to transactional direct service delivery and not enough were for advocacy to support transformative change. This is true, yet too often, an unhelpful “either-or” dichotomy of “charity vs. change” is set up for debate, when a combination of charity AND change is most effective. In many cases, nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to disadvantaged people are better able to advocate for policy change because their service delivery work informs their system change efforts and enhances their credibility among stakeholders.

Connolly is right that an “either-or” dichotomy doesn’t work. We need a “yes-and” philosophy. Or, better yet, a “yes-and-and” philosophy. We must provide direct help to those who need it AND give community residents the tools they need to make real policy change AND change market drivers to align with demographic shifts and the demands of 21st Century America.

As I wrote yesterday, America is just a few short decades away from becoming a nation with no majority ethnic or racial group. That is an astounding sea change. Advocates, foundations, community leaders and policy thinkers have begun to grapple with that reality – but we have not forced others outside of this group to think seriously about how we will create market incentives that meet the challenges and opportunities of the coming change.

Equity must be seen as the primary driver of our future economic growth. When the economy is driven by a commitment to equity, social change and social justice can be achieved exponentially faster.

We must invest in both people (education, health, workforce development) and place strategies (affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure, food and water) that will promote both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

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