Sep 15, 2020
In this episode we talk to Regan Ralph, President and CEO of the
Fund for Global Human Rights, about her experience of funding
right-based movements around the world and what she has learned
about the challenges and opportunities of funding social movements
through philanthropy. Including:
- What does philanthropic funding for social movements look like?
i.e. what are the various elements of an overall movement that can
be funded- e.g. grassroots organising/movement building, policy
work, advocacy, legal challenges etc?
- How can a funder determine where best to allocate their
resources in order to support a movement most effectively?
- Are traditional nonprofits and funders too often a reflection
of existing systems and power structures to push for the kind of
radical solutions we need to deal with huge global challenges like
the climate crisis and racial inequality/injustice? Is that why
more people seem to be looking towards social movements?
- Can we find forms of philanthropy that are genuinely able to
support fundamental reform to the very systems in which wealth has
been created? What are some of the hallmarks of this type of
- How big a risk is there that foundations and other funders
co-opt social movements by deliberately introducing grant
stipulations etc aimed to direct the focus of the movement away
from controversial areas or soften their tactics?
- Is there also a danger that even well-intentioned funders
inadvertently skew the direction of movements by virtue of the
choices they make about what to fund and what not to fund? How can
we avoid this risk?
- Does a desire for “measurable impact” from funders limit their
willingness to fund social change movements, because the success of
their work may not be easy to attribute or quantify?
- Can funding from donors/foundations confer legitimacy on
movements as well as financial resources? Is this useful for the
- Can funders play an important role by taking a “helicopter
view” and helping to share knowledge and insight between social
movements that might otherwise never come into contact? How do they
ensure they do this within becoming directive?
- Why is core-cost and multi-year funding so important when
supporting movements? Are we seeing more funders recognise this and
adapt the way they fund?
- There is a lot of focus in global philanthropy and civil
society at the moment on “shifting power”- from funders to
recipients, from the global north to the global south etc. Why is
this so important, and how do you ensure through your work that
power is transferred at the same time as financial resources?
- Are there limits to empowering the grassroots? I.e. are there
situations in which it is better for expert funders and
organisations to set aims and design programs to deliver outcomes
that are in the best interests of communities? Or is it always
better to empower people to seek their own solutions, even when
those solutions might be less “effective”?
- We are seeing particular focus right now on the idea of
“leaderless” movements, with decentralised or non-hierarchical
structures (e.g. XR, #MeToo etc). Are there particular challenges
for traditional funders in engaging with such movements?