Over the past several years, we have seen more and more funders beginning to support healing justice work. Foundation staff are responding to the needs of communities on the ground, as well as their own experiences, asking how philanthropy can best support the long-term care and sustainability of movements and the organizers who work within them. Feminist funds like the Astraea Foundation, Groundswell Fund, Third Wave Fund and the Urgent Action Funds have long been on the vanguard of this work.
More recently, private foundations are centering healing justice in accompaniment programs like the NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence, operating targeted grantmaking and learning initiatives like the Ford Foundation’s Next Generation Fund, integrating healing into transformative justice and other related portfolios like at the Open Society Foundations, making timely grants after the 2016 election like an anonymous donor and creating stand-alone portfolios like at the General Service Foundation. We welcome these initiatives that seek to align philanthropic resources with this pressing movement agenda.
The recommendations that follow emerged from the conversations that we had in creating this report and in other spaces with grantees and funding partners. In particular, they come from listening to the wisdom of organizers on the ground. We recognize that supporting healing justice asks us to deeply interrogate our assumptions about what this work looks like. We heard too many grantee partners refer to the caution they feel about being fully transparent with their funders about needing resources for healing and especially for conflict transformation. How, as funders, can we hold this better?
What everyone agreed upon is this: funding this work is not just about doing the right thing or supporting grantee partners to feel better in the face of overwhelm and trauma. It is actually a strategic engagement. Healing justice is an effective way to sustain movements when the onslaught is intense and ongoing. We cannot pay attention to movement-building without paying attention to the impact of this work on organizers. Healing is a technology and a tool that supports our movements to succeed and to sustain themselves on their own terms.
- Be clear in the framing of your work to applicants and grantee partners that you are aware of the impacts of trauma on the communities you support and on their movements for social justice. In order to do this, do your own work. Seek to understand how both historical and present-time trauma impact the communities you fund.
- Ask your grantee partners questions and listen openly, with awareness that conversations about healing and trauma must be held gently and respectfully. Without asking grantees to explain their trauma to you, create space for dialogue. Ask questions like: What strategies are you already using to support your safety and wellbeing? What is the best role we can play to bolster your efforts?
- Many different things fit within the framework of healing justice. Respect indigenous practices and organizational autonomy and remember that there is no one-size-fits-all model to healing. Ask grantee partners how they sustain themselves rather than providing a list of practices you support. Don’t impose healing justice on grantee partners as “the new thing,” but create space and opportunities for grantees to access resources if they wish.
- Set aside intentional, additional resources to support healing justice practices and communicate with your grantee partners that this funding exists. Assume it is needed. Make it accessible and with limited reporting. Encourage your grantees to use it.
- Be aware that healing does not have a goal or an endpoint. Work to move away from ableist notions that only see one type of body as healthy. Healing justice is meant to be expansive and self-determined by our communities, not defined by a medicalized or socialized idea of wellness.
- Stretch on how you measure impact. Healing and change work is ongoing. What are meaningful indicators of success? Invite narrative or other creative forms of reflection from your grantee partners. Ask them if and how they notice differences as a result of this support.
- Rather than defining capacity building practices for grantee partners, ask them what would most support their work. What would help them to build their own capacity or to feel that they have the energy needed to do their work? Capacity building is not always about doing more; within the context of healing justice and holistic security, it’s about finding ways to do work without being harmed by it. It’s being able to rest and remember ourselves, and remember why we are here doing what we are doing.
- Consider how your funding practices may be contributing to the stress and urgency that movements are experiencing. Are there ways in which you can move more slowly and deliberately? As funders, we need to practice this work ourselves. Healing justice calls on us to do our work to understand what feels urgent and why, and to be more mindful of how our sense of urgency impacts grantee partners. It is important that we are able to assess and shift our sense of urgency at every level of grantmaking, including grants management and operations as well as programs.