April 30, 2020
PFC Blog

Update: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from the Ground Up Research Project

Adam Saifer

Earlier this year, PFC announced the launch of a new research project in collaboration with PhiLab and La Fondation Chagnon on DEI philanthropy. You can read about the proposed project and its grassroots “bottom-up” approach to DEI here.

Over the next few weeks, we will begin contacting equity-focused grassroots organizations. We will invite them to participate in this project by sharing their experiences and perspectives via semi-structured interviews. Some of the groups we contact will be your grantees. Other may receive grants from other funders. A third group may receive no funding from foundations for various reasons. In all cases, the goal of these conversations will be to generate new knowledge about DEI philanthropy that, we hope, will be useful to your work as grantmaking foundations. The project will be completed over a 10-month period and will produce a series of reports, presentations, and articles that will be shared with the PFC membership.

It’s important to note that COVID-19 has forced us to rethink our approach to this project, both in terms of what is possible and what is most pressing for the philanthropic sector. We see a sector that is being challenged to address increased needs of communities already marginalized by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. After taking some time to reflect on the urgency of DEI philanthropy in relation to COVID-19, we are pursuing a slightly revised version of the initial grassroots DEI project.

To be clear, this project is still organized around the same two overarching goals:

  • Generating new perspectives on the possibilities, limits, and tensions of DEI philanthropy as a mechanism to work for social and economic justice; and
  • Producing novel insights on how philanthropic actors concerned with DEI outcomes can better support the work of equity-focused groups via novel approaches to policymaking, programming, and advocacy.

That being said, the current context of COVID-19 demands we expand the original proposal in two ways:

First, we are now explicitly framing our research on DEI philanthropy against the backdrop of COVID-19—specifically, the disproportionate impact this unprecedented crisis has had on marginalized communities in Canada; and

Second, we are now including both qualified grantees and non-qualified grantees in our study sample of equity-focused groups. Over the past month, a series of mutual aid projects—emergency support funds and “caremongering” networks, for example—have emerged across Canada to channel support directly to individuals and communities most impacted by COVID-19, including those with the highest risk of illness and those facing the greatest barriers to accessing resources and supplies. However, while the frontline organizations coordinating these mutual aid projects are often best situated to assess urgent needs and channel resources towards relief, they are typically forced to do so from outside Canada’s charitable system due to regulatory restrictions.

The project will seek to meet the following three objectives:

  1. Document the barriers and challenges that grassroots equity-focused groups (both qualified and non-qualified) encounter at various points of their relationship with the philanthropic sector including: 1) seeking and maintaining funding; 2) working together/collaboration; and 3) demonstrating results/impact;
  2. Investigate innovative practices and strategies being employed by these groups to navigate and/or push back against these barriers and challenges; and
  3. Explore how the philanthropic sector can better support equity-focused groups during COVID-1, and beyond through novel approaches to policymaking, programming, and advocacy.

If you have any questions about the research project or have specific insights on funding relationships with grassroots non-qualified donees—both during, and beyond, COVID-19—please contact:
Philab: Dr. Adam Saifer, at saifer.adam@courrier.uqam.ca

PFC: Ines Chaalala at ichaalala@pfc.ca

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