“Social Justice must be included and balanced with traditional philanthropy. We must push intersectionality and diversity. We must take risks and challenge the status quo.” – Youth Leader at 2016 Youth Philanthropy Connect conference
Michelle and Iveth, who are youth grantmakers with San Francisco’s B.L.I.N.G. program, (Building Leaders in Innovative New Giving), had the opportunity to collaborate with youth leaders from Youth Funding Youth Ideas (YFYI) and host a 2-hour workshop at the Youth Philanthropy Connect conference in Anaheim this past July.
The theme of the workshop was “Make Your Impact on Tomorrow, Today: Social Justice Philanthropy.” Michelle and Iveth engaged youth philanthropists from across the country around how their grant dollars can make the most impact.
The workshop opened with a youth-led video highlighting a day in the life of a young person in San Francisco, then transitioned to an engaging activity portraying equity versus equality. As Michelle describes it, “equality is when everyone gets the same thing, and equity is when everyone gets what they need,” stressing the importance of acknowledging that individuals have different access to resources based on their communities or background.
What followed was a powerful conversation defining social justice, discussing the systemic inequities youth see in their communities, and how grant dollars can help to address them. One of the youth philanthropists in the room described philanthropy as “a good start to fix systemic inequity. It’s definitely one of the hardest problems in the world to solve.”
Many B.L.I.N.G. grantmakers are members of the communities that are most impacted by inequity–they came from San Francisco’s public high schools, many live in the low-income neighborhoods in the city, and most are the first in their families who will attend college. They are a refreshing change to traditional philanthropy, where usually adults with economic privilege make the decisions about funding for low income communities. With grant dollars and decision-making power, B.L.I.N.G. youth grantmakers are able to make funding decisions that best serve their communities.
Young people in the workshop reflected on what they learned, saying “I feel proud that there are people passionate about teaching others about social justice philanthropy…you have to keep your mind open to the issues that surround you, you can’t ignore them.”
B.L.I.N.G. and YFYI youth leaders facilitated conversations that empowered youth philanthropists to make attainable action steps. One grantmaker shared they would promote social justice in philanthropy by “listening to other people. We have to listen and learn. I am going to keep an open heart when talking to all people and while I review my grants.”
The Youth Philanthropy Connect Conference gave B.L.I.N.G. grantmakers the opportunity to elevate their voice and share their experiences and expertise. The result was a room full of inspired young leaders from across the nation who were ready to “educate and spread awareness” and “fund organizations that relate to social justice issues.”
Michelle and Iveth are both rising seniors at City Arts and Technical High School in San Francisco. They are entering their 2nd year as B.L.I.N.G. grantmakers, and both joined the program without any experience with philanthropy, but a desire for becoming involved in their community.