Doing advocacy work in the field of philanthropy is not an easy task. The reproduction of colonial structures, racism, misogyny, LGBTIphobia and other diverse forms of violence make philanthropy an environment that can still be very exclusionary, especially for minoritized groups. However, Comuá Network’s 10th Anniversary Seminar “Philanthropy, Social Justice, Civil Society and Democracy”, held on the 20th and 21st of September in São Paulo, was an important reminder to all those present that philanthropy can also be a space for resistance, fight, collaboration and, especially, hope .
The Seminar was a vibrant space, filled with diverse actors from the field of national and international philanthropy and from civil society movements and organisations, who responded to the Network’s call to reflect on the challenges of civil society in guaranteeing and expanding the rights of political minorities. The meeting also strengthened a call, especially for Brazilian philanthropy, represented mostly by the private social investment, to reinforce its commitment to the strengthening of civil society movements and organisations, to support social justice agendas and to the democratisation of philanthropy. Because, in the current context, the omission of traditional philanthropic actors can no longer be normalised.
At the same time that many reflections were made around the challenges of promoting community philanthropy and social justice agendas in the field, the Seminar was also a unique opportunity to nourish hope, consolidate lessons learned and recognize the strength of the collective in promoting of a key shift in the field of philanthropy. Or rather, philanthropieS, in plural, as noted by Graciela Hopstein, Comuá Network’s executive coordinator, at the opening speech. From reflections and debates on the practices and approaches of institutions, funds and community foundations, from members to partners of the Network, the Seminar highlighted the philanthropies that build in their work, together with the territories, democratic processes, which occupy and re-discuss the relationships of power and that assume their protagonism and potency in the production of knowledge and narratives from their own voices.
Certainly, the Seminar made it clear that there are other possible paths. And connecting with communities and territories, a pillar of community philanthropy and social justice, is precisely the compass that will guide this journey. It makes perfect sense, then, the call to create opportunities for spaces and resources to expand the participation of communities in the construction of agendas and narratives produced in these fields.
The invitation to the field of philanthropy, then, is made: it is necessary to expand the capacity and reach of the voices of the bases, peripheries and communities, which historically have organized and led practices of collaboration, exchange and mutual help in the pursuit of the common good. Recognising and valuing local and ancestral knowledge of these philanthropic practices and encouraging the production of narratives, built by and for them, is what truly demonstrates the transformative potential of these philanthropies, in plural – decolonial, collaborative and community – to promote new practices and point out paths for social investment.
Luisa Hernandez is Programs Coordinator at Comuá Network.
Jonathas Azevedo is Programs Advisor at Comuá Network.