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The metaverse of philanthropy: Building transformative realities from social justice

You must have heard or read something about the technological phenomenon of the moment: the Metaverse. It is nothing more than the terminology used to indicate a type of virtual world that tries to replicate reality through digital devices. A reality shaped and controlled by a programmer, who operates through tools other possibilities of different worlds and senses of well-being.

Past September, in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, the Brazilian Philanthropy Network for Social Justice – now Comuá Network, organised an international seminar that shed light on relational debates between democracy, community philanthropy, social justice and human rights, by black people, cis and trans women, by social organisations and community funds that operate significant transformations in communities. It is up to us to emphasise that in that week, our own metaverse of Social Philanthropy was created, where the reality shaped through our theory of change has at its center diversity, territory and a unbureaucratic way of doing things.

In our philanthropic Metaverse, we imagine a world where the resources mobilised and the culture of grantmaking in Brazil and Latin America consider social impact strategies led by black people, women, LGBTQIA+ and peripheral people, where the impetus of movements, social organisations and collectives is guided towards the reduction of inequalities in a collective, territorialised and less bureaucratic way. By bringing together the protagonists of community philanthropy, the celebration of Comuá Network’s 10th anniversary brought visibility to reflections on decolonial practices and strategic priorities that private social investment and philanthropy need to delve into in the next cycle.

In our metaverse reality, we believe that in order to achieve racial and gender equity in our society, it is necessary to share resources and power with those who daily impact the most unequal territories in the country. Together, social impact investors and collectives, movements and organisations from favelas and peripheries, villages and quilombos can recreate a world where social justice and equal opportunity are the foundation.

Past August, the PIPA Initiative, an organisation created by four activists from the periphery of Brazil and whose main mission is to contribute to democratising access to private social investment in Brazil, helping to build a world in which philanthropic and private resources are accessible to organisations, collectives and movements of favela and peripheral base in a broad and equitable way in terms of race, gender and class, launched an open letter to Brazilian philanthropy.

In this letter, we invite colleagues from private and family foundations, companies that drive social impact, and the community of individual donors, to rethink their internal construction policies, prioritising the hiring of black, peripheral, LGBTQIA+ and women profiles to manage their projects, portfolios and being in management and leadership positions, to make the decision about who and how much can be invested in effective change. In addition to promoting a model of giving and transfer of resources that prioritise the promotion of black, peripheral and gender-sensitive initiatives.

We don’t need to draw a parallel reality to understand that it was us, black, indigenous and peripheral people, who ensured that favelas and peripheries could eat and protect themselves during the pandemic. Imagine the political, economic and social transformation that we will be able to build if we receive sustainable, flexible and long-term resources, beyond the pandemic moment.

Transforming the metaverse of philanthropy for social and community justice into a material and concrete reality depends on the entire ecosystem – mainly private social investors and their multiple organisations and companies – finally seeing the favelas and peripheries, the black, indigenous, quilombola, rural and urban peoples, women, LGBTQIA+, not only as beneficiaries, but as protagonists of change. We are the programmers of good living, and to succeed in reducing inequalities, we need our reality of concrete transformation to be the rule, not the exception.

Marcelle Decothé is a researcher on gender, race and violence, co-founder of Movimento Favelas na Luta and Iniciativa Pipa and Programs Manager at Instituto Marielle Franco. She is also a fellow at Comuá Network’s Saberes program.

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