In a 2012 blogpost, Marnie wrote these words about F4DC’s decision to wrap up operations by the end of 2020:
We’re at a pivotal moment, a time of opportunity on the one hand and real danger on the other. F4DC is striving to put its resources — both money and people power — in service to the massive project of building a just, sustainable and democratic economy in this critical period. It’s a big project, and it’s sure to last way past 2020. But we think F4DC’s greatest impact—our shot at transformational impact — is in these next eight years.
Now, in 2018, we’re six years closer to our end-date, and we feel like the decision to deliberately sunset has been very useful for us. It has forced us to prioritize and concentrate deeply in areas that we think need the most attention from a group that has the particular know-how and resources we have. While we are still hard at work on several initiatives, with only two years left in our thirteen year run, we’re also tending to our legacy. Not because we seek some Ozymandias-style fame that outlasts us, but because we’re well aware that the big work of building a more democratic, just, and sustainable economy is in in its early stages, with a long way to go.
So, if we want our impact to last past the point F4DC’s money runs out in 2020, we have to pay attention now to both capacity-building and seeding our ideas and methods with others. There are two main ways we are doing that: organizing progressive philanthropy and spreading our ideas to others.
Our work in organizing progressive philanthropy has two main thrusts: Through “Shake the Foundations,” we’re supporting foundation staff and trustees to use their positions to make field-building grants and investments in this new approach to building a new values-driven, community-based financial commons. Shake was birthed in 2016 when folks from aligned foundations and movement groups came together at that year’s EDGE Funders Conference to vision how funders could become more supportive of the emerging grassroots economy movements. Shake is an informal network comprised of our friends at RSF Social Finance, The Whitman Institute, Libra Foundation, Chorus Foundation, Common Counsel Foundation, EDGE Funders Alliance, Movement Generation, Grassroots Global Justice, Climate Justice Alliance, and The Working World. Plus F4DC, of course. Shake is trying to help all its funder members “walk the walk,” so we can be more effective in teaching this approach to others in philanthropy.
Shake has also supported F4DC to show up in lots of funder spaces to articulate the what we’re up to and why, with the goal of recruiting others to both our methods and our causes. You can see some artifacts from these efforts here and here. In addition to “live” appearances, we participate in research efforts focused on more transformative approaches to impact investing, such as this one produced by KP Associates, where the Southern Reparations Loan Fund is featured as an example of deeper impact.
Another thrust of our work with progressive funders is to get more of them to consider sunsetting as a viable path to transformative philanthropy. Imagine the good work that could be done by folks at the grassroots if perpetuity foundations decided to move their resources into the hands of accountable community groups over the next ten years, rather than dribbling out small amounts year after year! One of our closest funder allies in this work is the Chorus Foundation, which is set to sunset in 2023. Chorus and F4DC were both featured within a larger study of why and how foundations sunset, published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy. And check out this great article by Farhad Ebrahimi, co-founder of Chorus here, where he talks about a vision for putting philanthropy out of business entirely. Our friends at Justice Funders published this piece by Ed, which takes a concurring viewpoint in the course of explaining the trajectory of F4DC for their “Liberate Philanthropy” series.
We focus a fair amount on organizing our peers in philanthropy because we want the resources to keep flowing toward our vision of a just, democratic, sustainable economy after we’re gone. But all the philanthropic support in the world won’t be sufficient if the folks at the grassroots – the folks dealing day-in-and-day-out with repression and extraction – aren’t themselves organized and dreaming together about the world they want. So, besides significant capacity building support we’re providing for the RCC, SRLF, and the Financial Cooperative, we’re also making efforts to build local skills for grassroots-driven change here in Greensboro, with capacity-building grants and practical support for immigrant rights organizing (led by staff at our local American Friends Service Committee branch), teacher and parent organizing (led by the Guilford County Association of Educators and Organize 2020), and Black youth organizing (in partnership with a range of emerging leaders, many from Northeast Greensboro, home of the RCC).
Part of that process is seeding ideas and challenging cultural norms. Our most potent weapon in that vein has to be Ed Whitfield, who has become an internationally recognized thought leader who makes more keynote addresses and provides more interviews than anyone else we know. You can access a sampling of his talks here. Ed can be counted on to weave together all those big ideas that guide our work, like Resist-Advocate-Do for Ourselves, Reparations, and Recreating the Commons. A good example of that, and a paper that pretty comprehensively covers the what and why of F4DC’s economic democracy work was published in 2017 by The Next System Project. We’re also spreading our ideas – and the thinking of long-time partners in crime via a set of videos of talks given at F4DC’s 2016 Grantee Gathering, which happened to be called “Big Ideas that Guide Our Work.” One might conclude we think ideas are important.