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Edgar Villanueva: Decolonizing Philanthropy

In this episode Rhod talks to Edgar Villanueva, author of "Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance" about why many of our current models of philanthropy reflect structures and approaches that disempower and disadvantage minoritised communities and how things need to change to address this problematic legacy. Including:

  • Why is it important that philanthropy acknowledges and addresses the fact that it almost always reflects structures and systems that contain racial bias and that have historically disadvantaged marginalised communities? What do those working in philanthropy need to do in practice? And are there signs of the kinds of change that is needed taking place?
  • Is racial injustice such a big/cross-cutting issue that it should not be seen as a cause area, but rather as something that is the responsibility of ALL philanthropic funders and nonprofits?
  • In trying to convince philanthropic funders of the need to acknowledge issues of racial justice, is it better to make a moral case (i.e. that they should do it because it is “the right thing to do”) or a practical one (i.e. that it will make them more effective as grantmakers to reflect and share power with the people and communities they are trying to support)?
  • Should we be optimistic that the current recognition of the need to apply a racial justice lens across philanthropy will be maintained?
  • What does it mean to say that “money can be medicine”? What do philanthropists and funders need to do to ensure their money heals rather than harms?
  • How can foundations use all of their assets (including investments, property etc) to work towards decolonization?
  • What is the importance of story as medicine? 
  • How can we ensure that decision making within traditional forms of philanthropy is shifted towards the people and communities who would have been seen as the traditional ‘beneficiaries’? (E.g. through participatory means?)
  • Does it present a challenge to decolonizing philanthropy if  those who agree with your arguments feel defensive about their implications? How do we overcome this challenge?
  • A lot of the recent focus when it comes to addressing racial justice issues has been less on traditional nonprofits, and more on things like mutual aid networks and networked social movements. Is part of the enthusiasm for these new forms of giving down to frustration with traditional nonprofit approaches, which are often perceived not to have changed quickly enough? 
  • Why is the mainstream nonprofit world not good at learning from other giving cultures (does it reflect an exceptionalist mindset)? And how can we get better?
  • The book argues for a pragmatic approach to improving philanthropy (i.e. working with existing structures to improve them),rather than “burning everything to the ground” as some more radical voices argue we should. Why is that the case? Is it sometimes difficult to maintain pragmatism?

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