In 2016, I had the opportunity to visit four different cities throughout the U.S. as a fellow for the The Funders’ Network PLACES Fellowship. I was fortunate to join a diverse cohort of social justice and philanthropic practitioners from a variety of foundations and organizations, including representation from Vancouver, BC.
Minneapolis, Hartford, Phoenix, and Jackson, Mississippi were the cities on our site visit agenda. Each shared characteristics and challenges that are deeply embedded in most urban settings, such as poverty, unemployment, disinvestment, environmental racism, and systemic racism. But each city also had stories of resilience, deep community organizing, involvement from the philanthropic sector, and creative actors working diligently to reinvigorate their communities and create thriving, equitable places.
We also spent time thinking about leadership, racial equity, and organizational change. In this space, I spent time reflecting on my work as a change agent for equity and a disruptor of systemic racism. I spent time thinking about the historical legacy of philanthropy and its continued commitment to solving acute social issues juxtaposed with its legacy of whiteness and inequity. I spent time thinking about the legacy of systemic racism in this country and how it continues to deeply impact communities today. I spent time reorganizing my tool box for leadership and renewing my energy to continue to forge ahead in the complicated work of racial equity.
All that being said, I am ready to put my learning through the PLACES fellowship into practice in 2017. I am grateful to have had the experience and know that I will benefit from it for years to come.
– Davian Gagne, Grants & Operations Manager