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15 lessons from today’s grassroots movements and their backers

Introduction

How should philanthropy behave so it contributes to fast systemic change in our society? This is the question we try to answer here. By systemic change, we mean stopping and reversing climate change and decisively reducing different types of unjust inequality (gender, racial, wealth).

We draw from:

1. A survey on the state of philanthropy and the world that the Altruist League conducted among its funding members (140 responses) and portfolio organizations (1,193 responses). The set spans 23 countries on five continents
2. Our everyday operations
3. The ongoing discussions in philanthropy and the broader society
4. Relevant historical literature, for reference

We distill 15 lessons on the state of the world, the nature of systemic change, as well as the type of philanthropist and nonprofit that it requires. The survey and the writing of the text took place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive protests in the U.S. following the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. This has influenced our thinking just like, no doubt, the responses.

About the authors:
The Altruist League brings together governments, businesses and philanthropists determined to create real change in our societies. The activist movements in the League’s investment portfolio (The Altruist Index™) are working to stop climate change and reduce all forms of unfair inequality. The League’s Systemic Changemaker Score™ is designed to be the most robust reflection of an organization’s contribution to positive systemic change globally. Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Altruist League has regional teams in Hong Kong, Nairobi and San Francisco.

Acknowledgement:
The authors would like to thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey, who participated in the interviews, and in particular the leadership of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis and New York City branches for their extensive availability during difficult times. We also thank the staff at Harvard University’s Behavioral Insights Group for their guidance in interpreting survey results.

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