Navigating Philanthropy, Intersectionality, and Systemic Change: Voices from the Frontlines

Aspen Global Innovators | March 4, 2024

In a world fraught with inequalities, where systemic barriers hinder progress, voices from the trenches of philanthropy and activism offer profound insights into the journey towards equity. A recent discussion at the Festival of the Diaspora in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, highlighted the vital work being done, challenges faced, and the imperative of collective action in reshaping our societies.

Erin Okuno, Director of the Office of Education Ombuds in the state of Washington, shared her experiences in education-focused spaces, emphasizing the critical role of early learning and community engagement. Her journey from grassroots initiatives to state-level policy work underscores the importance of bridging gaps in education and empowering marginalized communities from the outset.

Ada Prince Williams, a philanthropic expert with a background in humanitarian aid, echoed Erin’s sentiments on the transformative power of philanthropy. She emphasized the need for equitable financial investments and highlighted the interconnectedness of global initiatives aimed at uplifting women and girls.

The conversation included the intricacies of systemic change and challenging the status quo. Erin recounted her efforts advocating for diverse leadership in education, navigating resistance from entrenched systems, and the importance of holding philanthropic partners accountable.

Ana Romanelli, Global Education and Entrepreneurship Manager of Pro Mujer, highlighted the urgency of investing in women leaders with lived and proximate experience. She noted the progress seeing women in decision-making seats, exemplified by the appointment of Anielle Franco as the Minister of Racial Equity in Brazil. This underscores the significance of recognizing and amplifying diverse voices in pursuit of philanthropy, intersectionality, and systemic change.

The discussion also touched upon the aftermath of pivotal events like the murder of George Floyd, where promises of change often fell short of addressing systemic issues. Ada underscored the importance of intersectionality in philanthropy, highlighting the need for inclusive approaches that address the unique challenges faced by women of color.

With a call-to-action, the group emphasized a need for sustained effort, solidarity, and intentionality in addressing systemic inequalities. Participants stressed the importance of amplifying marginalized voices, challenging existing power structures, and fostering a culture of accountability within philanthropy and beyond.

In a world grappling with complex challenges, these activists, advocates, and philanthropists offer hope. Through collective efforts, they are paving the way for a more equitable and inclusive future, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.