Impact 100’s latest grant making forum welcomed panelists from prominent local philanthropic groups: Jena Bradley from United Way; Rasheeda Cromwell, Senior Director of Community Strategies for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF); and Jennifer Zimmerman, Vice President of Impact and Evaluation for bi3, (Bethesda Inc.’s grant-making initiative to transform the health of all people in Greater Cincinnati).
“I think the most powerful point of the panel discussion was the distinction made between the traditional ‘race to the bottom and be the savior’ myth and a perspective that sees organizations as whole and equipped with the skills and tools they need to tackle the issue – and needing investment or capital to make it happen,” says Taisha Rojas-Parker, panel facilitator and Impact 100 Equity in Grant Making chair.
During the discussion, Bradley explained “race to the bottom” as an assumption based on misconceptions. “Instead of saying, ‘Here’s the challenge that exists, and the strengths and opportunities the community has to address that challenge,’ [many traditional grant makers] say, ‘Oh my goodness, these communities don’t have anything. If only someone would come in and save them, they would be so much better off. We could be the saviors of that community.’ They frame it in the worst way possible, thinking folks will be more encouraged to take part and invest in it. It’s a disservice to all the people who have been doing work for decades and centuries in that community. It’s a disservice to the communities themselves.”
Cromwell concurs, saying that at GCF, “We are intentionally not coming into poor communities and communities of color and dictating what’s best and what solutions should be made. We want to include communities we’re seeking to help, and we’re looking at solutions that disrupt systematic barriers.”
At bi3, Zimmerman says, “We want people in the community most impacted by [health disparities and other issues] in the center of the work we’re doing. We’re moving ourselves out of the middle and to the side in a supportive role.”