Guest post: A path towards towards community good & responsive philanthropy

By Silence Genti - Silence Genti is a member of the London Black History Coordinating Committee and founding editor of the upcoming black community magazine, Yebo!

I've been thinking a lot about public good versus community good.

Public good is a term used when talking about philanthropic organizations. It's a term that’s sometimes used when talking about the effect of government social and economic policies.

I have a confession to make: I feel disconnected from any group or anything that tries to classify me as ‘public’ hence my zealous embrace of the term community good. To me, community suggests shared values (public doesn't). It connotes a shared path and hints at shared prosperity and shared futures.

My notion of community good derives directly from ubuntu or hunhuism. In essence, it means everyone is a product of their community. You, as an individual, are nothing without your neighbour and the community that supports and lifts you every day.

In my native Zimbabwe, one of the greetings espouses such shared existences.

“Mamuka seiko?” one normally asks a neighbour. Literally translated it means “How did you wake up?”

“Tamuka kana mamukawo,” (We are well if you are well) the other responds.

The response is telling. It suggests that the health and fortunes of these two are tied. The neighbour can only be well if the other is well!

Whenever there is a fire, everyone comes to their neighbour’s aid. Where tragedy strikes for one, is strikes for all. When a neighbour’s child is getting married, you cook like it’s your own son’s wedding.

This is where my idea of community good comes from. And that's the path I hope our philanthropic sector will try to take to redefine philanthropy and charity.

Community good ensures we all rise together as a community. No one is left behind. If my home in London has running water, then a home in a First Nations reserve should also have running water.

Community supports should be commensurate with the needs of a community and should be geared towards getting everyone on the same pedestal.

Traditionally, Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) communities receive far less philanthropy than other communities. And sometimes, in cases where they're recipients, it's often directed at funder-created needs rather than the true needs of the community.

The challenge for philanthropic and charity organizations is to listen to the needs of these communities and abandon standard prescriptions. The philanthropic structures - to develop, fund or measure programs - that serve other communities well may not work as well in BIPOC communities.

New responsive structures that embrace community good need to be built. Because only then will Canada be a truly developed nation, a nation where all communities are equitable and responsive to the needs of all.

I was encouraged by the deliberations at the recent Pillar-co-hosted event, Dismantling Racism in Philanthropy: How are foundations changing the way they give. There was a stark realization that philanthropy is structurally deficient to fully serve all of Canada's communities - from BIPOC, immigrants to specific industries like social entrepreneurship.

The event was a small step but it may, perhaps, end up directing us to a path paved with meaningful change.

To review the virtual conversation about Dismantling Racism in Philanthropy click here.

Article type: 
News Topic: 
COVID-19 Response
Grants and Funding
Nonprofit Sector Development

Whether you're looking for volunteer opportunities,
networking events or a job in the nonprofit sector, we can help.