Willa Conway: Cross-Class Giving Circles Bring Greater Justice to Philanthropy

photoI came to Goddard with a loose idea of what I was interested in: racial justice, philanthropy, healing, radical love, and James Baldwin. It makes me smile looking at those disparate ideas now, as those ideas continue to be strong elements in my developing project and vision for my work, they are just a bit more refines. My time at Goddard has helped me develop me ideas into a specific project investigating the intersection of racial violence and wealth accumulation and the ways that philanthropic giving can be used as a way to heal the generational wounds that create and perpetuate inequality.

I live in New Orleans, and my project brings a particular eye to place in terms of history, race, and class nationally and in the South particularly. At the beginning of next year, I will be launching a cross-class giving circle in New Orleans, which gives people of different economic means a chance to pool financial resources and make decisions as a collective about where resources should go. Cross-class giving circles are emerging across the country as a way to address the inequity in wealth, and thus philanthropic dollars. Giving away money collectively is part of a year-long process which begins with political education and community building which centers around self-examination so that we can learn together how unequal access to wealth has effected people on all sides of the economic spectrum.

My studies help build the methodology of the project and consider creative exercises that can be used in groups to explore difficult topics of race and class with an eye on collective liberation. I feel lucky to be part of a community that is challenging this paradigm and working for more democratic ways of being in relationship to wealth and giving. My organizing work is profoundly strengthened by the time I’ve carved out for reading, writing, and thinking, and I know I am able to explore in a way that brings more meat to all that I do.

I honestly don’t think that I would be studying and working towards what I am without Goddard as an institution that allows me to cast my net both wide and deep. Because I am able to bring my self—my experiences, my emotions, my own unique weaving of disciplines—into my studies, my work is able to come from a more authentic and powerful place. I feel more confident in my ability to work in community and own the parts of myself that were formerly aspects I felt I needed to hide.

“The personal is political” has become a more embodied phrase and reality that continues to give me fire to work harder, discover more, have difficult conversations with the people I love and ultimately live in the world in a way that feels in more alignment with my values. Goddard is one of a kind, and the space lets me be that too, and for that I am forever grateful.

This entry was posted in Activism, Community Building, Economics, Methodology, Philanthrophy, Social Innovation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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