In Letting Go (forthcoming, March 2021), Ben Wrobel and Meg Massey tell the story of a growing reform movement inside philanthropy and impact investing – and a debate about power that has the potential to shape the way we fund activists and social entrepreneurs for years to come.
It’s an open secret: philanthropy today is top-heavy and insular. A glance at the world’s largest foundations and impact investment funds reveals that decision-makers tend to be disproportionately white, male, and from backgrounds of privilege. And decisions tend to be made in a closed, opaque way. The result is a competitive marketplace for social innovation, and a funding environment that favors larger, safer projects that don’t challenge the status quo.
This is the story of an alternative approach to funding social change: the grantmakers and investors who have chosen to “let go” by ceding decision-making power to people who have lived experience of the problem at hand. The stories range from a small business loan fund in South Boston that is entirely controlled by working-class residents, to a foundation run by young feminist activists.
As this book reveals, it’s not only possible to flip power dynamics in philanthropy and impact investing – it’s imperative in a world where inequality is reaching a breaking point.