Introducing our New Brief on Philanthropy & Networks in Times of Crisis

During the Network Innovation Summit on May 18th we gathered network leaders, thinkers and practitioners across sectors for a virtual exploration of the future of networks. As part of the day, we looked specifically at the way networks have been activated and leveraged in organizational responses to COVID-19. In one session, representatives of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joined us to discuss how the pandemic has impacted their work and thinking. As the nation undergoes widespread protests for racial justice. we emphasize the need for a new way of framing recovery to avoid return to status quo systems that reinforce bias.

Philanthropy & Networks in Crisis

In times of crisis, philanthropy has traditionally been looked toward as a source of support, capacity, and hope. However, these groups are only one of a number of key players in the social fabric of the community. During emergencies, it’s critical for philanthropic leaders to connect with and leverage these community partners already embedded in their local area. With this mindset, the RWJF introduced the framework they use in times of crisis: Relief, Recovery & Renewal.  

Stage 1: Relief

During the initial days of the outbreak, philanthropic networks immediately began activating to decide how they could provide relief to their communities. The key in this early stage is embedding equity considerations into funding decision-making processes. Shifting the system of philanthropy requires close inspection of how resources are allocated and shared. For the RWJF, the crisis provided an opportunity to expand trust-based philanthropy with local partners to identify immediate needs and opportunities for action.

Stage 2: Recovery

To accelerate recovery following a crisis, it’s critical to get money to those who need it to meet their basic needs. Networks provide an avenue for foundations to identify local needs and share the community context necessary for equitable funding. Many foundations rely on regranting through community foundations already embedded in their local community and partnerships.

Stage 3: Renewal

While many groups use the word “Restoration” for their third stage, the RWJF prefers the term “Renewal” to emphasize the need to shift systems, rather than return to an inequitable status quo. Many of the systemic issues exacerbated by the pandemic are underlain by systemic injustices and bias, including within the philanthropic ecosystem. Renewal implies considering both external and internal systemic harms to learn from past mistakes and build a more just and equitable philanthropic future.

Read the Full Research Brief

Philanthropy continues to embrace the network way of working, especially in times of crisis like COVID-19. Read the entire Research Brief below to learn about the innovative ways the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to embed equity into their systemic considerations for crisis relief, recovery and renewal.

About the Author: Alex Derr

Marketing & Communications Manager

Alex joined VNL in 2017, originally supporting our events. He now helps manages our communications and marketing strategy and content development work. Alex creates blogs, infographics, reports, and other content while managing our web and social media presence. He also runs our email marketing campaigns, tracks analytics, and conducts market research to drive our strategy. He supports our entire team with copywriting, graphic design and research, and helps with events, webinars, demos, and other online learning. He’ll graduate from CU-Denver’s School of Public Affairs this fall with a Master’s in Public Administration. Away from work and school, Alex spends his days climbing 14ers (24 done, 34 to go!).

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