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2024 Funders Forum: Advancing Housing Justice through Reparations and Transformation

On March 4, 2024, we convened more than 50 funders in San Francisco around the themes of housing justice and reparations. Held in conjunction with the Innovations & Solutions for Ending Unsheltered Homelessness Conference, the 2024 Funders Forum featured plenary speakers from Liberation Ventures and the Grassroots Power Project, previewed Funders Together's upcoming policy framework, gathered youth homelessness funders in a strategy session, and organized case consultations among peers about advancing housing justice.  


Welcome to the 2024 Funders Forum: Connecting Our Past to the Present

Amanda Andere, CEO of Funders Together, kicked off the Funders Forum with a land acknowledgement that paid respects to the Ramaytush Ohlone Indigenous Peoples and announced that Funders Together will be donating part of the proceeds from the event to the Homefulness Project, an Indigenous-led project to address housing insecurity and homelessness.

By framing the conversation around collective liberation and reparative action, Amanda reminded us how our liberation is intertwined: "Our histories are bound together in tragedy and trauma, erasure and extraction, and liberation will only happen when we are all free."

In her opening remarks, Amanda set the stage for the critical moment in which we find ourselves. The U.S. Supreme Court is making a decision on a case about the criminalization of homelessness, housing has emerged as a prominent issue in the 2024 elections, and we have witnessed regressions as we pursue our goal of advancing housing and racial justice

Amanda Andere delivers her opening remarks at the 2024 Funders Forum.

Our collective work is crucial, now more than ever. "Our challenge is how to hold spaciousness to meet the immediate challenges of today, while still holding a bold vision of justice and liberation for those living at the sharpest intersections of oppression," said Amanda.

In order to do so, it requires us to hold space for and fully support those who are leading the movement, Amanda reminded us, "As philanthropy, we must create the spaciousness that allows people of color leading this work to show up as their full selves and holistically restore in the midst of pushback as we make progress on housing justice."

Building upon Amanda's opening remarks, Ann Oliva, CEO National Alliance to End Homelessness, welcomed attendees to San Francisco and previewed some of the topics she would address during her opening plenary speech. She encouraged funders to work in collaboration with one another and develop new solutions rooted in housing justice, "We need to be moving forward in creating pathways to housing for people who want them and can’t access them."

Opening Plenary: Staying Focused on the Path Toward Justice and Liberation

We Must Do Both: Addressing Today's Challenges and Envisioning Transformational Change

Starting off the conversation, Tammy Bang Luu, Director of Programs from the Grassroots Power Project, encouraged us to reframe how we think about power. Citing Martin Luther King's 1967 speech, "Where do we go from here?", Tammy urged us to think beyond the 1–2-year frameworks that we are familiar with and envision truly long-term transformational work.  

Reflecting upon her work at the Grassroots Power Project, Tammy said, "We are not basing our agenda on the power we have. We are thinking about our long-term agenda and working our way backwards. We're thinking about what our community needs, and how we build the power to win it. It's a completely different set of questions."

When asked how to balance addressing the needs of the moment versus long-term transformational work, Tammy answered, "We don't have the luxury to choose between the crisis and the longer term, we have to do both. Our shared destiny requires that of us." 

Moderator Gloria Bruce introduces Vikas Maturi, Tammy Bang Luu, and Aria Florant during the opening plenary.

Aria Florant, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Liberation Ventures, embraced Tammy's previous call to action, emphasizing, "We must be clear what we are aspiring towards, not just what we are defending against." When it comes to building alliances and partnerships, funders must understand that we all have different roles to play and while we may not agree on everything, we must be able to sit with questions and be in relationship with one another to see how to move towards an affirmative vision, she added.

Vikas Maturi, Chief of Staff at Liberation Ventures, challenged funders to resource the people and organizations working towards a long-term vision, in addition to organizing around immediate, short-term needs. 

"If it is led by the people who are most directly impacted by housing injustice, it allows people to see themselves as not just part of a single-issue campaign, but beyond that," said Vikas. By funding organizations that can hold both those realities and working with people with lived experience, it can fundamentally shift power and build towards transformational change.

Rob Avruch, Senior Program Officer at the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative, found the emphasis on the way we move forward particularly powerful:

"This year's Funders Forum did what most philanthropic spaces rarely do: center the voices of movement leaders who are closest to the issues we're trying to solve. I was grateful to be in learning alongside these leaders to reflect on the state of our housing justice movement and the ways we must build power and move forward together. It's clear: it’s not just what we win, but how we win."

Connecting Reparations to Housing Justice

On the topic of reparations, Aria shared more about how Liberation Ventures developed their racial repair framework, which contains four key components: reckoning, acknowledgment, accountability, and redress. When it comes to comprehensive reparations work, she explained that reparations is both financial and non-financial.

It not only addresses the harm that is caused, but it also ensures that systems have been put in place to make sure that it never happens again. With Liberation Ventures, the team developed a multi-year reparations plan, which includes supporting grassroot movements advocating at every level of government. 

Aria Florant emphasized the importance of reparations in housing justice, “We won’t get to the justice and equity that we seek if we’re not thinking about reparations.”

When asked about the possibilities for reparations in the housing justice sector, Vikas commented, "It is one of the most, if not the most promising, pathways for innovation right now because of how it is possible to clearly identify the housing-related harm that has happened. We can clearly identify the people that have experienced these harms that are still alive today." 

There have been numerous examples of reparations in our own history, present day, and around the world, but according to Vikas, one of the most exciting parts of this process is that we get to design and test out what comprehensive reparations can look like.

Lessons for Funders on Reparations Work

Aria prompted funders to ask "What does the world look like on the other side of reparations for Black people as it relates to housing?" While many previous scholars have focused on reparations as it relates to the financial wealth gap, new scholars are redefining what reparations could look like in new ways (i.e. closing the life expectancy gap). 

In order to truly build towards transformative change and repair some of the harm caused, Aria brought forth the following questions to consider:

  1. What are you funding that is doing the work now? What are you funding to build towards the future, or changing what is possible for the future?
  2. How are you funding the whole ecosystem that is doing the work?
  3. How are you using the power that you have outside of your dollars? How are you changing the culture of philanthropy? How are you talking about reparations?

Leaning into Organizing

Aria encouraged funders not to assume their organization cannot fund reparations work and offered to help co-create what that could look like within their organizations. “We need to see ourselves as agents of repair and know that we can be instigating that change in our institutions, no matter what type of institution it is.” 

Drawing upon his experience consulting for foundations, Vikas also urged funders to think about funding organizations that build power and to shift culture internally. Vikas encouraged funders to make the case for supporting movements in ways that are compelling and inspiring, such as by drawing parallels to the Civil Rights Era and Marriage Equality Movement, movements that have made a tangible difference in millions of people’s lives.

Tammy Bang Luu challenges funders to think about their role in organizing for housing and racial justice.

Lastly, Tammy encouraged funders to think about building movement infrastructure. She emphasized that every organization has a role to play, and even if foundations cannot fund specific areas, they can work in coalition with other funders who can in strategic ways. By delegating certain issue areas and working collectively, funders can make a significant impact.

She encouraged funders to become movement organizers, saying "My challenge for you all is to become funder organizers. Don't just organize within your organizations but organize with each other collectively. What are we doing collectively to push the envelope of philanthropy?"

Akshara Vivekananthan, Program Officer at the HealthSpark Foundation, was particularly moved by the opening plenary session and reflected on the takeaways for her community:

"It was deeply meaningful meeting peers in the philanthropy space from all across the country, all dedicated to advancing housing justice initiatives. The entire experience served as a powerful call to action in the dual-ended homelessness and affordable housing crises. I walked away with so many lightbulb moments that I am eager to share with our community network in Montgomery County, PA. Central to my reflection: what are we funding now that is helping to resolve the present challenges, but also building out our future for a housing justice ecosystem? It is essential for us as funders to adopt this perspective to bring about meaningful change, and I appreciate being reminded of its importance."

Watch our 2024 Funders Forum Opening Plenary 

Funders Together's Policy Framework: From Reform to Transformation

Lauren Bennett, Chief of External Affairs, previewed Funders Together's upcoming Policy Framework, which highlights Funders Together's key policy priorities and areas that we are invested in creating change. The Policy Framework, being released this spring, includes three main pillars that reflect core building blocks for making bold, meaningful progress toward housing justice on a scale from reform to transformational policy efforts. 

Attendees gather in small groups to map out and discuss their own housing justice work from "reform to transformation," in alignment with Funders Together’s policy platform. 

In small groups, participants mapped out their own work along the spectrum of "reform to transformation" under each of the policy pillars. They were encouraged to share their work with one another and discuss what is needed both internally and externally to move towards the more transformational side of the spectrum.

Case Consultations: How are Funders Working toward Housing Justice?

During the afternoon session of the Funders Forum, attendees had the opportunity to share what they were doing to advance housing justice and present challenges they were facing in their work. Based on the case consultation format from Funders Together's Foundations for Racial Equity learning community, presenters shared a question on which they wanted input in their small groups.

Diana Amparo Jiménez, Housing Justice Program Officer at the Weingart Foundation, shares the topic of her table's case consultation.

Participants then had the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, offer insights from their own experiences, and share advice about the challenge at hand. By the end of the session, the presenter shared key takeaways that they learned from their peers, and how that would help them address the challenges or barriers they were facing.  

Reflecting on all the insights from her peers on how they were advancing housing justice, Tameeka Christian, Program Officer at the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, commented:

"The Funders Forum was a valuable and enriching experience that left me with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to advocating for housing justice. The Forum created a space to build relationships, collaborate, and learn how other philanthropic partners are adapting to this forever changing landscape. One of the most striking aspects of the forum was the diversity of perspectives and approaches to funders who are addressing homelessness. Despite these differences, there was a sense of camaraderie and collaboration among all attendees, as everyone was united by their passion for making a difference. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of such a dynamic and inspiring event, and I look forward to applying the lessons learned as I continue to push to end homelessness."

Envisioning a Better Future for Youth Housing Justice

In a concurrent session, attendees interested in the work to end youth homelessness connected in a neighboring room in a circle-style format. Using a premortem exercise, participants were asked to envision a future in which philanthropy failed to catalyze the movement to end youth homelessness. Then, participants discussed what philanthropy needs to learn and how we must work together to prevent that future from becoming a reality. 

Several themes emerged from the conversations such as: how to engage in authentic partnerships and shared power with people with lived experience, moving past institutional egos and silos between funders, and building a shared vision with cross-sector movements. 

Daisy Vasquez, Grants Manager at Porticus, reflected on how the youth homelessness breakout session gave her new insights into the ways that she can show up as a funder:

"As a relatively new funder in the homelessness space, I greatly valued coming together with other funders to unpack housing justice, reparations and the role of philanthropy. I particularly enjoyed the afternoon session which brought funders focused on youth homelessness to strategize on ways that we can show up for young people at-risk or experiencing homelessness. FTEH fosters an inclusive, restorative and responsive approach to collaboration by providing a platform in which funders can build a shared commitment to preventing and ending homelessness."

Visit our 2024 Funders Forum past event page for resources and recordings from the convening. 

Showing 1 reaction

  • Jack Zhang
    published this page in Blog 2024-03-29 17:01:26 -0400

We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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