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Nothing About Us Without Us: Takeaways from the 2018 True Colors Fund Impact Summit


Lauren Samblanet, FTEH Program and Membership Coordinator, reflects on key takeaways for philanthropy from the 2018 True Colors Fund Summit in October.

At the 2018 True Colors Fund Impact Summit, there was a great deal of conversation about giving folks with lived experience a seat at the table. Questions like “How might it change our funding and our communities if we were to give folks with lived experience a seat at the table and to really listen to their ideas?” and “How can we respect and value folks with lived experience not simply because they have lived experience, but because we see them as the whole people that they are?” provided a platform for funders to consider how funding could make a radical shift that truly supports the populations you are seeking to support.

It shouldn’t be surprising that one of the focal points of conversation was regarding compensation. The youth fellows at the True Colors Fund, as well as other youth leaders at the conference, discussed the importance of fair wages for folks with lived experience. If we, as funders, say we place value in the ideas of folks with lived experience, we must then back this up by investing in the financial stability of these folks. That stability comes from both being paid (not in food), and also making a commitment to developing skills and resumes. As funders, we have access to knowledge, tools, and trainings that might help folks to continue to build their resumes and their future financial stability. Offering a seat at the table is not by itself sufficient; this decision must be backed by a real investment in the financial stability of those we invite to our tables.


Alongside fair compensation, it is important for us to consider how we are engaging with folks who have lived experience. While we have invited these folks to the table because they have insight about a particular experience, we need to ensure that we are engaging them as whole people, not just as their lived experience. This comes from getting to know the folks we are engaging with, but also in being careful in how we ask people to speak about their lived experience. Homelessness is traumatic and speaking about experiences of being homelessness can launch people into trauma response. We must be thoughtful in what information we ask folks to share, and we need to make sure they are met with support and care when they do share their experiences.

What does it mean to listen to folks with lived experience? It’s likely that those with lived experience will provide ideas that we might find radical as solutions to end homelessness. It’s also likely that these ideas might feel challenging or risky to pursue. However, if we invite folks with lived experience to our tables, we must honor their feedback and understand that their radical ideas are more informed than our own as the lens we look through isn’t from one of lived experience. The systems in place now are deeply flawed, deeply problematic, and often times harm those most vulnerable.

Radical ideas might be our only solution to these systems, and while it is risky to move away from what we know, what we know may not always work or be the best solution, so perhaps the time has come to take a risk.


Finally, we should consider how inclusive we are being in our invitations to folks with lived experience. If we fund in LGBTQ+ homelessness, are we inviting folks with different identities within LGBTQ+ to the table? In a session on bisexual programs, or the lack there of, within homelessness, Heron Greenesmith pointed out how little support there is for bisexual youth, and highlighted the specific issues that bisexual youth face that can lead to homelessness. We need to be intentional and careful not to conflate all LGBTQ+ identities or all POC identities. We need to learn about the differences bisexual youth face as opposed to the difficulties gay youth face. One way to ensure we are learning about the experiences of folks of different identities is to invite people with varied identities to our table. And then after inviting them, to invest in their stability, well-being, and ideas.

Showing 1 reaction

  • Ted
    commented 2018-11-19 07:37:47 -0500
    There’s no replacing lived experience. Some of us have knowledge of this from our families and friends.
    Ted at <a href=“”http://www.solihulltreesurgeons.co.uk" rel="nofollow">http://www.solihulltreesurgeons.co.uk">Solihull Arborists</a>

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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