Often, in philanthropic work, we fund solutions: There’s a challenge and we fund brilliant partners who drive change that impacts real people. This is critical. At the same time, thinking about long-term sustainability of that change, we need to probe deeper and ask: What are the underlying issues that are creating the problem in the first place? How might we collectively better understand and influence information flow, relationships, power dynamics and even underlying mindsets?
As we think through these questions in the context of our work and the work of our partners, a few things become clear:
- Equity-focused practices are essential, especially ones that create space for, are led by and recognize people most proximate to the challenges.
- Partnerships are crucial and allow us to collaborate with dedicated individuals, organizations and communities that can each look at a system from different viewpoints, illuminate an array of creative solutions and work together to drive change.
- Systems are ever-evolving, and it's crucial to be responsive to the emergent needs of a system as it adjusts.
With these learnings in mind, we worked on changing how we show up, as well as how we engage and operate as philanthropic partners. We started the work to develop a systems-thinking framework to help us make sense of the complex layers, multiple factors and diverse stakeholders within the ecosystem in which we and our partners work and to keep us accountable to all those we serve. And we continued developing our muscle of learning and adaptation and shared what this learning looks like for us within Imaginable Futures.
We also pushed ahead with the hard work in our JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) journey, asking who needs to be at the table, whose voices need to be heard and how we can deepen our connections with those most directly impacted. As part of this ongoing learning, we embarked on an internal global JEDI audit, which involved a third-party review of our internal practices and policies. In 2024, we will share the results of that work and begin implementing some of the audit’s findings into our internal structures.
This work is ongoing. We know we will continue to refine our processes and practices so they yield the outcomes our partners and communities hope to see and avoid unintentional harm to the very same communities and systems we intend to support.
As grateful celebrators, we also want to create space to cheer on our team, our partners and the communities we work with and the incredible work that was accomplished this past year. We recognize the great privilege we have in working with them. Here are just a few moments, and there are many more throughout the report:
- Growth in funding for local research in Africa. Building on the “Forum for Education Research in/for/by Africa” that we co-hosted in 2022, this year we worked with philanthropic partners to triple the number of funders and increase investments for locally-led education research while also expanding the research portfolio to more local research organizations.
- Affirmative action upheld in Brazil. We worked with our partners to advocate for the renewal of the Quota Law, which reserves seats in Brazil’s public universities for Black and Indigenous students. Thanks to the collective and unwavering dedication of advocates, the law was passed and signed into law in November 2023.
- Support for student parents taking hold in the United States. In the US’s two most populated states, California and Texas, we saw legislative efforts to support student parents gain new footholds. With recent policy wins for student parents, we’ll be supporting efforts to ensure implementation takes place and that it happens equitably.
In the spirit of transparency and collaborative learning, and thanks to our incredible partners, we’re sharing some of what we’re taking away from 2023. As we look to 2024 and beyond, we will continue to find more ways to support transformation, remove barriers and provide equitable access to quality learning opportunities.