Radical Hope and Resilience: Trusting in Grassroots Leadership
This is the first in the NoVo Foundation’s new Radical Hope Blog Series.
By Pamela Shifman
Gen Z Latinx feminist organizers in Texas combining protest with performance. Women Nobel Peace Prize laureates influencing the Korean peace process. A transnational network devoted to eliminating the root cause of violence against girls and women.
These are just three of the 19 transformative, bold and courageous projects around the globe supported by the NoVo Foundation’s new $34 million Radical Hope Fund.
The idea for the Radical Hope Fund emerged in the wake of the 2016 election. Like other social justice foundations, the 2016 election demanded we ask ourselves difficult questions and respond to the moment with care, clarity and courage. We knew it was not a time for business as usual. We knew that the communities we support — including girls, women, Indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrants and refugees — would face increased risk both in and outside the United States.
Almost immediately, it became clear both that daily threats were on the rise and that leaders in communities most impacted by injustice were recommitting to their work, forging new partnerships and building transnational solidarity. We knew that NoVo Foundation wanted to be part of this work at the intersection of crisis and possibility.
Through listening to dozens of movement leaders, including many of our grantee partners, we came to the conclusion that in addition to providing essential rapid response funding, we needed to do something bolder, to build an approach that matched the magnitude of the moment. It was clear we had to be willing to take risks, to step into the unknown, to be braver — like our grantee partners who live with injustice do every day.
So we launched the Radical Hope Fund. It’s an experiment — one that that seeks to support new collaborations that are imaginative and focused on building the movements we need, not simply what we think is possible right now. Radical Hope aims for transformation rather than solely incremental change.
It is grounded in what we heard from movement leaders across time and place: that a time of great crisis can also be a time of great opportunity, so long as leaders and communities have the space to dream, create, imagine and build anew.
Trusting in Grassroots Leadership
Like all of NoVo’s work, the Radical Hope Fund is grounded in the belief that meaningful change happens from the community level up — informed by lived experience, powered by movement building and activism and guided by the leadership of those who live with injustice as the best experts of their own lives and futures.
We hear a lot about innovation in the social sector: apps, hacks, “disruptive” tech. But the truth is that many funders often overlook the radical innovation that’s already happening.
The global response we received to the Radical Hope Fund offers the latest evidence that the solutions so many are looking for are already in front of us, and they’re coming from the communities most impacted by injustice and oppression. In fact, NoVo Foundation co-presidents Jennifer and Peter Buffett originally approved $20 million for the fund — but due to the strength of proposals, and the possibilities we saw for transformation, they were thrilled to approve an additional $14 million for this dynamic, urgent work across the globe.
Together, the Radical Hope Fund grantee partners show us that feminist leadership and organizers are leading the way, and that these times of darkness and repression have sparked tremendous creativity and vision. Now these efforts need the trust, support and resources they deserve.
Radical Hope Blog Series: Learning from Social Justice Leaders
In the months to come, the Radical Hope Blog Series will serve as a platform for all of us to hear from these leaders themselves. It will chronicle the work of partners around the world in their own voices to share learning and insights, hear what’s working and what’s not, build solidarity and spark opportunities for collaboration.
Amid daily headlines of division, the blog series is intended to serve as an active and dynamic beacon of hope, possibility, resistance and resilience.
We look forward to their wisdom.
Pamela Shifman is executive director of the NoVo Foundation.