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If Philanthropy Won’t Take Risks, Who Will?
By Lateefah Simon
Program Director, Rosenberg Foundation
As an activist in the Bay Area for nearly two decades, I worked on the front lines advocating for ideas that were considered “radical” at the time. I led organizations that organized and trained young people to fight for criminal justice reform and gender justice, and I helped organize rallies and protests calling for an end to mass incarceration for youth and adults. All of this work required money, but back then those issues were a tough sell to even the most progressive foundations.
A big part of my work was convincing foundation executives and program officers that previously incarcerated young people were worthy of not just redemption but also of leadership opportunities to shape their own destinies and even the very systems that oppressed them. The foundation leaders who listened believed deeply in our movement’s idealism and power; they trusted us and placed big bets. And their gambles made California a more equitable state.
Now that I am in philanthropy, I take those experiences with me. At the Rosenberg Foundation, we spent the past year identifying emerging leaders across California who have the guts, skills, and audacity to take on issues and ideas that many have deemed impossible to move. This month, the Rosenberg Foundation is announcing the creation of the Leading Edge Fund, which will invest $2 million over three years in eight brave leaders with their own radical and far-reaching ideas. The Leading Edge Fund will support these leaders in their efforts to fundamentally change how the most disenfranchised Californians experience democracy and freedom.
The initiative is based on a simple premise: philanthropy is a sector where risk and innovation can and should thrive. …
The Rosenberg Foundation is an independent, grantmaking foundation committed to ensuring that every person in California has an equal opportunity to participate fully in the state’s economic, social, and political life. Created in 1935 through the bequest of California business leader Max L. Rosenberg, the Foundation has provided more than 3,000 grants totaling nearly $85 million to regional, statewide and national organizations advocating for social and economic justice throughout California. rosenbergfound.org.