Sarah Abelow

Taking on a big and important question together

“How can resources be generated differently to enable Forward Together and the social justice field at large to evolve sustainably, with agency and autonomy, toward a future in which all families can thrive?”

It is definitely not an easy question. And I certainly don’t have the answers. But I do think new ways of resourcing this work is a one key issue to tackle. I also believe strongly that it is partially the role of those in philanthropy to challenge current structures & support new thinking around fundraising/ less restricted funding for movements, I was committed but unsure about this process or my capacity to contribute or the value for Forward Together.

I do know that, at least, I am now more equipped to tackle this question and be open to the many possibilities. I can say this mostly because of participating in this group led, inspired and motivated by Forward Together’s leadership and vision that all families thrive. Additionally, this process has supported personal transformation and for how I’m in relationship with others in this group; I feel so lucky and privileged to have worked with this group through this process.

Moving into the Innovation Challenge Kickoff next week, I’ve been mulling over the next few points – things I’ve learned and questions that I’m still sitting with:

  • Making the implicit explicit through practice, reflection, and self-transformation. The accountability of checking in with my wonderful partner and reporting back on how collaborative/innovative mindsets have or have not shown up in our work has enabled me to make meaningful strides personally. I committed to trying things differently and taking small actions forward to affect bigger shifts within my own practices.
  • Building stronger relationships while navigating power for successful collaboration/innovation. How do we collaborate with one another when the stakes feel so high and we are still figuring out entrenched and newer power dynamics between members of the group – vectors of funder/grantee relationships, individual identities and experiences, and many more? How do we make sure everyone contributes and feels heard? How do we make sure all folks are deeply listening, trying to understand and hearing other? And how do we navigate power in contexts of intensity speed generative thinking, iteration, giving and receiving feedback, and stepping outside of our past experiences and comfort zones? How do we build up everyone’s power, comfort and capacity to think big together and to actually be outside of our comfort zone? We need to ensure Forward Together is truly setting direction at all stages. Undoubtedly, this is a new way of working and being in relationship for many of us. It’s still a work in progress.
  • Developing shared understanding at the center. Are we all on the same page with our assumptions? If not, do we make sure we access the emotional intelligence or challenging conversations to figure out how they might differ? How do we make sure that we have common understanding and comfort with goals and process? If we do have slightly varying goals or assumptions, we need to be concrete about how we hold them and work through them- specifically with funders taking a back seat. I think that a big lesson learned is to take the time to create shared understanding is the only way to actually be in relationship with funders and grantees working together.

I am excited about just trying things out even if this is a big challenging question. There will definitely be lessons to learn in the case of Forward Together in particular, as well as for many of Overbrook’s other grantees. And, as a group, we all have skin in the game. I believe that if we keep coming back to shared understanding, our common goal for new thinking around this question and a mindset of flexible reality for resource generation, I believe we will succeed collectively over the long-term.

I am looking forward to living in a world where all families and communities have the social, economic and political power to thrive. Forward Together is playing an important role in realizing this vision. And, if we believe this day can come, I think we, in partnership with many, can also imagine a new mode for resourcing this critical social transformation.


Leave a Reply