IHRFG recently held its semi-annual conference and pre-conference institute in New York. Following the event, we will share reflections from the grantmakers who came together to explore timely issues in human rights grantmaking. Click here to read more lessons and join the conversation!
Contributed by Kristina Wertz, Director of Engagement, Funders for LGBTQ Issues
Earlier this month I had the good fortune to attend “Progress and Setbacks in LGBTQI Rights Globally: What’s a Funder to Do?” the pre-conference institute for IHRFG’s semi-annual convening. The day was expertly organized and sponsored by our friends at the Global Philanthropy Project and we at Funders for LGBTQ Issues were honored to be a co-sponsor.
For me, the overwhelming take away from the day was that both the international human rights funding community and the domestic LGBTQ funding community deeply understand that now is the time to pool our power and resources to partner with local LGBTQI activists around the world to expand rights and grow strong movements for social justice. I was elated to see nearly 100 people in the room – the largest pre-conference institute at IHRFG to date! The high attendance sent a powerful message – there is a strong network of committed funders supporting groups working at the front lines of gender identity and sexual orientation, and there are many more funders who are ready to get involved.
The day provided a solid education for new funders, both those deeply familiar with international funding but new to LGBTQI work and those well seasoned in domestic LGBTQI advocacy but new to global funding. In addition, the institute provided an invaluable networking and strategizing opportunity for the community of funders who have long supported LGBTQI people across the globe.
Personally for me, one of the most salient points came at the beginning of the day. Carla Sutherland, the very smart and funny Columbia School of Law Professor, reminded us to not let accusations of cultural imperialism undermine the universality of human rights. Rather, we all need to work authentically with local advocates, let them steer the way, and maintain genuine cultural humility. By deeply understanding how people identify themselves, asking what they see as the immediate and long-term needs in their own communities, and deferring to them as experts on the best strategies to effect change, we can be responsible grantmakers. As Mariam Armisen of the Queer African Youth Network said, “Responsible grantmaking listens.”
There is a powerful network of funders listening. Bringing everyone together for the day most definitely strengthened that network. I am very grateful to IHRFG for opening up this space and elevating LGBTQI work and to Global Philanthropy Partners for their leadership in the field and hard work in organizing the pre-institute. We here at Funders for LGBTQ Issues are excited to continue to partner and bring more funders into this world-changing work.