Harvard Kennedy School • Spring 2020

We are at a zenith of philanthropic giving.

Foundation assets in the United States have grown to over $1 trillion. As a result, there has been an explosion in private charitable foundations and innovative donor initiatives. For the most part, philanthropy is celebrated: Individuals give away their wealth to worthy causes and help to steward significant social change. But this grandiose narrative belies a much more complicated story—especially as it pertains to the funding of social movements. What happens when the interests of funders and grantees clash? This course examined the history and future of philanthropy’s relationship with social movements. Some questions this course took up included: What is philanthropy’s responsibility to supporting radical social movements? What are useful strategies for funders to confront their privilege in grantmaking?

What does movement co-optation look like? And what is the impact of funders on democratic governance?

Note: I am intentional about examining the intersection of organizations that build capacity and philanthropy. I am also committed to deconstructing a dominant male tradition of knowledge production and thus was intentional about highlighting the research of women of color in my syllabus. My hope is that by listening to a new set of voices; we can figure out different strategies to lead us to a more just world. This syllabus is not comprehensive—but it is a beginning point for those who would like to expanded their knowledge of philanthropy and social movements. Enjoy!

Prof. Megan Ming Francis
Visiting Associate Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School, 2019-20