Surdna Foundation Announces Refined Program Strategies

The Surdna Foundation announced today refined strategies for its grantmaking programs, intended to reflect the Foundation’s belief that racial justice must underpin social justice.

These refined strategies are the culmination of a yearlong process of introspection to ensure the Foundation’s work is as relevant and effective as possible, and they explicitly articulate the changes the Foundation seeks to achieve.

As one of the oldest family foundations in the country, Surdna is dedicated to ensuring its strategies foster a culture of learning and reflect the Foundation’s deep commitment to the values of justice, equity, and inclusion.

“Our ongoing commitment to learning requires constantly examining our own assumptions and having continuous conversations with organizations on the frontlines tackling society’s biggest challenges,” said Don Chen, incoming president of the Surdna Foundation.

These shifts come at an important moment in the Foundation’s journey – 10 years after announcing its shift to an explicitly social justice approach to philanthropy, and six years after launching its current program strategies. Surdna sees this as an opportunity to further the Foundation’s commitment to working together with its partners to amplify the power that exists within communities to drive change.

“We understand that our dollars are limited and the needs of marginalized communities are great, and it is out of deep respect for those communities that we are resolved to spending our funds in ways we believe they can have the most impact,” said Peter Benedict II, board chair.

Surdna believes it can have the greatest impact in achieving a more just and sustainable society by addressing the historical and structural racial inequities at the root of the deeply embedded challenges that communities face across America.

To achieve this, Surdna will direct its financial and human resources towards efforts that further the following three outcomes:

  • Democratic Participation: Supporting communities of color and low-wealth communities to use their decision-making and political power to enable self-determination.
  • Building Wealth: Catalyzing capital to support communities of color and low-wealth communities in their efforts to build and sustain wealth, in all its forms, and economic power to achieve a more just and sustainable society.
  • Building Accountability: Investing in the capacity of communities of color and low-wealth communities to hold policymakers and institutions accountable to ensure all community benefits are shared equitably.

The program strategies were refined to reflect these desired outcomes. Over the next few months, the Surdna Foundation will implement the following refined strategies to continue to grow its impact and live out its commitment to equity:

  • The Inclusive Economies (IE) program (formerly known as Strong Local Economies) will include two integrated strategies: Business Start-up and Growth and Equitable Economic Development. Overall, IE grantmaking will foster the creation of an inclusive and equitable economy in which people of color can maximize their potential as leaders, creators, and innovators across sectors.
  • The Sustainable Environments (SE) program strategies will include: Environmental and Climate Justice and Land Use Through Community Power. SE grantmaking will ensure low-wealth communities and communities of color have control, ownership, and stewardship of infrastructure and the land on which it sits.
  • The Thriving Cultures (TC) strategy, Radical Imagination for Racial Justice will support the creation of new creative works, translate racial justice strategies generated by artists, culture-bearers, and designers, and connect artists and their work to larger movements to advance equity. TC’s grantmaking will focus on shaping and influencing future policies, technologies, and narratives to build more just and sustainable communities.