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Equimundo’s strategic plan and narrowed vision mean that our staff at Equimundo, our partners, and our fellows are thinking about how to ensure that funding, its practices and ideologies align with our core values and beliefs in inclusion and transparency. In this conversation with Margaret Greene, Senior Fellow at Equimundo, and Director of GreeneWorks, a consulting group working to promote social change for health and development, we discuss the meaning of philanthropy, challenges in funding masculinities work, and sharing resources with women’s and feminist organizations.

“The idea that women could possibly fix gender inequality all on their own is unjust… Men have to join this coordinated effort and that work on masculinities has to be funded at scale.”

What does philanthropy mean to you, personally and within your work?

When I think about philanthropy, as opposed to funding, it means giving financial support in a way that’s aligned with values. It’s people thinking about the future of an institution, a movement, a bigger cause, and then putting money there toward a broader commitment

Contributing to things financially is important to me – as a fraction of my overall income, my donations are fairly substantial. And I see those connections between the work that we do and the importance of supporting it financially. I took a course called “cultivating generous congregations,” which was fascinating because it structured the bigger vision and values behind fundraising, donations and financial contributions. When you contribute, you are participating in a broader endeavor, you are part of a community, you are living your values by contributing to something beyond yourself.

Why is it important to fund the masculinities work within the gender equality and justice space?

It’s fundamental to support masculinities work within the gender equality justice space. It saddens me, as I move closer to retirement, that I’ve had to make this argument about how critical it is to work with boys and men and address masculinities for 30 years. And I’m sure there are lots of other people who feel the same way, but I do think that there’s a fundamental illogic in not viewing work on masculinities as absolutely central to gender equality. We’re all part of a system of values and rules about gender, and the idea that women could possibly fix it all on their own is unjust. Overcoming gender inequality takes everyone’s coordinated effort. Men have to join this coordinated effort and that work on masculinities has to be funded at scale.

From your perspective and experience, what are some funding challenges for this work?

There is a strong orientation in the gender equality space toward women and women’s empowerment––and rightly so – and there sometimes seem to be suspicions about whether or not men can be trustworthy feminists and about working with men––making funders hesitant or tentative. There isn’t consensus that working with men and boys to promote healthy masculinities is important for improving women and girls’ lives.

So, the challenge is that we are always having to explain how masculinities work benefits women and girls while downplaying how men themselves – who are often struggling – can benefit. How do you envision an empowered woman or a gender-equitable man all alone? They are part of the broader system that connects them, which is a more nuanced message that is harder to package in a single image or vision.

I also think that there are some negative consequences of that over-focus on women –– it puts too much on women’s shoulders to suggest that all of the work lies with them to improve gender relations, to empower or be empowered, or to end gender inequality. That’s why we need more people saying that the masculinities work should be funded because it also makes things better for girls and women and is key to shifting the entire system. Girls are not going to be changing the world by themselves if everybody in their communities is not fully involved, so funding work with men and boys takes the burden of social change off women and girls’ backs and shares the responsibility with the people who have historically held more power – with everyone, really.

How do we encourage funders to be responsive versus reactionary and fund this work?

In a conversation with a colleague, we agreed that we needed some kind of collective of donors who are interested in funding masculinities work––on a steady, consistent basis. Is there a way we can bring together specific donors who are interested in men and masculinities, to work on projects that could be viewed jointly as part of a bigger vision and goal, building a movement for gender equality, and not a moment?

If there were a collective, funders might feel less that they’re sticking their necks out to fund in this area that only a few have taken a position on. I think if they had the sense that they were part of this broader community, they might feel more confident and driven to contribute regularly.

I would encourage male donors in particular to think about their own masculinity and their contributions to the gender equality movement. Whether it’s the man on the street, a man thinking about gender in the context of his work, a truly wealthy man making huge decisions about philanthropy and who can change the world through the way that he directs his funds. Having funders think more in the longer term about the kinds of impact that they could make and supporting this transformative work on a greater scale could ensure funding is responsive and not reactionary. This really is the next wave of the movement toward gender equality.

We’re standing on the shoulders of many feminist activists, and guided by values that include sharing space––and funding. How do we build our work with these movements to work with the resources available, instead of taking resources from other organizations?

What we are talking about is expanding the resources available, not taking resources from the other organizations or even working with just the sources available –– that is the problem. We need to grow the pie, and invest in areas that reap benefits across a whole set of improvements around caregiving, health, income, and so on.

For instance, the Sustainable Development Goals emphasize investments that offer synergistic effects so that if you invest in one domain, you’re also going to affect other, downstream goals. Certain investments can really catalyze other investments, and funders should be thinking about how investments in masculinities work are investments in gender equality. We see this synergy in Equimundo’s work where we show that more equitable attitudes among men translate into improvements in health, education, mental health and violence.

What’s your one call to action for funders in today’s philanthropic movement?

I want funders to consider coming together to resolve this concern around whether men can be trusted in the gender equality space, and to decide on the position of masculinities in the space. That could take the form of a consultation with feminist donors, with one potential outcome of that meeting being the formation of an initial funding network that focuses on masculinities.

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