The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

Civil Rights and Civil Repair

The body of work accomplished through this project is inspired by our recognition of past and present injustices in society and by our belief in philanthropy’s potential to help redress and repair those harms.

Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Public Schools

Building a Future-Facing Vision, Strategy and System of Support

This project engages grantmakers and their advisers who want to better understand the causes, myriad harms and potential cures for racial and economic segregation in public schools in the United States. Racial and economic segregation stem from racism and are defining features of our American landscape. Strongly associated with a host of attendant inequalities in wealth, education, health and access to job opportunities, segregation is relevant for grantmakers because it is at the root of so many of the social challenges that progressive grantmakers aspire to eradicate. At a time when commentators describe the United States as “divided,” this project seeks to inform and advance efforts that bring young people from varying racial and ethnic backgrounds together to reduce social and economic inequalities, racial prejudice and bias.

See our January 2018 report, Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive K-12 Schools: A New Call for Philanthropic Support

We work with funders who are interested in remedying segregation through changes in policy and practice in such sectors as housing, K-12 education and transportation. We also work with funders who are interested in bringing together people from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to build relationships and to work together to create fair, welcoming and racially equitable communities, schools and workplaces.

In the current political context, philanthropy’s role in this work is increasingly important. During the Obama administration’s second term, government officials had made significant progress in enacting regulations and advancing programs aimed at reducing segregation in housing and schools. In the early months of the current presidential administration, these hard-won government actions to reduce segregation were defunded or abandoned.

What We Do:

In partnership with the Ford Foundation, we convene practitioners and scholars active in the field of school integration to strategize and plan for maximum impact and to build partnerships with members of the philanthropic community. Our work with the Ford Foundation brings us in close collaboration with a network of leading scholars, policy experts, organizers and practitioners who study the effects of racial segregation, the potential of racial integration and who are creating and nurturing schools and other social institutions and systems designed to bring people together across constructed lines of race and municipal boundaries. We are active and supporting members of the National Coalition on School Diversity.

We offer free presentations for funders, their advisers and others that synthesize research related to segregation and the practice of racial integration in the 21st century and provide information about promising funding opportunities and potential funding strategies in this area.

Our interactive map in progress highlights activity in scholarship, practice and policy advocacy that supports equitable racially integrated schools and communities. The map is designed to help funders identify assets, potential partnerships and gaps related to this work in the communities they serve. Please note that this map is a work in progress. We encourage you to make contributions to it by writing to Susan Eaton seaton@brandeis.edu.

We are also active consultants to and participants in the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Enterprise (TRHT) seeded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and supported by dozens of other community-based foundations. This effort engages 14 communities across the United States in processes that build relationships across racial lines with the aspiration to enact policy change and “jettison the belief in a hierarchy of human value, racism.”

Redressing Residential Segregation

This developing project draws upon the work of numerous scholars, civil rights lawyers and community-based activists who have documented the causes and continuing harms of residential racial segregation in the United States. Through publications and educational programming, we seek to raise awareness in the philanthropic sector about the causes and legacy of residential segregation, an underpinning to racial inequality and stratification in our nation. In upcoming publications and programming, we will offer recommendations and propose solutions for socially concerned funders seeking ways to redress residential segregation. 

Staff: Susan Eaton, director; Katie Elder, research assistant; Richard Rothstein, strategic advisor. 

In 2020, we completed two reports on Redressing Residential Segregation.

A Steady Habit of Segregation: The Origins and Continuing Harms of Separate and Unequal Housing and Public Schools in Metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut: This report represents a collaboration with several nonprofit partners. It includes recommendations for grantmakers and policymakers who aspire to redress and reduce racial and economic segregation in housing and public schools. We hope this provides a useful model for similar studies in other metropolitan areas. 

Inhabiting Change: Roles for Philanthropy in Reducing and Redressing Housing Segregation: Racial segregation in housing is a root cause of inequalities in health, safety, education, employment, wealth and income that have long concerned US grantmakers. This brief provides the historical and policy context to inform funding for nonprofit organizations working to redress and reduce housing segregation. We outline several ways for funders to support work in this overlooked field.

Post-Secondary Education for People in Prison

This brief explores well-tested, largely successful programs that provide incarcerated people the opportunity to take college-level courses and even earn post-secondary college degrees while in prison. Despite the encouraging research findings about programmatic success, philanthropic investment has been limited in this area. This brief explores the key role funders could play in supporting this politically controversial yet effective effort.

Community-Led Reparations

Within the field of philanthropy, the term "reparations" has various meanings. We appreciate the definition offered by Edgar Villanueva, founder of Decolonizing Wealth. He explains, "As a nation that built and extracted its wealth from Black and Indigenous peoples, reparations, in the form of money and land, are required as we take meaningful steps toward reconciliation and racial healing." Our reports and briefs that focus on community-led reparations consider philanthropy's role in reparations, reconciliation, and healing. We consider historic and ongoing harms and injustices that have led to the need for reparations, who is tasked and trusted with grantmaking decisions, the vehicles through which funds are re-distributed, and both the short and long term impact of these reparations. 

As Near As Possible? Applying Best Philanthropic Practice to Judicial Disbursements of Residual Funds in Class Action Lawsuits

In this report, we explore a widely debated legal practice called "cy pres." This term, translated from the French as "as near as possible," refers to the process by which courts grant leftover funds from class action lawsuits to nonprofit organizations. We argue that courts' actions in this realm should be informed by established best practice in social justice philanthropy. This will help ensure the cy pres processes are fair, equitable, and have the maximum benefit for members of the original harmed class.

From Class Action to Reparative Philanthropy: The Norflet Progress Fund and the Future of Cy Pres Practice

This report explores the process, nature and impact of grants made by the temporary foundation, the Norflet Progress Fund. With a mission to benefit African Americans, the Fund was created as part of a cy pres component in settlement of a class action lawsuit that had alleged racial discrimination in insurance. The report also provides lessons especially relevant for legal professionals engaged in cy pres practice and for those committed to just and responsive philanthropic practice. 

Next Generation Commemoration: Philanthropy's Past, Present, and Future Roles

No amount of philanthropy could fully redress the harm done by the lack of public and philanthropic response to African Americans’ longstanding and prophetic objections to Confederate veneration. But as we explore throughout this brief, grantmaker support for contemporary removals and reimaginings of commemorative landscapes can help put several communities on a road to civic repair.

Equity in Arts Funding

This brief discusses how grantmakers can redress long-standing inequalities in arts and culture philanthropy by directing more dollars to historically marginalized communities and by adopting strategies that upend traditional funding structures that have excluded artists of color and under-resourced communities.