I was taught by my grandmother to take time and think of the holidays-year end as a time to reflect, to consider what was accomplished, who or what we are thankful for, and to consider how to influence or shape a better future including what that means about how we show up. It was a lasting lesson to consciously acknowledge the journey we all are on, see things as they are, think about what can be changed and understand what our potential role is. Frankly, honest reflection confronting the difficult and understanding your possible role as you move to action is hard work.

It is why I am excited about the work of AFN’s initiative, Realizing Economic Justice (REJ). As we face the system that exists, the historic biases in the way it was built, and the practices that preserve it, there is much that needs to be changed. But it can also be overwhelming. REJ is intersectional, introspective, and the tools are designed to support the work needed to achieve progress on the journey.

The REJ primer, On the Road to Racial and Economic Justice, is frank, intentionally jarring, but also non-accusatory; instead inviting reflection and understanding on what each of us does or that our institutions preserve to unintentionally continue injustice. It asks you to think about what can be changed and improved upon. To achieve economic equity and racial-gender justice with requisite systemic change requires embracing the role and conceiving of new ways for the economy to build and preserve assets.

The REJ reflection cards unpack the Primer to create a tool that allows for honest consideration of the questions, allows conversations to flow where the participants take it, hopefully informs planning, understanding the impact of choices being made, and allows thoughtful discourse about what can be changed and one’s potential role. It will be worthwhile work.  If you are a member and didn’t get your deck at the AFN Conference in Oakland, no worries, you will have a chance to receive one in the new year.

REJ Equity Amplifier is another way to lean in to advance economic justice. Equity Amplifier is about focusing on smaller, less resourced, sometimes hidden, but promising catalysts and approaches to asset building happening in communities with people of color led, responsive organizations. By lifting up the organization and the work, and providing technical assistance where needed, AFN and the members are hoping to help strengthen the organization and to lift up what lessons may be learned or strategies that are repeatable in other communities.

And our briefs continue to dig deep and amplify what philanthropy can fund or help to catalyze to move toward greater racial justice. For example, many AFN members in California pooled funds to commission a focused brief on workers and business owners who are undocumented and how to legally help foster economic security and justice.

Before the end of the year, we also are lifting up philanthropy’s support and influence in building and expanding public and private support for Children’s Savings Accounts to help build stronger post-secondary aspiration among children. It’s a compelling example of building what was not there a decade ago and the value of perseverance with a long view on investment. Post-secondary education with far less debt is necessary for a healthy future economy; CSAs, Promise Scholarships, Scholarship with an equity focus, cancellation of student debt, and public fund reinvestment to reduce costs are all aspects of philanthropic engagement toward that goal. More is needed.

And we are engaging members in discussions about our broken retirement system – too many have no funds other than Social Security, or other funds are too little with excessive fees. Expanding and improving state run secure choice programs is a promising approach.  What can be your institution’s role to improve the system?

Join the efforts to reflect, discuss and act. Join AFN if you have not already done so! The work is hard and will take all of us – but it will be fulfilling! I am thankful for the many who have joined and engaged!

May you and your family and friends embrace the opportunity to reflect and experience the peace of knowing you have done your bit this season and what’s possible in the new year.