MARCH 2022

Asset building as a philanthropic and policy focus is essentially an affirmation that economic security and thriving is achievable and can be readily available in communities regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. To get there, it is necessary to understand the root causes, yet not to dwell on the misery, exploitation and deprivation. Understanding needs to be coupled with the dual focus to seek what needs to be repaired and what needs to be reinvented upstream. Only by doing both things, with the patience to let changes produce results, will we stop denying prosperity through systemic harm, explicit bias, and the legacy of continued building on the advantages conferred by past racism or sexism.

Crucially, effective asset building requires funders, the practitioners and advocates they fund, and policy makers to believe in the promise of this nation even when the wealth divides have reached record proportions.  Affirming that we have the goal of equitable asset building and economic security for all is the floor we build upon. Like the continued expressions of love in the potential of this nation espoused by persons who are Black or are immigrants even when the nation does not love them back, asset building efforts — informed and led by philanthropic investment — needs to be both optimistic and grounded in realistic strategies and tactics that are intentionally targeted to advance equitable results. That approach to aspire and identify the actionable is the essence of what AFN celebrates in our networking and content as actionable investments for systemic change.

We will remain focused that systemic change is both about present actions coupled with narrative change now, while solidly focused on how we engage and thrive well into the future. Effective system change will require reinventing private systems (e.g. eliminating bias in property assessments), rethinking how government services are “funded” to not harm credit scores (eliminating regressive or onerous fees and fines and penalties like license suspensions), investing in our future (cancelling student debt, tuition free community and state college), adopting income and housing policies to increase worker security, and embracing tax reform (guaranteed income, broader tax credits).

Philanthropy is capable of vividly imagining the desired future, fostering the discussions to develop shared beliefs and vision, identifying the actions that move us forward as a foundation, and imagining what our nation looks like when economic security is equitably available for all. This philanthropic role will over time help policy makers and our neighbors to understand what exactly to hope for and what they fear as a key step toward realizing the vision.

It is part of what has animated our continuing focus over the years on the women’s and racial wealth gaps. It will continue to inform our efforts to identify approaches and paths to realizing economic justice. We can only do this with your active engagement, knowledge share, and guidance.

Join AFN and help all of us move forward to realizing the vison of an equitable economy.