In 2016, the Dodge Foundation began its equity journey in earnest, culminating in a strategic plan centered on a vision for an equitable New Jersey. In 2020, as mobilizations for racial justice swept the country and the pandemic abruptly exposed the devastating impacts of structural racism and inequity on people’s lives, we answered the call of these crises to imagine a new way and then to put action to our words. Now, six years later, we are fully immersed in this work.
Building on the lessons learned over the past few years, we are entering into 2023 with a strengthened commitment and launching new program priorities centered on racial justice, which is the focus of the Dodge Foundation going forward. With an action-oriented, learning mindset at the core of how we work, we have steadily moved funds toward our vision of a just and equitable New Jersey, with approximately a third of our funding in 2022 focused on organizations addressing the root cause and repair of structural racism and inequity. By 2024, we expect the majority of our funding will support this work. To get there, we are launching new program priorities that clarify the racial justice strategies and tactics that guide our work from now on.
This is a critical step for our organization – clearly defining the levers and systems-change work that will transform our State. Simply put, New Jersey cannot achieve its full potential without directly addressing these issues and actively supporting efforts to create more just and equitable policies, systems, and practices.
Our goal is to continue taking guidance from networks, movements, organizations, and leaders closest to harm, and therefore closest to solutions. With this principle embedded into our work to-date, we have connected in new spaces, built critical relationships in the State and nationally, and learned more about the social justice landscape in New Jersey. Over the past few years, we developed strategic partnerships with organizations that center racial equity and justice through our Imagine a New Way and Momentum Fund grantmaking. These early anchor partners have provided us invaluable insight, learning, and feedback that have informed our path forward.
Through our new priorities, refined in partnership with social justice leaders and organizations, we aim to upend the underlying factors that make New Jersey a state with some of the worst equity indicators in the country, while also repairing systemic harms that have long plagued communities of color. As we developed and clarified our program priorities, we centered on the idea that inequities compound and intersect in ways that are not siloed or singular. For us, systems change requires transformations in policies, practices, power dynamics, social norms, or mindsets. These changes are most effective when they involve the collaboration of a diverse set of players. Therefore, we will support work across issue areas and prioritize organizations and partners that use the following types of systems-change strategies and tactics.
Build Power by advancing the ability of communities of color to exert economic, political, and cultural influence to change the rules that disproportionately impact them.
Reimagine Systems of Justice by advancing efforts to build new or dismantle institutionalized laws, policies, practices, and beliefs that perpetuate the disproportionate oppression and disadvantage of communities of color.
Strengthen Economic Resilience by increasing financial security, mobility, opportunity, and prosperity for low-wealth communities and for communities of color.
Movement Building & Organizing
Engaging in multi-issue social change movements built over a long period, where multisector groups come together towards a long-term shared vision or common cause. Organizing includes all forms: grassroots, community, cultural, and beyond.
Activating organizers, storytellers, artists, and creatives using creative tools to shift storylines about those most impacted and build cultural power to support justice and equity.
Policy and Advocacy
Using interventions that advocate for and support changes in the rules that affect those most impacted and closest to harm and solutions. Advocates to find ways to organize evidence, garner attention, and create systems change by organizing litigation, civic education campaigns, etc.
Sector Capacity Building
Supporting the development of skills, relationships, and impact of leaders and organizations, working on the front lines of change.
Incredible organizations across New Jersey are leveraging these strategies and tactics. Organizations, to name just a few, like:
- The Latino Action Network Foundation, an organization with the goal of uniting New Jersey’s diverse Latino communities and advancing economic and social empowerment.
- The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) which seeks to empower people of color by building reparative systems that create wealth, transform justice, and harness democratic power—from the ground up.
- Salvation and Social Justice, an advocacy organization that seeks to change public policy to be more humane and liberating for Black people by utilizing strategies derived from the emergence of the Black faith community in the United States
As we put our new priorities into action, we will not only focus on ‘what’ we fund but also on ‘how’ we support our nonprofit partners. We intend to continue to create and build meaningful and lasting relationships with our partners, and to provide flexible resources that allow for innovation, imagination, increased organizational stability, and freedom to self-determine the best path forward.
Finally, we know that supporting organizations through an invitation-only process is not aligned with our values, nor will it achieve our overall goals. We cannot achieve a just and equitable New Jersey if we do not run a just and equitable process. Therefore, later this year, we will launch an open and accessible process to learn about organizations doing racial justice work and provide funding where and when possible. This “open call” approach will give new organizations who have not had access to the Dodge Foundation an opportunity to connect with our team and explore alignment.
With our clarified program priorities and a refined process that centers our values, we can support more partners to have a greater impact across the State. We look forward to connecting with and welcoming new organizations to our community. We will learn together and strive together for justice and equity across New Jersey.
Tanuja Dehne is President & CEO of the Dodge Foundation where, alongside her team, she is leading the Foundation’s transformation into an anti-racist organization dedicated to realizing a just and equitable New Jersey.