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A recent report on school discipline reform demonstrates the effects that philanthropy has as an agent of social change; it invites reflection on best practices for a foundation.

"What role does philanthropy play in social movements? It’s an interesting question, and there’s a long history of funder involvement in different movements—from civil rights in the 1960s to LGBT rights in the past decade. Just last week, I wrote about the role of small funders—and Meg Gage in particular—in advancing the peace movement of the 1980s.

"What’s tricky here, though, is figuring out what impact funders have in these situations, and why. Can philanthropy actually foster social movements? Or does it just play catch-up once activist citizens have gotten things going? And when funders do get behind a social movement, what’s the best way to do that and how much can their support make a difference?

Anyone interested in these questions would be wise to take a close look at a meaty report published this past summer by Atlantic Philanthropies, “Tilling the Field: Lessons About Philanthropy’s Role in School Discipline Reform,” which was written by Leila Fiester."--David Callahan, Inside Philanthropy

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