Leap’s mission is to explore and promote three principles in philanthropy:
Given our knowledge and the resources that we could mobilize, the ethical performance of our social systems is disastrous. We destroy the environment, harm animals on an industrial scale, and deny care and equal opportunities to large parts of the population based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors. We also leave additional burdens to future generations.
Instead of treating symptoms, we believe that philanthropy needs to focus more on social transformation, i.e. on eliminating the systemic root causes of social problems. Leap stands in solidarity with those who address the root causes of extractive relationships and structural injustices.
For us, this means that instead of supporting projects, we support suitable actors in achieving systemic goals. These actors can be individuals, collectives, organizations, or networks. The goals can range from reforming the prison system in a specific country to including racial justice considerations in international climate actions.
Financial support is always unrestricted. We trust our partners to choose the right strategy for their goals and to adapt it if necessary. We support them even and especially if their ideas are still hard to grasp, protracted, political, abstract, or particularly controversial.
All decisionmakers within LEAP need to be trained in systems thinking to make sure that we don't fall back to the more familiar project-based approach to grantmaking.
We believe that philanthropy must not reproduce the injustices in society in its own structures, processes, and strategies. Transformative philanthropy must put decision-making power in the hands of those doing the work. It must be a supportive platform where everyone operates at eye level.
For us, this means that, from its moment of creation, LEAP does not have one founder. It is funded and run, both in its earliest phase and in the long term, by a maximally diverse community whose members, to different degrees, provide funding, expertise and create positive change in the world. To that end, LEAP choose a cooperative-like legal form.
The community decides jointly which initiatives LEAP supports and which projects it implements itself (if any). Activists and social entrepreneurs always have a majority in these decisions. Decisionmakers are compensated to make sure that everyone can afford to get involved. Some of the grant proposals are (after formal pre-selection) decided randomly to minimize the effect of our biases.
Genuine participation also means that our highest priority is an organizational culture of authenticity, trust, and non-violent communication.
We believe that in philanthropy, transparency and the willingness to take risks must be more important than protecting one's reputation.
For us, this means that our selection process is transparent to all members and to the public. We openly report failures, both in terms of the ideas we support and in terms of our support mechanisms and formats of participation. We celebrate our failures and those of our partners as well as successes -– when everyone has done their best.
All decisionmakers need to be trained in nonviolent communication to make sure that this openness is constructive.
We are convinced that these three principles are inseparable. Participation is not only morally the right thing to do. It is also necessary for understanding complex issues and creating diverse networks to tackle them. We need learning orientation and transparency to deal with uncertainty and systems that change over time. We also need it to hold ourselves accountable to genuine participation in decision-making.
We believe that it takes ambition and training to live all three principles in practice. We therefore commit to developing our competencies for them, especially around systemic thinking, participatory leadership, and ego-free communication.
What is LEAP
There is a broad international consensus on the principles of funding systems change. The problem is that only few organizations have started that journey. There are no well-trodden paths to follow, no established best practices to copy, no handbooks to implement. Some people and organizations might be a bit further ahead. Some of them are in our community or in touch with us. Without a curriculum, even they cannot be teachers, though. What we need is a community of peers that explores and learns together. We need travel companions, and we are inviting you to join us on this journey!
As a travelling party, LEAP offers a number of benefits. As a donor,
- you work together with and are exposed to leading activists and social entrepreneurs who are working on a systems level;
- you meet other donors who want to support systemic changes in society; and
- you are part of a sandbox that was created to support systems changing initiatives and to experiment with new funding mechanisms.
As a collective, we can try things that in existing organizations would be hard to implement, even as a pilot. We provide a safe space to participate in systems analyses, participatory decision-making, power reflections, trust-based grant-making, and many other innovations. If you like them, you can adopt them in your organization. If you don’t, you didn’t lose a lot of time running and getting the experiment approved in the first place.
If you are interested in this project, please share your questions, ideas, and feedback. Reach out if you want to become an active member and shape LEAP in this early stage.