Can We Talk About Money? | Tweetchat Dec. 18

Recently, Nina Simon reached out to Gretchen Jennings and the Incluseum to prompt a discussion about whether we should collaborate on a holiday “gift guide for change” where we all shared a list of radically inclusive projects we would be giving to this year, because, she observed, “museum professionals don’t necessarily put their money where their enthusiasm is.” We agreed that there isn’t enough direct conversation around supporting these radically led efforts with actual dollars or action, and further we feel there may be a taboo around talking about money in specific terms as opposed to general terms (ie “Interns need to make more money.”) Because this country’s current distribution of wealth is linked to historically inequitable and unjust arrangements in our economic systems, talking directly about money may also mean we need to have uncomfortable conversations. If we are willing to have these conversations we can begin to reconcile our complicitness in these unjust systems and also take steps toward dismantling them.

We all felt some hesitation to list the projects we are supporting or feel others should support because 1) it is beyond our financial means to support all the efforts we would like to or which should be supported and 2) we didn’t feel we had a broad sense of who to recommend to readers. Sure, we could recommend projects within our scope of reference but couldn’t offer anything very comprehensive. We decided instead to collectively focus on money through the lens of “giving” or a “giving guide.” Today, along with this Incluseum post, Museum 2.0 and Museum Commons will also share posts in a coordinated effort to build momentum around this conversation.

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94-Money-dollar-sign-in-a-square

On this subject of giving we can comment on models for giving and thinking about money that inspire us and operate with a social justice lens. For example, the Incluseum looks to local models in Seattle such as Social Justice Fund Northwest. We encourage you to read about their model for Social Justice Philanthropy here. They define “social justice philanthropy” as:

Social justice philanthropy is the granting of philanthropic contributions to nonprofit organizations that work for structural change in order to increase the opportunity of those who are the least well off politically, economically, and socially.

Social Justice Fund Northwest not only offers this very strategic framework for their giving, they also offer a model for such giving wherein they focus also on “democratizing philanthropy” through a “Giving Project” Model. Through this model 20 people join together to participate in a grant process where they use grassroots fundraising to raise the money they give. This model radically re-envisions philanthropy by shifting who gets to give, who raises money, and how granting decisions are made.

Yet, there are a range of manifestations of “giving” to support change in our field. Time also = money, and often those of us who do not have money find ways to support the change we want to see in the field by giving our time. For example, this includes mentoring, time spent building relationships, time spent volunteering and more. We may not even think about the ways we give with our time or we may be in the habit of thinking that this form of giving is less valuable than money. This form of giving IS just as valuable, and when we look around at the hard workers in our field who are organizing to create radical inclusive change we want to recognize how they work TIRELESSLY and often without pay. Thank you for all you have given to us and to the field.

The other side of  the giving coin may be withholding funds (boycotting or divesting, for example) in a targeted way in order to achieve social justice goals. The most well known example of this is the divestment campaign against companies that did business in South Africa when apartheid was part of the political and social system. This effort has been widely credited with contributing to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Today universities and museums are being encouraged to divest from the fossil fuel industry, seen as one of the main contributors to climate change. The Natural History Museum, an independent museum in New York, has led this movement, and thus far some major institutions have joined, including The California Academy of Sciences and The Field Museum. The Science Museum of London has just announced that it will no longer accept sponsorship from Shell Oil. Yet another example of the use of monetary pressure to achieve justice was the decision of the University of Missouri football players to boycott football games until a number of demands were met regarding the stance of the university toward its students of color. This was a powerful incentive for change because of the tremendous financial contribution football makes to the university. In looking at social change in museums, we might ask, who are our football players?

As we have alluded to above, topics like the role of money, or the equivalent (time/work), in bringing about radical inclusive change are little discussed in our field. We have some questions we want to pose to YOU in an upcoming #RadicalGiving Tweetchat on December 18 at 10am PT / 1pm ET.

Below, find some questions that came from our joint discussion on these subjects and that we will ask for your responses on during the tweetchat:

Q1A. What is your personal motivation to give to support inclusive change and those who are leading change?

  • Q1B.  How do you give?

Q2. What do you give your time/money to?  Let’s signal boost these projects and efforts!

Q3. How can we have these conversations about $ more in museums?

Q4. If money talks, how can we influence the conversation?

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