From Patrick Horvath, The Denver Foundation and Outgoing GRGM Chair
In February I will mark 17 years in philanthropy, all at The Denver Foundation. For exactly all of that time I have been involved in Grassroots Grantmakers in some way. We are talking about back to the days when we were the Neighborhood Small Grants Network and our logo was a picket fence entwined by ivy! For much of that history our goal was to transform philanthropy from the bottom up, and it was very clear that we were a network of and for traditional philanthropy.
As our movement began to take hold and to grow, however, our vision for the network began to shift as well. If our goal was to help funders learn how to begin with residents, to take their lead from and to make their grants in partnership with people living in the communities where change needed to happen, then our network had to expand to include the direct leadership of residents. As we started to lift our gaze from traditional philanthropy we found, surprise surprise, that there were all sorts of philanthropists right in the neighborhoods where our members were working. We just needed to expand our definition of philanthropy.
These last few years, with the hiring of Lisa Duran, an immigrant rights organizer and long-time community activist, as our Executive Director, and the intentional expansion of our On the Ground events to include resident leaders as participants, we have been taking more and more steps to embrace this new vision of philanthropy and of leadership within our network.
That is why I am so privileged, honored, and excited to introduce our new board chair, DeAmon Harges. DeAmon is our first board chair, and probably one of the first and only board chairs among philanthropic affinity groups across the country, whose roots are deeply and directly in community, rather than in institutional philanthropy.
DeAmon is an astonishing philanthropist, one of the most gifted people I have ever met at providing resources to groups of residents to help them achieve their vision for a stronger community. He is on the staff of the Asset Based Community Development Institute, and a founder of the Learning Tree, an association of neighbors in Indianapolis that uses ABCD principles to build community. He is the original “roving listener” (which has to be one of the greatest job titles in the world!) for Indy’s Broadway United Methodist Church. He is an artist, an inspirational speaker (Google his TEDx talk), a connector, and someone who is deeply attuned to Grassroots Grantmakers’ mission.
DeAmon is nationally known for his talents. John McKnight, CoDirector of the ABCD Institute says, “To my knowledge, no one has explored and inspired grassroots people as inventively as DeAmon. His creative explorations can provide a wonderful base for new directions in the years ahead.” And Peter Block, author and thinker about building community in new ways, says “DeAmon is committed to building community based on gifts and neighborliness. He is a grassroots person and very knowledgeable about what works in supporting people on the margins.”
This is new territory for our network, and it is also new territory for DeAmon. He has been a board member for the past four years, and in that time he has fundamentally changed the way we operate. He is ready for an expanded role, and for taking on the challenge of leading a network whose members are still mostly traditional funders. Please learn from him, and please give him your support as the chair of the board of this wonderful organization.
Grassroots Grantmakers has always been about shaking up philanthropy, and there is no question in my mind that DeAmon is the right person to lead the shaking as we live into this next stage of our growth and development. There could never be a more important time for his leadership.