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NoVo Foundation Launches Strategy to Support and Deepen the Movement for Girls of Color in the United States

13 April 2017
BY NoVo Foundation

Directly informed by girls of color, NoVo seeks partners and grantees to build the field of advocates and activists working to address the specific needs of girls of color 

New York, NY – The NoVo Foundation today announced its grantmaking strategy for its seven-year, $90 million commitment to support the movement for girls of color in the United States. The outcome of a year-long listening tour across the country with girls of color, movement leaders, and organizers, NoVo’s strategy is designed to support efforts defined and driven by girls and women of color to address the deep systemic, societal, and institutional challenges girls face.

Taking a holistic approach to grantmaking, NoVo will deeply invest in community-based organizations that center girls of color as agents in their own decision-making and create spaces for connection, healing, and consciousness-raising with and for girls of color.

“We believe that girls of color are experts in their own lives and wield immense power to transform their communities and the country,” said Jennifer and Peter Buffett, co-presidents of the NoVo Foundation. “We are excited to partner directly with girls of color and their advocates so that they can live in safety and peace, dream and imagine all the possibilities of their futures, access all that’s necessary to live in dignity and fulfill their dreams, and feel celebrated and seen through love and connection.”

While support to local organizations will be prioritized for work directly with girls, NoVo will continue to work with national partners that center girls of color in the necessary advocacy, narrative shaping, and systems change work that is happening to transform the systems that currently harm girls. Throughout all of NoVo’s investments, the foundation will be supporting the leadership of girls and women of color in leading the work.

“A vibrant movement to build power with and for girls of color already exists, and it is time for philanthropy to follow its lead. Meaningful change for girls of color in our country is only possible if we shift power to those who are most affected and center the leadership of people who live every day with injustice.” said Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of NoVo.

NoVo’s Grantmaking Strategy

Leading with the philosophy that girls of color are experts in their own lives and have the best ideas for how to strengthen the broader movement, NoVo embarked on a year-long listening tour, speaking directly with diverse groups of girls of color, movement leaders, and organizers from around the country about their lived experiences. Participants revealed structural barriers that girls of color face and how those barriers impact their daily lives, but the listening tours also brought to light the incredible work led by girls and women of color at the community level to address these barriers.

“The movement for girls of color in the U.S. is being led by fearless women, primarily women of color, often working on their own time and dime in a severely under-funded field,” said Tynesha McHarris, Fellow for NoVo’s Advancing Adolescent Girls’ Rights initiative. “Girls of color and their advocates have powerful visions for how to create meaningful change in their communities, this country, and the world. They are already doing amazing transformative work, and we must match their urgency and commitment by using our resources to help them make these visions reality.”

Listening also affirmed that some areas of work still receive far too little attention and investment from philanthropy more broadly, such as ending sexual violence, confronting anti-black racism and the need to support solidarity building among activists across regions.

With this announcement NoVo highlights a few ways it will build partnerships to support this field. However this is just a start. NoVo plans to continue identifying opportunities to partner and support girls as well as activists and organizers across generations within this initiative.
NoVo’s conversations in the field informed the initial tenets of its grantmaking strategy, which will:

  • Provide flexible funding to community-based organizations:
    NoVo’s strategy will prioritize community-based organizations working directly with girls to build sisterhood and connection and those addressing structural barriers facing girls of color by centering them in the movements that impact them locally. To learn more about the work happening across the country, NoVo is accepting letters of inquiry . 
  • Partner with regional grantmaking and movement building infrastructures, starting with the Southeast: In addition to prioritizing community-based organizations across the country, NoVo has issued an RFP to identify a regional infrastructure to partner with on grantmaking and movement capacity building, starting in the Southeast. The regional partner will house efforts that provide grant making to existing organizations and help seed new organizations, with the goal of eventually also supporting individuals and collectives outside of formal c3 structures. In addition to grantmaking the regional partner will provide the healing, political education and organizing capacity needed to sustain a healthy field.
  • Invest in select national efforts that center girls in changing systems that harm them:

National organizations that center the voices and needs of girls of color play a critical role in shifting systems and shaping narratives across the country. NoVo will continue to support national organizations and partners who center girls and provide the resources needed to transform the systems and structural barriers that are most harmful to girls.

“We are ecstatic about NoVo’s community-based approach to grantmaking,” said Joanne Smith, Founder and Executive Director of Girls for Gender Equity. “Placing girls of color at the core of its grantmaking strategy will help NoVo direct resources where they are most needed and to those who are best positioned to lead social change efforts. By trusting communities of color as experts, NoVo will truly make a difference in growing our gender and racial justice movement of the 21st century and we look forward to continuing to partner with the foundation on this important commitment.”

The NoVo Foundation has always included a strong focus on adolescent girls, going back to its inception in 2006. As a social justice foundation, with a deep commitment to addressing the structural barriers that perpetuate inequality, the need to focus on girls was clear from the beginning.

Historically, much of NoVo’s support focused on adolescent girls in the Global South. That work is critical to its mission and will continue to deepen, even as NoVo simultaneously deepens its longstanding support for the movement for girls of color in the U.S.

“Whether in Jakarta or Jackson, the movement for girls is led every day by courageous movement leaders creating change in their communities,” added Jody Myrum, director of NoVo’s Advancing Adolescent Rights Initiative. “Together these efforts are advancing a tremendously dynamic and vibrant transnational movement to address the challenges faced by girls throughout the world. Guided by their leadership, the potential for transformative, long-term change is enormous.”

For a full, detailed description of NoVo’s grantmaking strategy or to apply for a grant, please visit: novofoundation.org/usgirls.

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About Girls of Color

In the United States, girls of color face deep-seated disparities. From birth, girls of color are more likely to face poverty than white girls: over 60% of girls of color are born to families living on low incomes or below the poverty line. They’re also more likely to suffer child sexual abuse, be sexually harassed on the street and at school, and experience dating violence. Distinct differences in the ways in which class, race, immigration status, sexual identity, youth, and other identities intersect in the lives of girls of color also drive unique disparities. Black girls, for example, are six times more likely to be suspended in school than their white peers. Native American girls experience the highest rate of physical assault by an intimate partner. Twenty-seven trans women and girls were murdered in 2016 – all of whom were of color. In the first three months of 2017, seven transgender women and girls of color have already been killed.

For more data, research and other resources, please visit www.grantmakersforgirlsofcolor.org

About the NoVo Foundation

The NoVo Foundation is dedicated to building a more just and balanced world. Founded in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, NoVo has become one of the largest private foundations in the world to support initiatives focused explicitly on girls and women, including dedicated focus on ending violence against girls and women and supporting adolescent girls.  NoVo also works to advance social and emotional learning, support Indigenous communities and promote local living economies. Learn more at www.novofoundation.org.