Empower directly impacted communities

“Empower directly impacted communities’’, says US expert

Read a Q and A session with Chloe Cockburn, of Open Philanthropy in the US, in the lead up to next week’s Virtual Progress conference. Chloe works in the criminal justice policy and practice area, a deeply relevant topic in the Black Lives Matter era. Here’s an extract from the Q and A.

Q: Australia has its own poor record on the incarceration of our Indigenous people. Are there lessons for advocates here from the US experience? And learnings for funders and philanthropists?

A: My expertise is in the U.S.’s criminal justice system, and I’ve focused on trying to reduce incarceration in the U.S. I’m not sure if the same strategies applied in Australia would achieve similar outcomes. But I would encourage funders and philanthropists to make concerted efforts to empower directly impacted communities whenever possible, and not to insert their own judgment for that of leaders on the ground. This means providing bold financial backing to strategic leaders from your most affected communities. And if there’s a choice between funding a think tank to write about these issues, and funding an organizer to build power and campaigns around them, fund the organizer.

I’d also encourage funders to look for actors in the system who have the power to make policy changes, and ensure that communities are resourced to incentivize them to push for less incarceration. Two examples of this from the U.S. are the increasing mobilization around holding prosecutors accountable, including through elections work, and a community-driven ballot initiative in Los Angeles that will require the county government (which has a budget of $30 billion a year) to take a new direction on its massive jail system.

Read the full interview on the Better Giving Hub here.


Chloe Cockburn leads Open Philanthropy’s strategy for investing in criminal justice policy and practice reforms to substantially reduce incarceration while maintaining public safety. Prior to joining Open Philanthropy, she oversaw state policy reform work for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. Previously, Chloe worked with the Vera Institute and a national civil rights law firm in New York. She is a special guest in the Philanthropy Stream of next week’s Virtual Progress conference.

She will host a workshop on how to find the right leaders and movement strategies to fund, with a case study on criminal justice philanthropy. Chloe will also be in discussion on funding criminal justice advocacy with Cindy Penrose (Paul Ramsay Foundation), John Harding (Koondee-Woonga-gat Toor-rong Fund), Roxanne Moore (NATSILS) and Carly Stanley and Keenan Mundine (Deadly Connections

The Philanthropy Stream of Virtual Progress is a philanthropy-only space to hear from international guests, Australian peers and leading advocates on how to support effective advocacy in this moment. 

When: 2:45-5:00pm, June 23 and 10:30am-12:30pm, June 24

Where: Online via Zoom

What: 20+ speakers including Chloe Cockburn (Open Philanthropy, US), Will Somerville (Unbound Philanthropy, UK), Cindy Penrose (Paul Ramsay Foundation), Stacey Thomas (Wyatt Foundation), Ferdi Hepworth (Equity Trustees and William Buckland Foundation), Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS) and Dr Jackie Huggins AM.

Who: 50+ philanthropists sharing ideas, frameworks and case-studies for supporting effective advocacy in this moment.

RSVP: If you are a philanthropist, please register for a complimentary ticket to the Philanthropy Stream here. Anyone is also welcome to purchase a full conference ticket at the same link.

Foundation Maps: Australia

Do you want to know who is funding what and where across Australia?

Learn more

COVID-19 Funding Opportunities

Access the Australian Communities Foundation National Funding Portal for philanthropic funders to connect with the funding opportunities available to tackle COVID-19.

Access Portal here