One year ago, I embraced the invitation to step in as the new leader of Tides. Amidst the most uncertain global context in recent history — a racial justice reckoning and a global pandemic — Tides experienced record growth. As I took on the role of CEO, this question sat at the forefront of my mind: How would Tides lean into this moment to create visible, palpable systemic change that results in true shared prosperity and social justice?
We, at Tides, believe it is our responsibility to shift power to effect change. Donors have trusted us to direct their investments toward work that is making meaningful impact in communities. At the same time, our fiscally sponsored partners who are working in communities are in need of operational support and funding to sustain momentum and increase reach as they navigate countless threats brought on by rapidly changing times.
Twenty years ago, I was working at Hewlett-Packard, leading an effort to close the digital divide. When I think about that work, compared to where we are today, I’m baffled and frustrated by the fact that we’re still talking about some of the same challenges. Our young people in marginalized communities are still being denied resources, and these same communities are going without basic necessities. Across Tides, we share a commitment and sense of urgency to address these inequities, knowing that the social sector can do better. We simply must accelerate the pace of change.
Supporting BIPOC Leaders and Organizations
At Tides, we’re asking ourselves the tough questions about what’s been standing in the way of progress. As an intermediary, we want to ensure that we can support our partners wherever they are on their journey toward impact. We see the glaring discrepancy between support that goes to white-led organizations and what goes to BIPOC-led organizations. Tides can play a significant role in addressing this inequity. We occupy a unique space at the nexus of donors and doers (our fiscally sponsored projects), and we possess the ability to move resources more quickly, efficiently, and effectively than we have in the past. As we take on this hard work ahead of us, we’re committed to refining our partnerships, grantmaking, and internal systems to best serve a shift in power that leads to systems change.
One example of our commitment to shift power is the Women’s Environmental Leadership Fund (WE LEAD), which we launched as a Tides-led initiative in April 2020. WE LEAD elevates and supports Black women, women of color, and Indigenous women who are under-resourced leaders on the frontlines of climate justice in the U.S. Through its intersectional approach, WE LEAD intends to grow organizational capacity, encourage bold leadership, build community power through local organizing, and direct funding to often overlooked communities.
Another frontline organization whose impactful work we’re proud to support through Tides Center is Detroit Action Education Fund, a grassroots, community-based organization led by a union of Black and Brown Detroiters fighting for political power in housing and economic justice. Detroit Action Education Fund provides leadership development workshops, internships, nonpartisan voter education, and mobilization drives, and it works closely with organizations that share similar visions for change.
Similarly, the Tides corporate social impact team is partnering with Salesforce to support the Chicago-based Fifth Star Funds, a BIPOC-led startup that’s helping Black tech entrepreneurs establish critical early-stage funding to launch their businesses. This type of capital funding will build a strong foundation for generational wealth in Black communities.
The events of the last two years have prompted us to reflect, reorganize, and reclaim our approach to accelerate change. As more funders seek ways to support BIPOC-led efforts, Tides is strengthening our capacity in service of these movements. We will rise to the demands of this moment to reimagine how to more fiercely and fearlessly build a world of shared prosperity and justice.