The Challenge

Today, young social justice leaders must balance the work of driving movements for change with concerns for their safety and those of their families and communities.

Young immigrants prepare contingency plans in the event they are separated from their parents while Black communities continue to face state-sanctioned violence, over-policing and higher rates of mass incarceration compared to their white neighbors. Trans and gender non-conforming youth remain the public face of an ongoing battle for equal access to education and safety. Girls and young women manage the contradiction of being told they are equal, yet their fundamental right to bodily autonomy remains contested. Disabled youth contend with being left out of policies and decisions that impact their access to essential resources to live and fully participate in society. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will compound financial insecurity for a generation already burdened with historic amounts of student and other debt.

In the face of these considerable challenges, young people are important drivers of social change. They are champions of big ideas such as universal health care, workplace reforms, and calls for extensive expansion of access to the polls. And while support for these policies grows, young people can’t do it alone. They need strong organizations to actualize real, lasting change.

The Ford Foundation, in response to a call to action to support young social justice leaders, anchored the creation of The Next Generation Fund in 2017. Developed in partnership with the Movement Strategy Center’s Innovation Center, the fund works to embed an understanding of healing, trauma, and care into core practices to build and sustain effective young leaders and organizations.

The fund allows us to support a need identified by young organizers. Working in partnership with this next generation, we seek to expand philanthropy’s understanding of what it takes to develop social justice leaders and build their capacity to reimagine and rebuild a more just future.

What’s in the report

Written by Supriya Lopez Pillai, Genaro Lopez Rendon, and Karlos Gauna Schmieder of the Next Generation Fund, this report captures lessons from the fund’s development and design and elevates our partners’ stories of transformation and resilience. It is also a call to action to philanthropy to understand what is at stake if donors do not shift their grantmaking models to provide holistic support for social justice movements and the people that lead them.