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“Reorganize Power for Systems Change”, report from the 6th annual EDGE Funders conference

Impressions of the EDGE Conference 2017

This April, for the first time outside of the U.S., 260 funders, donors and movement allies came together to “Reorganize Power for Systems Change” at the 6th annual EDGE Funders conference.

While funder and civil society partners from across the globe have made EDGE an international space since its beginnings, bringing the conference to Europe allowed EDGE to fully embrace the still new transatlantic nature of the Alliance, to bring European and American funders together, and to more formally step into its role as global convener. Convening in Barcelona allowed for the rich activist history of the city to inspire us throughout our days together. From the preconference “fishbowl” discussions on concrete ways Just Transition manifests in movement spaces, to walking tours throughout the city, to panel discussions, engagement labs, dine arounds, site visits and more, EDGE Conference 2017 brought us all a little closer to answering the hard questions and strategies we’ve been developing since the start of EDGE, namely:  how can we be more effective and collaborative at dismantling oppressions while moving resources to key sectors and constituencies working to promote systemic alternatives at the local, national, and international levels, while simultaneously “building the new” in just, inclusive, equitable and sustainable ways?

This year’s conference was our second year working in a semi-open conference format, and once again with the expert guidance of facilitator Adrienne Maree Brown, lab leaders shepherded conversations about systems change across seven broad topics, engaging in deep discussion, cross-sector relationship building and both personal and professional growth. In topics ranging from regenerative economics to nonextractive narratives and worldviews, conference participants committed to investing time, thought and heart into listening, sharing, and sharpening the vision of the world we want to live in. And while the open conference format sometimes seemed messy, we come to understand that stepping away from the typical rhythm of speakers and audience fit more with EDGE’s organizational personality, our political and social commitments, and our “outside-the-box” ways of thinking about the world we’re trying to build together.

The EDGE community’s challenge felt particularly daunting this year, considering the accelerating rise of right wing and often radicalised populism, corporate power and enclosures of the commons all over the globe. Many participants joining us came from situations of great violence and struggle in their home countries. Acknowledging this sacrifice, the work accomplished and relationships built over our days together are all the more precious, and reinforce EDGE’s critical responsibilities in philanthropy and towards our movement partners at large. As a key global funder conference inclusive of working sessions with civil society activists and grassroots movement partners, the breaking down of barriers among sectors at the conference reflects the shattering of borders we seek in the broader world.

A Barcelona Commitment Statement for EDGEmembers and concrete recommendations from movement partners challenge us all to step up, bring our personal and political commitments to our professional environments, and deepen our solidarity with one another.

Thank you for joining us, and see you next year!

EDGE Funders Alliance

See the full report (PDF)

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