Inclusive Impact

Effective Change Requires Proximate Leaders

In a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Tulaine Montgomery, Dr. Angela Jackson, and John Kania offer a powerful premise - proximity as expertise - that can not only change the balance of power in the social sector, but help drive equity in society at large.

October 7, 2020

We are facing unprecedented health, economic, and ecological challenges as a nation, with a through line of systemic inequity running through all of them. Why is this happening? Because our institutions were built to exclude the knowledge and expertise of those people who are most proximate to both the problems that we seek to solve and the bountiful talent needed to solve them.

In their recently published article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Effective Change Requires Proximate Leaders,” Tulaine Montgomery (a New Profit Managing Partner and lead of our Inclusive Impact strategy), Dr. Angela Jackson (a New Profit Partner and co-lead of our Future of Work initiative), and John Kania (a former New Profit Executive-in-Residence and the Executive Director of Collective Change Lab) are calling for an entirely new approach in social problem solving that centers the voices, talents, and expertise of those proximate leaders from Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. 

Philanthropy and the rest of the social sector must build greater support for proximate leaders who are capable of creating solutions that are both sustainable and transformative. These proximate leaders will enable the sector to fully tap the human potential of the most vulnerable and marginalized, leading to a more just and equitable world for all.

— Tulaine Montgomery, Dr. Angela Jackson, and John Kania

To expand upon the idea of proximate leadership, the article incorporates case studies of leaders who have the experience, relationships, and knowledge that are essential to developing innovative solutions. This comes through in highlights of the work of grantee-partner GirlTrek and former grantee-partners The Family Independence Initiative (FII) and Flikshop.

Being a proximate leader is about much more than being exposed to or studying a group of people and its struggles to overcome adversity. It’s about actually being a part of that group or being meaningfully guided by that group’s input, ideas, agendas, and assets.

— Tulaine Montgomery, Dr. Angela Jackson, and John Kania

The theory of proximate impact is central to our Inclusive Impact strategy and the work that we do at New Profit. Launched in February 2020, the Inclusive Impact initiative is designed to drive unprecedented capital and support to some of our nation’s most promising innovators—Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x social entrepreneurs. Despite making up 30% of the population, Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x leaders hold only 10% of nonprofit executive leadership roles and 6% of foundation executive leadership roles. Organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x leaders receive only an estimated 4% of total grants and contributions in the sector today, and that funding is largely small-dollar, short-term, and restricted, leaving these leaders with little room to innovate and grow. We believe this needs to change. Read more here: Bridging the Capital Gap for Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a/x Social Entrepreneurs

For further information on the data behind this initiative and our belief in proximity as expertise, see Tulaine Montgomery’s recent article in Worth, “This Data Should Change Philanthropy Forever.”