Where We’re Headed: Learning and Unlearning

As we pilot our re-designed grant program, it is tempting to recount the Maddox racial equity journey with you—charting our work from 2017 to now, both our learning and unlearning. But instead, I’ll point you to the timeline on our website and the series of blog links that appear below. Suffice it to say, change has come through intentional and ongoing struggle.

What will remain the same going forward is our mission—to make Middle Tennessee a better place through partnerships that improve the lives of young people and protect the natural environment. What will change are our grant strategies and practices in hopes of contributing to a more equitable, just and liberating tomorrow.

Our 2023 pilot grant program is based on several realizations:

  • The well-being of people and planet are intertwined. We can no longer talk about wilderness and wildlife as if they were separate from human thriving, especially in this time of obvious climate change. Our mutual liberation is tied together.
  • At the heart of every inequity lies a race analysis. From educational outcomes to tree canopy, from third grade literacy rates to water quality, from college opportunities to climate migration, an examination of structural violence invariably returns to the construct of race and the determination of white supremacy.
  • Foundations hold a lot of power—extractive wealth, social connections, decision-making authority—yet are largely removed from the inequities their missions seek to address. Philanthropic institutions must share power with communities most impacted by injustice.

Our new youth and environment interest areas reflect our new direction as well as our partnership priorities and eligibility definitions. Instead of business as usual, Maddox will trust nonprofits closest to communities that have been historically and systemically under-resourced.  We invite you to watch our recent in-house video to learn more about these changes and opportunities.

In 2023 we will shift more funding decisions to the community through an HBCU Philanthropy Fellowship and a LGBTQ+ participatory grantmaking process, while also adding more community members to our grant decision process and more diversity to our board. We will continue funding direct service programs but will also shift funding to movements that challenge intrenched policies and practices that perpetuate and further inequities. We will seek to be more accessible, more transparent and more connected to the communities we serve.

In the past year, Maddox examined our own organizational culture and unearthed needed internal healing as well as oppressive power and control practices. Our self-examination required us to slow down and think about the kind of foundation we wanted to be. We turned to nature for guidance as we reset our internal eco-system.

  • Trees teach us we are stronger together
  • Grasslands show us that diversity feeds us
  • Earth teaches us that seeds grow in fertile soil
  • Water teaches to bend, adapt and to keep moving forward
  • Animal communities teach us how to lead and follow

In some Native languages the term for plants translates as “those who take care of us” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass).  Living in lush Middle Tennessee we need only look around us to see that we are rooted in a planet created for shared thriving. The Maddox Fund’s 2023 grant pilot is our first move toward partnering with nature and the community to create a more just and liberating world. With you, we seek a world in which people and planet flourish together in regenerative systems free from oppression and threat.

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