Seizing the Opportunity to Expand Our Political Discourse

Seizing the Opportunity to Expand Our Political Discourse

Maya Thornell-Sandifor, Learning Strategy Director and Remy Trupin, Catalyst Fellow

In just a few more days, we can finally close the book on the 2016 election season. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting cycle fraught with anxiety and frustration. It would be easy to dismiss the vitriol of the current election as an episodic blip not worth understanding for the long-term work of philanthropy — but experience and common sense tell us that these emotions and currents won’t be put to rest easily after Election Day.

During our Changing the Political Discourse: Working Class Communities on the Front Lines webinar last month, we discussed how the post-election environment will continue to challenge philanthropy with how to engage all communities. This election season has illuminated how many Americans feel that full participation in our democracy is regulated to the privileged and powerful. We are convinced, however, that this climate has created an opening for productive dialogue, moving it further into the places where we continue to be divided as a nation. If anything, the messiness of this political environment has revealed the ways in which we are broken — creating an on-ramp to begin to think creatively and take action towards:

  • Authentically engaging individuals and communities that are feeling disenfranchised, alienated and voiceless in our democracy.
  • Fully addressing the race, class and gender disparities that keep us from moving forward collectively in ways that ensure we all prosper.
  • Shifting the narrative around leadership from one that defines leader as only positional and at the center to a more inclusive definition that puts those most impacted by the systemic social barriers at the forefront of leading social change.

Our panelists — Jesse Beason, Northwest Health Foundation public affairs director; Meg Bostrom, Topos Partnership co-founder; and Eric Ward, Ford Foundation program officer — shared their research, on-the-ground initiatives and personal experiences, providing insights on to how we might move working-class, rural populations away from nativist/racist appeals and to the frontline of policy changes that promote prosperity and racial equity.

Our panelists: Northwest Health Foundation's Jesse Beason, Topos Partnership's Meg Bostrom and Ford Foundation's Eric Ward.

We recorded our conversation and encourage you to listen with an ear towards what’s possible.

Democracy Northwest

As we move forward, Philanthropy Northwest and our new Democracy Northwest initiative will continue to explore ways that funders can and are using advocacy, organizing, policy research and communications to provide leadership on shaping a narrative of possibility and supporting their grantees in embracing new approaches to engaging in advocacy across issues, populations and communities. We invite you to join us on this journey through the intersection of democracy, equity and place.

Additional resources and upcoming events shared during the webinar:

Maya Thornell-Sandifor is Philanthropy Northwest's learning strategy director. She can be reached at
Remy Trupin is Philanthropy Northwest's Catalyst Fellow, focused on advocacy. He can be reached at