What Equity Means to Me: Tania Bhattacharyya

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Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. As OCG prepared for our 2020 Summit, “Equity in Action: Stories of Innovation & Collaboration” we are pleased to share with you how different members of our community understand, and most importantly, put into practice, equity. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.

Our second blog post in this series comes from Tania Bhattacharyya, Foundation Executive Director of New Directions for Women in Costa Mesa, CA. Tania received her BA in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently an active board member of Impact Giving, a women’s collective giving organization, and also serves on the OCG 2020 Summit Committee.

The OC Grantmakers Summit 2020 theme is Equity in Action.

It’s fitting because bringing all aspects of the philanthropy community to learn from each other addresses and heals inherent inequities in the philanthropy space itself.

I’m proud to be on the planning committee for this summit for three big reasons.

The Summit Fosters Connection and Abundance, rather than Competition and Scarcity

The ails of society are all interconnected. I work in substance use disorder recovery which is inextricably linked to homelessness, domestic violence, and criminal justice reform (among many other issues).

To make lasting impact, we should aim our collective power at fixing these issues holistically, rather than thinking about our specific cause or organization in a silo.

So often, scarcity mindset pits potential allies as competitors. A mentor once shared, “If you have competitors, you’re in the wrong business. You need to go sell shoes!”

At last year’s summit, I sat next to Lauren. She runs a nonprofit sober active community in Costa Mesa. Scarcity mindset (which I liken to the devil on my shoulder) says there’s not enough funding for both of our organizations.

It squeaks, “Protect your relationships! Hide your grants calendar! Don’t share your secrets!”

But leaning into an abundance mindset reveals the magic of collaboration. There are more than enough resources to support us all. The open conversations that started at that table allowed us to grow both organizations’ work,  ultimately putting the community of sober people we serve first and foremost – which is where the community served should always be.

There’s also scarcity mindset present in relationships between some funders and fundees, demonstrated in requiring lengthy grant reporting or only providing hyper-restricted grants (scarcity of trust). Vice versa, nonprofits fundraisers may feel stymied by intimidating power dynamics (scarcity of power).   

By gathering in community, we meet human to human. We can move closer to becoming trusted, equal partners with one another, whatever that looks like. After all, it’s all about relationships.  Speaking of …

The Summit Helps Build Equitable Relationships

Philanthropy is a person to person art. Building transparent relationships based on trust is a vital part of fundgiving and fundraising.

However, relationship access isn’t always equitable amongst nonprofits.  Sometimes funders or other powerful connectors are inaccessible to organizations working in marginalized communities, while other organizations are well connected by virtue of the space they work in. 

You need to have access to build key relationships but to gain access, you need relationships in the first place. A Catch-22.

In a setting where all areas of philanthropy come together in a spirit of openness, understanding and learning, we can ALL not only build relationships, but have honest and respectful conversations – including disagreements.  

The Summit Provides an Opportunity to Trust the Process

My friend Adriana’s company funds nonprofit work. She shared a poignant example where their in-kind gift of broadcasting a nonprofit’s Public Service Announcement led to a huge level of donation – 4x the “value” of the PSA itself.  

Am I the only one whose little Scarcity Voice pushes us to zoom in on potential gifts of cash? Do you ever find yourself going to an event with an agenda, feeling like you need to sit next to “so and so”? 

The Summit provides an opportunity to practice letting go of that hustle and enjoying the company of whoever you’re with (whether virtually or in-person).

The dynamics of the Summit have been set up where “asks” are not part of the process but learning from others is. The others in the room can create some lift, some runway, some soft introduction.

By trusting in the timing, we move away from a transactional experience of philanthropy to its intended nature – one where power and support flows freely and openly to support the community served.

The OCG Summit is equity in practice, providing a springboard to conversation, insight, and collaboration so we can all continue solving the issues together. In a world that feels fragmented at best, the timing could not be better!

More To Explore

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.