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Our Approach

Humanity United’s work is underlined by a core set of beliefs about the systems we are trying to change, and about our role within those systems:

  • We believe in the intrinsic dignity and interconnectedness of all human beings.
  • We believe that enduring change happens when those who are closest to issues have the agency to act and make decisions about what impacts them.
  • We believe that current institutions and power structures, if unchecked, exacerbate inequities for those most impacted by violent conflict and exploitation.
  • We believe that we are most effective when we play a dual role: shifting power to and supporting the agency of those most impacted by violent conflict and exploitation, as well as holding powerful institutions accountable and advocating for structural change.
  • We believe that to be successful we must embrace and model diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice both internally and externally.

What is the core work we are engaged in?

We work at the intersection of human rights, peacebuilding, locally grounded action, and influencing systems to recognize shared humanity.

We focus on two specific programmatic portfolios  of work: Peacebuilding and Forced Labor & Human Trafficking. Our third, cross-cutting portfolio, Public Engagement, includes investigative journalism, policy change, and strategic communications as leverage points to shift harmful systems and practices toward a recognition of shared humanity. In addition, we invest in work on Racial Justice & Equity to address conditions and systems that have long harmed BIPOC lives through prioritizing local agency and community expertise.

How do we carry out this work?

We believe that we have a responsibility to ensure institutions are informed by and responsive to the individuals and communities most impacted by violence and exploitation. We also believe that those individuals and communities should have access to the systems that impact them. In order to meet the needs of our partners and focus on the conditions we seek to cultivate, we anchor our work in five strategic pillars.

1) We work through relationships and networks

We prioritize our relationships with people and networks as a key component of our work. Developing diverse global partnerships helps us understand the inequities and power imbalances inherent in the systems we seek to shift toward justice and inclusion, and how we can best deploy our resources to do so.

Much of our work is locally-driven and network-supported. It is important for HU to be in a relationship not only to local communities but also to the communities and networks of advocates and organizations that are also working for enduring peace and freedom. By investing in networks, we acknowledge the power of collective action.

2) We practice a philosophy of “accompaniment”

The deep inequity of access to financial capital and broken accountability structures that reinforce the power of certain institutions remains a persistent challenge. We acknowledge we are part of that system. As a result, we are on an active journey of devolving power to those who are closest to the issues—within our organization, in the U.S., and around the world.

When we engage in relationships with our partners and grantees, we practice accompaniment – a long-term, multi-year commitment to walking alongside partners in a way that reinforces the sufficiency, capacity, and power of their own approaches. This means we engage as deeply with our partners as they want us to. Accompaniment isn’t directive and requires a willingness to trust and adapt.

3) We are learning-focused, systems-enabled, and people-centered

Our relationships with our partners hinge on mutual learning. We actively strive to shift away from extractive models of learning in philanthropy and toward an approach of facilitating shared knowledge. A systems lens helps us better understand the complexity of the environments in which we operate and informs and affects decisions about how to adapt effectively. We approach our decisions based on how individuals have to live their lives, honoring the spirit of ubuntu (“I am because we are”).

Our program strategies must be emergent, responsive, and inclusive of the communities we serve – those who experience first-hand the exploitation and violent conflict we seek to address.

4) We are expansive in our efforts

We are a grantmaking foundation that employs many different tools to support our partners and effect change. Our core strengths, in addition to our ability to fund partners’ work, are our people, their collective experience and knowledge, and our expansive relationships. We deploy a flexible set of tools, including financial support, network weaving, advocacy, and strategic communications. We lead specific initiatives when appropriate, but always in partnership.

5) We invest internally so we can grow together with our partners

In service to our mission, we build and maintain a values-based, responsive, and resilient organization that is best positioned to serve our partners over time. HU staff share a purpose, are empowered in their work, and can imagine new approaches to the issues we are focused on. We intentionally invest in the people that comprise Humanity United, including a strong and healthy culture, and the core competencies that are vital to this line of work.

What are the conditions for enduring peace and freedom?

At Humanity United, our mission is to cultivate the conditions for enduring peace and freedom. While these conditions can change as we learn and adapt, at this time we are focused on cultivating:

Agency – We support efforts to shift and build the power of individuals and communities to determine and pursue the outcomes or solutions that best address their needs. What we aim to see is a shift of power that results in increased  agency.

Accountable and Responsive Institutions – We use our influence and proximity to power, often working through networks, to make certain key institutions accountable and responsive to the people most impacted by human exploitation and violent conflict.

Recognition of Shared Humanity – We support efforts that recognize and advance the shared humanity, interconnectedness, and intrinsic dignity of all human beings.

To learn more about our work and approach, read our Organizational Strategy.

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