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Recommendations from the Field: 2019 Must-Reads

What is something you read, listened to, or watched this year that impacted the way you think about your work? We asked folks across the social sector for recommendations and were thrilled to see the incredible list they put together. Here’s what they said. What would you add?

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What is something you read, listened to, or watched this year (regardless of when it came out) that impacted the way you think about your work? We asked folks across the social sector for recommendations and were thrilled to see the incredible list they put together. Here’s what they said. What would you add? Comment below or tweet us.

These recommendations were provided by:

Recognizing Community Strengths and Expertise

“Who Is an Expert?”

by Farida Bena

We need to rethink what expertise means within the development and aid sector.

“The Alternative: Most of what you believe about poverty is wrong”

by Mauricio L. Miller

Many charitable programs fail to recognize people’s hard work and talents. This book argues we should invest in people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses.

“Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design”

by Kat Holmes

Inclusive design methods—designing objects with rather than for excluded users—can create solutions that work well and benefit everyone. 

Rethinking Systems

“Just Mercy”

by Bryan Stevenson

A powerful true story from Bryan Stevenson about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America. You can also watch Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk here. 

“Research: Health Systems, Like Patients, Can Suffer From Misdiagnosis”

by Partners In Health

A new study says health system improvements initially can create misleading data, leading people to eliminate new programs or funding streams before they have a chance to succeed.

“Payer Philanthropy Won’t Improve Social Determinants of Health”

by Jacob Reider

Payer philanthropy often lacks accountability, but collaborative networks of providers might be a solution.

“Women at Work: Let’s Do Less Dead-End Work”

by Harvard Business Review

Why women wind up with so much office drudgery and how to change that.

“Soil to Sky: Climate Solutions That Work”

by Thousand Currents

This report lifts up solutions that have often been excluded from climate philanthropy yet have great potential for scaled impact on the climate crisis.

Reframing History

“The 1619 Project”

by the New York Times

A multimedia series marking 400 years since the forced arrival of enslaved Africans and reframing the country’s history, the consequences of slavery, and the contributions of Black Americans.

“Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America”

by Victoria W. Wolcott

This book tells the story of the battle for African Americans to access leisure space in cities all over the U.S.

“American Experience: We Shall Remain”

by PBS

This multimedia series examines moments in American history from Native Americans’ perspectives.

Imagining a More Equitable Approach to Philanthropy

“Decolonizing Wealth”

by Edgar Villanueva

An analysis of the dysfunctional colonial dynamics at play in philanthropy and a prescription for healing.

“Dana Kawaoka-Chen: Justice Funders’ Framework for Philanthropic Transformation”

by Lift Economy podcast

In this podcast episode, Dana Kawaoka-Chen talks about the problematic roots of philanthropy and re-imagines a more values-aligned system.

“Indigenizing Philanthropy”

by Daisee Francour

This blog post shares what it would look like to shift the philanthropic value system to one that better reflects the values of Indigenous Peoples.

“Womxn Talk Philanthropy”

by Jen Bokoff

A Twitter list of women and femmes who offer incredible insights, drive, and direction.

Understanding Racism, Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

“Code Switch”

by NPR

A podcast about race, ethnicity, and culture and how they play out in our lives.

“Seeing White”

by Scene on Radio

A podcast series that delves into where the notion of “whiteness” came from and what it means.

“How to Be an Antiracist”

by Ibram X. Kendi

This book asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like and how we can play an active role in building it.

“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays”

by Damon Young

A memoir-in-essays that explores the ever-shifting definitions of what it means to be Black and male in America.

“We Were Eight Years in Power”

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This selection of essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the voices, ideas, and movements that emerged during the Obama era, including “The Case for Reparations” which argues that until the U.S. reckons with the compounding moral debts owed to Black Americans, the country will never be whole.

“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism”

by Robin DiAngelo

This book examines the dynamics of how white people in North America respond to racial stress and how they might build capacity to work toward racial justice.

“Culture Stew”

by Maria Morukian

This blog and podcast explores the intersections of identities and ways to build thriving teams, organizations, and communities through the lens of identity, culture, and equity.

“No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America”

by Darnell L. Moore

A memoir about Darnell Moore’s journey from survival to fighting for liberation.

Seeking Healing in Social Justice

“Healing Justice: Building Power, Transforming Movements”

by Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

This report shares how nonprofits, community advisors, and funders approach healing justice work, or resiliency and survival practices.


by Caitlin Breedlove

This podcast talks about how movements and justice seekers can find spiritual fortification, including the Season 3, Episode 10 conversation which explores healing justice and building movement culture.

Editor’s Choice

“Philanthropists Bench Women of Color, the M.V.P.s of Social Change”

by Vanessa Daniel

This blog post lays out six reasons women of color leading grassroots nonprofits are shut out of funding, and why this hurts all of us.

“Why Am I Always Being Researched?”

by Chicago Beyond

A guidebook to help community organizations, researchers, and funders reconsider the ways research has “always been done,” ask hard questions, unlock meaningful knowledge, and achieve greater impact.

“How “Movement Capture” Shaped the Fight for Civil Rights”

paper by Megan Ming Francis

Ming Francis’ paper, highlighted in this Vox article and in this Tiny Spark podcast episode, shows how funders can unintentionally co-opt movements and steer them away from their original mission.

“The Art of Systems Change: Eight Guiding Principles for a Green and Fair Future”

by The Fuller Systems Transformation Collaborative

This book lays out a vision and an actionable plan to help you navigate complex systems and seek sustainable solutions.

Thank you to everyone who shared their recommendations, and thanks to everyone who created these resources and contributed to conversations that strengthen our ability to make change.


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