Decolonizing Wealth is a provocative analysis of the dysfunctional colonial dynamics at play in philanthropy and finance. Award-winning philanthropy executive Edgar Villanueva draws from the traditions from the Native way to prescribe the medicine for restoring balance and healing our divides.
Though it seems counterintuitive, the philanthropic industry has evolved to mirror colonial structures and reproduces hierarchy, ultimately doing more harm than good. After 14 years in philanthropy, Edgar Villanueva has seen past the field's glamorous, altruistic façade, and into its shadows: the old boy networks, the savior complexes, and the internalized oppression among the "house slaves," and those select few people of color who gain access. All these funders reflect and perpetuate the same underlying dynamics that divide Us from Them and the haves from have-nots. In equal measure, he denounces the reproduction of systems of oppression while also advocating for an orientation towards justice to open the floodgates for a rising tide that lifts all boats. In the third and final section, Villanueva offers radical provocations to funders and outlines his Seven Steps for Healing.
With great compassion--because the Native way is to bring the oppressor into the circle of healing--Villanueva is able to both diagnose the fatal flaws in philanthropy and provide thoughtful solutions to these systemic imbalances. Decolonizing Wealth is a timely and critical book that preaches for mutually assured liberation in which we are all inter-connected.
About the Author
Edgar Villanueva is a nationally recognized expert on social justice philanthropy. He has consulted with numerous philanthropies on advancing racial equity. He is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe and resides in New York City.
“Edgar outlines with compassion and clarity thoughtful and practical steps toward aligning our money with our values. There are important lessons here for anyone working in finance or philanthropy.” —Keith Mestrich, President and CEO, Amalgamated Bank
“Decolonizing Wealth is a must-read for philanthropists and donors looking to achieve the change we want to see in the world. Compelling, honest, and kind, Edgar is clear that we must free funding resources and the philanthropic sector itself from frameworks that further exacerbate the problems rather than bring us closer to identifying and activating the solutions.” —Alicia Garza, cocreator of Black Lives Matter Global Network, and Principal, Black Futures Lab
“Edgar has broken through the tired jargon of philanthropy-speak and written a fresh, honest, painful, and hopeful book, grounded in his own truths and Native traditions. He offers some radical thinking about what it would take to bring about a world where power and accountability shifted and communities controlled the resources vital to their strength and futures.” —Gara LaMarche, President, Democracy Alliance; former President, Atlantic Philanthropies; and former Vice President and Director of US Programs, Open Society Foundations
“Due to years of detrimental federal Indian policy and discriminatory economic systems, Native American communities have been marginalized and left out of the economic opportunity experienced by other Americans. Edgar offers a new vision and an Indigenous perspective that can put us on a better path. Everyone should read Decolonizing Wealth, especially those who control the flow of resources in government, philanthropy, and finance.” —LaDonna Harris (Comanche), politician, activist, and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity
“Edgar’s sojourn into the soul and depths of philanthropy is equal parts thoughtful, discomforting, and illuminating . . . It challenges the reader to confront matters of race, oppression, privilege, and arrogance in the pursuit of humanity and social justice.” —Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment
“By anchoring the solutions to America’s ills in the wisdom and knowledge of its original people, Edgar challenges all of us to analyze how our nation’s history of racism and disenfranchisement has infected its financial and giving institutions.” —Heather McGhee, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos
“Decolonizing Wealth offers a refreshing and inspired look at how wealth can better serve the needs of communities of color and atone for the ways in which it has traditionally been used to inflict harm and division. Using a solutions-oriented framing, Edgar makes a solid case for how Indigenous wisdom can be used as a guiding light to achieve greater equity in the funding and philanthropic world.” —Kevin Jennings, President, Tenement Museum
“Edgar has gone out on a limb to help lead us to a place of healing. He bravely calls out the power dynamics within the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, particularly the white supremacy institutionally embedded into the system of nonprofit supplicant and philanthropic largesse.” —Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
“Finally, a Native perspective on how to heal internal systemic challenges. Decolonizing Wealth not only is an unflinching examination of today’s philanthropic institutions and the foundations upon which they were built but also offers critical wisdom applicable to many sectors.” —Sarah Eagle Heart (Lakota), CEO, Native Americans in Philanthropy
“Edgar reinserts purpose and humanity into a philanthropic industry that has too often been driven by wealth accumulation, grant cycles, portfolios, and metrics. Inspired by an Indigenous worldview, the book pushes philanthropy back toward its original meaning, ‘love for humanity.’” —John H. Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education
“If you want to know how funders can redeem our souls, this book is a critical step in the right direction. Edgar is a courageous voice shaping a new era of activist grantmaking, one centered on achieving, not just studying opportunity and racial equity.” —Eric K. Ward, philanthropist and Executive Director, Western States Center
“Finally! A book that tackles a topic previously only discussed in the hallways and lobbies of conference spaces. Until we acknowledge that the wealth of this country is built on this legacy, we can’t be deliberate in our efforts to decolonize and heal our communities.” —Dana Arviso (Diné), philanthropist and former Executive Director, Potlatch Fund
“Edgar’s raw examination of the funder world acknowledges the imbalanced power dynamics that exist but puts forward innovative thinking to challenge the status quo and identify solutions that benefit us all. Decolonizing Wealth is a book that will leave you hopeful and inspired for the future.” —Mayra Alvarez, President, The Children’s Partnership
“Edgar’s voice will help shape the future of a philanthropy that systemically reverses the toxic inequalities that threaten the very fabric of our human existence. It gives me hope for the soul of our sector.” —Pia Infante, Co–Executive Director, The Whitman Institute
“We should all be grateful to Edgar Villanueva for helping us understand, by sharing Indigenous wisdom, that there is a path toward a more transformative approach to wealth, to investment, and to giving. We cannot truly call ourselves ethical, progressive, or mission-aligned investors until we have wrestled honestly with the fundamental issues raised in this book.” —Andrea Armeni, cofounder and Executive Director, Transform Finance
“With Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar offers a much-needed and timely gift to help funders listen, learn, and act in a different and better way by thinking and giving indigenously.” —Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), President and CEO, First Nations Development Institute
“Charity and philanthropy rarely offer meaningful challenges to systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. Decolonizing Wealth is an important contribution to the grassroots struggles to transform society and shift the way we think about our relationship with money.” —Jordan Flaherty, author of No More Heroes
“For charities and donors trying to shift the giving paradigm and channel resources in ways that are truly equitable, Edgar’s ideas for solutions—based on Indigenous culture and traditions—couldn’t come at a better time.” —Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice
“Decolonizing Wealth offers an arrow to pierce the status quo. While the heart of the revolution for justice is not dependent on philanthropic support, there can be a powerfully effective role for mindful philanthropy to respectfully contribute to the reimagining and actualization of a more just world for future generations.” —Tia Oros Peters (Shiwi), Executive Director, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples
Having been both grantseeker and grankmaker, I welcome any wisdom that can release us from a relationship of paternalism and enable true partnership. Nothing is more important to decolonize than money -- without it, change is slower and harder, and comes too late for too many people. Edgar Villanueva is a fresh voice in the money scene, one we should all heed. —Rinku Sen, author and strategist