The spark for creating CTF came from founder Sally Wright, after spending time in Rwanda and witnessing what she saw as the profound healing and reconciliation that has taken place since the genocide of 1994. Listening to the stories of people who were both victims and perpetrators in the horrors of the genocide, she was profoundly moved by their resiliency. She was also struck by how they managed to craft creative solutions to intractable problems.
I believe that conflict literacy among engaged progressives should be the norm. When it is, movements will be more powerful, generative and creative.
Upon returning home to the United States, she was not content to resume her life as a retired entrepreneur. Instead, she liquidated her assets and moved into action, struck by what she saw as a tremendous need for better conflict skills in her own community and the country at large. Sally enlisted the help of some friends and colleagues, and established the Conflict Transformation Fund in 2016.
We launched our grantmaking program in 2017 in the aftermath of the 2016 election. The intensity of conflict in the US was heating up post-election. Hate crimes were on the rise in communities across the country. Families were being torn apart by political divisiveness. More people were waking up to the oppression and injustice built into our social institutions.
We directed our early funding to groups teaching skills for conflict de-escalation, bystander intervention, and dialoguing across differences.
After this initial grant cycle, we paused to catch our breath and inquire into what might be the best strategies for increasing conflict literacy in the US. We launched a Listening Project, interviewing leading conflict transformation experts, innovators, and practitioners. We want to acknowledge Tesa Silvestre who coined the term “conflict literacy,” helped design the Listening Project, and has been a valuable thinking partner during our start-up phase.
Integrating all this information and experience, we decided to adopt a more specific goal of increasing conflict literacy within progressive movements.
CTF is a short-term philanthropic initiative with a long-term vision. We are connecting and collaborating with other funders who share the commitment to building healthier, more effective movements and believe that conflict literacy is a critical component. We made our first small grants in the fall of 2016 and launched a more robust grantmaking program in 2017.
We are actively engaged in conversations with other funders about joining forces to expand and coordinate resourcing for this type of work. This may take the form of a funders collaborative or learning community. If you are interested in exploring these possibilities, please be in touch!