Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence (Part 3)

This week, The Daily WRAG will feature a three-part series, titled Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence, from guest contributor Linda Bowen of The Institute for Community Peace. In this series Bowen examines lessons learned from past philanthropic investments in violence prevention and offers short vignettes about how funders can frame their thinking around addressing community violence.


By Linda Bowen, Executive Director
The Institute for Community Peace
(Formerly the National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention)

Plan long-term. Public outrage over horrific violent incidents prompts quick reaction to create safety. But it is critical that our response to violence is maintained beyond the crisis that triggered it. Grantmakers need to conceptualize violence prevention as integrated into their long-term place-based work and indistinguishable from the development of healthy social networks. Creating safety is only the first step toward sustainable violence prevention.

Sustain funding. Violence prevention, like many social issues – poverty, education, and health—requires a generation of concerted effort to be effective and sustainable. When violence rates decreased in our country in the late 1990s and early 2000s (and the broader community no longer felt threatened), local, regional, state, and national funding for prevention decreased dramatically. Predictably, national as well as local efforts lost resources, power and momentum, and violence rates increased. Grantmakers who wish to engage on this issue need to overcome their aversion to multiple-year funding and collaboration in order to sustain a comprehensive focus on violence prevention efforts.

Focus on structural change. Our national and local problems with violence are a reflection of the relationship that Americans have with violence. Grantmakers should fund efforts that promote cultural transformation of the broader community and its norms if we are to realize anything like the structural solutions needed to address this problem. Mustering political will for policy change alone is not enough to prevent violence. Changing our relationship with violence will mean promoting values that challenge an ethos of violence.

Expect Resistance. Attempts at structural change always attract strong resistance. Grantmakers need to prepare their grantees, and their own Boards, to meet such resistance with strength, resolve, and concerted efforts to nurture public will. To paraphrase Congresswoman Gifford’s recent testimony to Congress: if we want to solve our national violence problem, we will have to work diligently and steel ourselves for a long, hard push.

Related: Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence (Part 1)

Related: Lessons unheeded, or how not to repeat a history of violence (Part 2)

Copyright 2013 Institute for Community Peace