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The Non-Profit Industrial Complex Project in Grand Rapids

February 17, 2013


Over the years we have used the term, the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, to describe the economic and power dynamics that are at work with non-profits and their relationship to private and governmental power.

The term, Non-Profit Industrial Complex, was the focus of a major conference organized by the radical women of color group INCITE! and is the subject of a book they published several years ago entitled, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded.

The book, and the work of many others in this area, asks important questions about the relationship between non-profit organizations and funders, particularly foundations. According to INCITE, “The non-profit industrial complex is a system of relationships between:

  • the State (or local and federal governments)
  • the owning classes
  • foundations
  • and non-profit/NGO social service & social justice organizations

that results in the surveillance, control, derailment, and everyday management of political movements. The state uses non-profits to:images

  • Monitor and control social justice movements;
  • Divert public monies into private hands through foundations;
  • Manage and control dissent in order to make the world safe for capitalism;
  • Redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society;
  • Allow corporations to mask their exploitative and colonial work practices through “philanthropic” work;
  • Encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them

We are just beginning a project that will investigate the Non-Profit Industrial Complex in Grand Rapids that will be in two parts.

The first part will be a series of investigations into Grand Rapids-based foundations, where we will post profiles of numerous foundations and how they are using their money.

The second part will be an investigation into local non-profit organizations, which include a look at where their funding sources are coming from, who sits on their boards and the results of an interview we plan to do with these non-profits about their history and how they navigate between mission and following the money.

We don’t have a rigid time frame for this project, but are looking to have the non-profit interviews/surveys and analysis completed by late May. Profiles of individual Grand Rapids will begin immediately.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Christian permalink
    February 18, 2013 3:57 am

    Great project! I’ve worked for non-profits for many years, including now at one of the tall-steeple downtown churches, and I’m consistently impressed by the amount of good work done by non-profits in this city.

    Sunlight is always a good disinfectant, and transparency is a good virtue for non-profits to model; as such, I hope the organizations contacted by GRIID will be helpful, cooperative, and welcome the chance to speak openly about their work.

  2. March 19, 2013 10:04 am

    Thank you! Will be following this.

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