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Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance
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Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,410 ratings  ·  183 reviews
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 mirro
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published October 2018)
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Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this book, but it felt empty to me. I agree 100% with everything he says, but his examples and stories do not really support his theory that philanthropy is modern colonization. I love the new critiques of philanthropy (the winner takes all book is fantastic), but this book is a hodgepodge of stuff--listen to native people, white supremacy is real, it's hard for people of color to work in these organizations, etc. I wanted a more either data-driven or at least theory ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
On my third reading already, soaking the wisdom of the healing practices outlined, into my bones. I will be gifting this book to my community, whether or not they are in the non-profit/philanthropy/impact fields.

During Part One of the book, "Where It Hurts," I was astounded by the beauty and love with which the author lays out fundamental issues in wealth acquisition, retention and distribution and common issues in philanthropy. He is honest, shares intimately and also very generous - immediate
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a phenomenal read, and a clarion call to rethink the way foundations and philanthropic organizations operate, relate to others and seek to create change in the world. The subtitle of the book: “Indigenous wisdom to heal divides and restore balance” is a theme throughout, and Villanueva’s thoughtful, generous reflections on how we need everyone in order to create a decolonized world left me with softer perspectives, a wider heart and a desire to live my life in deep relationship with ...more
Karen Ashmore
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Everyone in the nonprofit and philanthropy fields should read this book. Villanueva describes the current state of philanthropy more concerned about endowments, minimal payouts and ROI, rather than the true meaning of giving. Money, used as medicine, can help us decolonize with the Seven Steps of Healing: Grieve, Apologize, Listen, Relate, Represent, Invest, and Repair. As a member of the Lumbee nation in NC, his words are full of indigenous wisdom.

He illustrated his points with many stories of
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This is the most important book I've read all year. It's a must-read for everyone. ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m very glad I read this book. It’s an easy read by someone who has worked most of his professional career in philanthropy. As a Native American he uses the lens of his life to dissect the racism of the structures within which he has worked. He does it in a direct and very clear way while telling the story with warmth and humor. He tells painful truths and gives examples of ways in which institutions both fail and succeed at facing the truths of the privilege within which they operate. While re ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't even begin to explain how necessary this book is in the field of philanthropy and wealth in general. Villanueva writes from the perspective of a Native person who has spent 15 (sometimes painful) years in philanthropy. The title of the book sounds a bit less practical than the content actually is. It gives real things that foundations and other wealth-having organizations can do to decolonize how they distribute and manage that wealth. It's a constant struggle where I work, and I'm sure ...more
W.L. Bolm
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think that this should be read by everyone who works in philanthropy and nonprofits. I think it could also benefit people interested in ethical investing. It lays a lot of groundwork; for me, the most important information was on organizations that area already moving away from top-down philanthropy. I hope Villanueva continues to write the stories of organizations that are succeeding at breaking away from the toxic practices that pull us all down.
Savannah Tracy
Jun 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Required reading for anyone who works in nonprofits or foundations. However, definitely not my handbook for the revolution. Rooted too solidly in capitalism and reforms instead of real & extensive systems reimagining for me, but who is surprised when the theme of the book is “money as medicine”. But still, id strongly recommend this for any nonprofit or foundation folks who need a primer on the ways colonialism and white supremacy inform the nonprofit industrial complex.
Samantha Fleurinor
Jul 01, 2021 rated it liked it
More like 3.5. The author argues that money can be medicine to help heal the legacy of oppression and colonization of Black and Indigenous communities. While I appreciate his anecdotes and his ability to connect indigenous storytelling in this book, I'm not convinced that money is medicine. The book lacks a system's analysis as it relates to wealth attainment and distribution in the U.S. The audience for this book seems to be other funders and philanthropist who are just beginning their journey ...more
Brooke Dilling
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like his approach and thinking with this book. It’s tied to previous ideas that have worked in South Africa with the ending of apartheid.

I would like to have faith that this is achievable in America, but how to begin and how to get big funders to support these sorts of changes?
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Colonization seems totally normal because the history books are full of it—and because to this day many colonizing powers talk about colonization not with shame but with pride in their accomplishments—it’s so strange. Conquering is one thing: you travel to another place and take its resources, kill the people who get in your way, and then go home with your spoils. But in colonization, you stick around, occupy the land, and force the existing Indigenous people to become you. It’s like a zombie i ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My boss gave me this book to read, and it has opened my eyes to the realities of philanthropy. I'm an idealist, and for as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of changing the world and helping people. Big dreams, sure, but also extremely abstract, something that I've realized as I've grown older.

When my parents and the rational side of my brain have pushed, I've entertained fleeting thoughts of doing something in philanthropy, but what or how, I couldn't have told you. After reading this book,
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this book! (Should be required.) Edgar Villanueva, the author, a Native American, is an experienced philanthropist officer for Foundations, and well-versed in his craft. But as he says, "Philanthropy, honey, we need an intervention." While the focus begins with philanthropy, the same dynamics apply to loans, venture capital, municipal bonds, impact investment, etc. His point is colonialism continues to be what ails both business and philanthropy and holds back our country, especially its po ...more
Shannon Wyss
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that should be required reading for everyone in philanthropy. There are so very many critical thoughts and questions here that stand to make all of our work better if we take them seriously. Many thanks to Villanueva for writing this incisive, important work.
Jenifer Holland
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched, great balance between date and interviews/narrative. Really important and timely for anyone that cares about the social sector in the U.S.

Full disclosure: BoardSource data are quoted twice in this book (and I did not know that before I read it).
Daniel Madrigal
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look inside the world of philanthropy and how the problems of the world and present themselves in the very institutions that seek progress.
gorgeous, clear, and compelling narrative that guts you in its process of healing, urgently opening the underbelly of the system of philanthropy.
Jonathan Cunningham
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read on the field of philanthropy. This book is solid. ...more
Stacie Hanson
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone working in the non-profit/philanthropy sector. We've got to rethink everything. ...more
Sep 22, 2020 rated it liked it
If you're thinking about what the whole "decolonize" issue is about, this is a good read. Villanueva tells a personal story that translates for anyone trying to figure out how colonization could still be an issue in the modern day. The shadow is long and unrecognized -- until you think about how we do business and why certain patterns of prosperity and loss replay generation after generation. His story and deconstructing of a system is centered on the world of philanthropy, but he weaves in othe ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. To friends who work in philanthropy, social/impact investing, or even just control a donor-advised fund: This book challenged my internal preconceptions and assumptions about best practices in grantmaking. It also helped me better understand, recognize and address aspects of philanthropy that make me uncomfortable. I hope you allow it to do the same for you. This book is a good complement to Anand Giridharadas' Winners Take All, and Tema Okun's writing on recognizing white supremacy c ...more
Rachel Wells
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastically written critique of the philanthropy industry and call to action. I appreciated Villanueva's balance between not holding anything back in identifying colonization & racism in wealth distribution and yet still providing practical approaches to address these realities. My biggest takeaway was the application of psychology knowledge of victims & perpetrators to the cycle of wealth distribution based on colonization. ...more
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Native way is to bring the oppressor into our circle of healing. Healing cannot occur unless everyone is part of the process. Let it begin."
This book is a thoughtful provocative perspective on how foundations were built off the stolen wealth from the land and black and brown people, evade taxes to supposedly do good by donating money to mostly white led Nonprofits.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is four stars at diagnosing the problem and nearly that at the solutions part. It was, in fact, much better than I had anticipated. But for me white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism... They are all different heads of the same beast. We cannot end one without ending the others. It's like on the tip of his tongue but he doesn't want to say it. Actual implementation requires an end to capitalist accumulation, to the stock market, to foundations ...more
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book to read if you are in Philanthropy, Corporate Social Responsibility, or engaging in acts of love for humanity. Good to read after or during a reading (or re-reading) of White Fragility.
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This book felt more directed to those working in foundations. However, the 2nd half has a very practical set of steps to better analyze your own racist practices and the racist systemic practices within most workplaces. This is an accessible book that can be read relatively quickly.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very accessible and important for all those in charge of moving money and white people to read. There are opportunities where more theory could be included, but if it left you searching there are loads of resources at the end !
Edgar Villanueva, a Native American of the Lumbee tribe grew up in a low-income, rural North Carolina community. After completing his Masters in Health Care Administration at the University of North Carolina, he went to work for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust (KBR). Located in Winston Salem, NC, KBR’s money came from the estate of tobacco tycoon, R. J. Reynolds and was largely controlled by Wachovia Bank where its money was housed. With over $530 million in assets KBR has historically giv ...more
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“Colonial, white supremacist organizational practices seem inevitable because they were so universally adopted over the next centuries, and they still govern the great majority of our institutions, but they were design choices. This means that other choices are available, even when they seem far-fetched. We know what spices and organizations look like, feel like, and function like when they are inspired by the colonizers’ principles of separation, competition and exploitation. How would they be different if they were based on principles like integration and interdependence, reciprocity and relationship?” 3 likes
“Some may say it’s tiresome to dwell on the hurt- after all there’s a relentless (if artificial) drive to Stay Positive! in America, to focus only on solutions—yet an essential step in the process of decolonization is hearing the painful stories of the colonized and the exploited, respectfully and with an open heart.” 3 likes
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