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Summary

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.

©2018 Edgar Villanueva (P)2018 Edgar Villanueva

Critic reviews

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)

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  • Tosha Downey
  • 17-05-20

Great subject masterfully narrated

The author offers a powerful look into the world of philanthropy. The honesty and candor shared in this book are transformative and powerful for those truly committed to making real change in the world!

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  • L.A.
  • 01-12-19

Making Philanthropy Actually Care About People

Villanueva provides a needed reflection of the real nature of philanthropy. He exposes how as a field that purports to help people it is typically transactional, not centered in relationships, founded on theft of land (and I would add, people) and exploitation, and continues colonialist and racist operations. He identifies how the sector can move away from its origins and dominant practices. 
For the most part, I found much of his analysis and suggestions generative and stirring. Through reading this text I now have a better idea of alternative organizational methods and pragmatic ways reparations can begin. 
However on a few critical points I found Villanueva's argument lacking. I think his analysis would be strenghtened through engaging the scholarship of Black studies scholars such as Hortense Spillers, Fred Moten, Saidiya Hartman, and Frank Wilderson. Sometimes his assertions are too reductive regarding the conditions of Black life and calls for reparations. I'd like to see what Villanueva''s plans for repair might include if he delved into the scholarship of the folks I mentioned. In bringing up decolonization he touches on Frantz Fanon. But immediately discounts Fanon's understanding of decolonization. I find Villanueva's swift move away from Fanon and by extension others who identify with Fanon's politics of refusal such as Indigenous scholar Glen Sean Coulthard highly problematic. Also, although I appreciate Villanueva's advocacy of the Indigenous worldview of reciprocity, I'm not buying into his "money as medicine" angle. I think that position discounts his call for "decolonization." It seems more like a reform position than a revolutionary or decolonial value. Good book overall. It probably pushes hard against the grain for books of the philanthropy field.

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  • Ann
  • 01-10-20

Next after WHITE FRAGILITY

if you have wealth and a conscience or are seeking funding as a POC or advocate, this is a strategic book. if you are a foundation or family fund leader..please read and be an advocate.

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  • Alida Cardos Whaley
  • 03-07-19

must-read for philanthropists

I enjoyed this book. As a cultural community organizer I found it useful. while it may be most geared towards philanthropists, it is definitely great for all people in non-profit work and involved with community.

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  • Judith
  • 11-05-19

Healing the divides

This book opens one's mind open to transforming possibilities of connecting with others by laying out the past in a very precise and compelling way. The book was filled with as the author calls it "medicine" for healing what divides us. If you are up to even one-non-fiction book this is the one to read. Offers possibility hope and a better world in one book.

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  • alberto ramirez
  • 28-04-21

Unlearn who you are

This book should be a text book to teach in schools and universities around the world. Author writes from his heart and shares facts that unveil white supremacy for what it is: a virus. I wish most ppl could read how wealth has been an instrument to divide control and exploit ppl of color. I wish author have emphasized more facts about Latino community. Native Americans and blacks have suffered under this colonial system but not as much as ppl south of the border have. Starting with the colonization of our believes. Great book

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  • Shelly D.
  • 12-09-20

A must read for Natives and philanthropists

So grateful a book like this has been written to tell the true story of breaking through our own and others glass ceilings.

Books like this help break scarcity mind set and limitation.

At the same thing this book illustrates the fact that although natives are 3 percent of the population, less than 1 % of philanthropy has been directed at native causes. This can change.

Thanks to everyone who made this book possible, both written and Audio.

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  • kridg
  • 26-08-20

Wonderful Book!!

Thoroughly enjoyed this book and the wisdom it contains. Would recommend. The only thing I had trouble with is his pronunciation of Ojibwe' but it is also understandable if you don't hear it often or hear it spoken. The teachings inside are ones I will carry with me and continue to ask myself to make sure I am on a good path.

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  • Jennifer B.
  • 21-06-20

Necessary!

This book is a must read for anyone who is in philanthropy or intersects with it in some way. Beautifully written story from Edgar Villanueva. Thank you for writing this book!

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  • jan
  • 17-01-20

Guide to breaking lose from colonialist patterns

This book uses eye opening statistics and interesting personal accounts to inform us on how the philanthropic institution propagates the white settler's colonialist society. Its combination of facts and personal stories makes it an entertaining read and the knowledge obtained is the first step toward change. Great book!