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Reflecting on our first year as Luminate

It’s been an exciting first year for Luminate as we’ve worked to establish our organisation, map out our future direction, and partner with inspiring groups around the world. 

This year has given us a unique opportunity to consider the type of organisation we want to be, how we want to operate, and the changes we should make to achieve this. A critical part of this journey was gaining a deeper understanding of our partners’ perspectives and identifying tangible ways to improve our work and practices that would better centre our funding practices around their needs. The outcome of the human-centred research approach was a report called Trust & Transparency, which included more than 30 recommendations. I am pleased to say that we’ve acted on many of them over the past year, for instance:

  • We published our four-year strategy to make the direction of our work and priorities clearer. 

  • We launched a searchable grants and investments database and have provided greater detail on our funding process to be more transparent and to ensure potential and new partners have a clear idea of what to expect when working with us.

  • We’re committed to improving the way we collaborate with our partners and are taking a more consistent approach to how we provide support to them. More to come on this in the new year, but this work is being led by Laura Bacon, our Director of Partner Support.

  • We have appointed our first Director of Learning & Impact, Kecia Bertermann, who is helping us to embed learning and impact practices into our work.

This year we also appointed an Advisory Group, comprised of experts from a range of backgrounds and geographies relevant to our work. The group meets regularly to advise us on strategy, to provide counsel and advice to our investees and partners, and to offer an independent view on our investments and their impact. 

Most importantly, over the course of 2019 we’ve partnered with nearly 50 new organisations, and we continue to work with inspiring groups around the world. Here are just a few highlights from the Luminate portfolio over the past year:  

  • amaBhungane, Finance Uncovered, and OpenUp, along with their partners Daily Maverick and News24, won a 2019 Global Shining Light Award for their investigations into state capture in South Africa.

  • Using its Clear My Record tool, Code for America expunged tens of thousands of marijuana convictions in San FranciscoLos Angeles, and San Joaquin counties in California, and in Cook County, Illinois. 

  • National Resources Governance Institute released Losing Luster, a report on tax evasion in Myanmar’s jade and gemstones industry. The report found it’s possible that up to two-thirds of the country’s production is not subjected to tax, costing the country billions.

  • Privacy International won a major five-year battle with the UK government. The UK Supreme Court ruled in PI’s favour in a case that argued that UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal decisions should be subject to judicial review in the High Court. The case stemmed from an initial challenge from PI that hacking by UK security and intelligence services (as revealed in the Snowden disclosures) violated the European Convention on Human Rights. 

  • The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that homophobia is a crime after a joint campaign run by our storytelling grantee Quebrando o Tabú and LGBTQ+ rights organization AllOut. The campaign focused on producing and publishing digital stories about Brazilians who had been the victims of homophobia, as a mechanism to collect online signatures. Thanks to the wide reach of Quebrando o Tabú's social media channels, the campaign was able to collect 680,000 citizens' signatures calling on the Supreme Court to extend protections to the LGBTQ+ community.

The progress made by the organisations in our portfolio -- opening civic space, exposing economic crimes, fighting for protections for historically marginalised groups, more effectively connecting people and governments, and holding power to account -- is encouraging, and we’re proud to be among their funders. Yet, we know that 2020 will bring new challenges, and the need for their work will continue. We stand ready to support their efforts to build just and fair societies around the world.    

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