Photo courtesy of Pop Culture Collaborative

Investing in Pop Culture Collaborative and the Promise of American Pluralism

As the United States continues to experience an alarming uptick in extreme and nationalistic rhetoric, hate-filled narratives are increasingly accompanied by hate-driven physical violence aimed at immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslim people, Jewish people, and members of other historically targeted groups.

These increasingly normalized actions threaten the ability of our nation’s communities to safely participate in civic life. It also represents a fundamental threat to the promise of U.S. democracy, which relies on the weaving together of diverse ideas, cultures, and beliefs to create a rich and vibrant social fabric.

Despite the stakes, news and entertainment media continue to play a role in reinforcing false tropes and stereotypes about minority groups. Fortunately, new networks of organizations and leaders are coming together to change the channel on outdated narratives that can, over time, exacerbate social divisions and misunderstanding and weaken our ability to come together to build a stronger society.

It is in this context that Luminate is proud to renew its support to the Pop Culture Collaborative with a $1 million investment. 

The Pop Culture Collaborative is a philanthropic resource and funder learning community that uses grantmaking, convening, narrative strategy, and research to transform the narrative landscape around people of color, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and Native people. They keep a special focus on the underrepresented within each of these groups.

Luminate is part of the Collaborative’s Managing Partner network, a group of philanthropic organizations that believe pop culture—the conversations that millions of audience members are engaged in every day through immersive stories in films, TV shows, music, books, games, speeches, and more – is a critical space to inform the public and change beliefs and behaviors.

By examining and reimagining American popular culture’s myths, story arcs, characters, and expressed values, the Collaborative and its field partners get to the hard and delicate work of increasing Americans’ appetite and desire to build a pluralist nation in which everyone belongs, contributes, and has access to full rights and freedoms. 

By the end of 2019, the Collaborative will have granted $7 million to more than 60 grantee organizations, ranging from pathbreaking social justice groups that are transforming Hollywood storylines, like Define American, Color of Change, and National Domestic Workers Alliance, to newer organizations like Harness, which are forging deep partnerships and programs from within the entertainment industry. The Collaborative funds culture change research, like the publication “Are You What You Watch?” written jointly by USC’s Norman Lear Center and grantee partner Future Perfect Labs, to help the pop culture for social change field better understand their audiences and the most effective ways to achieve their goals. 

In addition to funding social change groups and research, the Collaborative fund artists, such as Paola Mendoza, and artists’ platforms, such as Open TV, to bring their artistic vision to mass audiences. They support artists to build new pipelines and infrastructure inside the entertainment industry, ranging from the Center for Cultural Power, Break The Room Media, to Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY

Finally, the Collaborative engages in field-building strategies that take multiple forms. It hosts Senior Fellows who advance narrative strategy and research, support pop culture for social change field-building, and deepen the Collaborative’s understanding of sub-sectors of the pop culture industry. Additionally, the Collaborative creates immersive learning experiences and a range of learning tools and media products, ranging from its podcast WONDERLAND to its digital magazine Break the Story, so philanthropic organizations can increase their understanding of and ability to develop grant-making strategies around pop culture and social change.

The Pop Culture Collaborative believes that by funding culture change research to better understand audiences and develop strong narrative strategy, supporting social change organizations that are advancing long-term culture shifting strategies, and working with artists and entertainment industry leaders to increase authentic representation in mass media storytelling, they’re helping to create an ecosystem that replaces harmful storylines with authentic narratives. This work, in turn, helps diverse Americans unlock our collective imagination toward a more just and united future, where everyone’s human dignity is recognized, all voices are respected, and all communities can all thrive.