Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

John Hickenlooper co-founded Chinook Fund says stay tuned, social justice not controversial

"Change. Not Charity." That's the mantra at Chinook Fund, the nonprofit devoted to social justice that John Hickenlooper -- then an unemployed geologist thinking about opening a brewpub -- co-founded over two decades ago. Because of its ties to Hickenlooper, the charity is in the news, including a recent Denver Post article that prompted this:

"Unlike the Denver Post, we don't find it 'controversial' to fight for social justice," reads the "Chinook in the News" section of a recent e-mail from Chinook to its mailing list. "Chinook stands by our incredible grantees and the progressive movement in Colorado.... STAY TUNED for our response to this article and for ways to continue supporting our powerful work!"

In the meantime, here's more background on Chinook from its website:

The Chinook Fund is a movement-building organization. We are recognized throughout the state of Colorado for our pioneering support of organizations that work to create a just, equitable and free society by transforming oppressive and discriminatory political, social and economic systems and institutions. Chinook supports organizations which are challenging the root causes of oppression, rather than treating the symptoms. We believe the root causes of our most serious social problems include entrenched, systemic, and institutionalized racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism and ageism.

Our mission statement reads:

"The Chinook Fund is committed to the transformation of society into one that promotes social justice and freedom from oppression, including but not limited to: racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, and ableism."

Unlike most traditional nonprofits, Chinook's board and donors do not dictate where any grants are going. That's done by a group of community activitists. (Nora Bashir, Chinook's new co-executive director, was on the grand-making committee for several years.) And that's a concept many traditional donors have a tough time grasping.

As the website explains: "Gandhi once said 'you must be the change you wish to see in the world.' Chinook seeks to create a just world not only by funding social change organizations, but also by how we fund them. A diverse group of activists make all of our funding decisions. This means that Chinook is led by, and accountable to, the communities we serve -- just as we require our grantees to be."

Stay tuned.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun