The Casey Foundation Goes Deep on Race Equity and Inclusion

Posted July 26, 2016, By Nonet Sykes

Getting more than 200 people in a room to talk about race, racism, unconscious bias and white privilege for three days is no small task. But that is what happened in mid-July for our entire Foundation. We spent our annual summer convening discussing these important topics with the goal of integrating racial and ethnic equity and inclusion into all aspects of the Foundation’s work, both internally and externally.

Given our mission of developing solutions to build brighter futures for all of America’s children, we imagined this would be a timely and pertinent topic. We already had plenty of data that show kids of color experience the worst outcomes on nearly every measure of well-being. We knew that the Census Bureau had recently reported the majority of kids under the age of 5 would be kids of color, in the next two to three years the majority of kids under the age of 18 would be kids of color, and in the next decade or so, the majority of the workforce would be people of color. We also knew that data show that a person’s race is the leading barrier to success in the United States.

From my vantage point, there were plenty of compelling reasons to name race equity and inclusion as a Foundation-wide priority and to make it the focus of the annual convening. When we started planning back in January, we didn’t know we would all be coming together around this subject a week after watching videos that showed the killings of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota within hours of each other.

We were certainly not planning the annual summer convening with those horrific events in mind. However, we did use this latest news as yet another reason to help all staff see the need to deepen their understanding of race and have deeper conversations about issues affecting racially marginalized groups in America.

Race and racism and lack of equity and opportunity affect all of us. Their pernicious history and present power require us all to summon our collective best to be the change we want to see. Creating equity and opportunity is no longer a choice. It’s an imperative. This uncomfortable moment in time is our moment to get it right for the next generation of kids — to improve outcomes for all children, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or immigrant status or the communities in which they live.

Through policy advocacy, practice changes and financial investments, we see great opportunity to eliminate the institutional, structural and systemic barriers that oppress people of color and perpetuate inequities. It’s an opportunity to be more inclusive of people of color so they have a voice in designing and developing solutions and strategies that work for them. And it’s an opportunity for philanthropy, whose purpose is to improve the well-being of humankind by preventing and solving social problems, to be a true model of change. Philanthropy can lead the way and show others the difference that can be made when funders target their investments and strategies to the kids, families and communities who need them the most.

Our country seems to be struggling with what to do and where to start. In his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. suggests we have to aggressively change our institutions and spending priorities to see the large scale shifts we so desperately need. Dr. King said we will need to educate our allies on the issues, we will need leaders to make radical change and we will need to work together — to be a collective.

No one entity can solve the nation’s problems of racial inequity. By working together, thinking together and investing resources in new ways to support children, families and communities who need those resources the most, we can chart a new path forward to heal the ills of our world — to create racial and ethnic equity and inclusion for all Americans, not just a privileged few.

This will require us all to be bold, challenge our own assumptions, take a hard look at our own data about what and who we fund and make some difficult choices about how to allocate resources that are always limited even when they seem substantial. Our Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide provides insights, tools and outlines 7 key steps to help shape institutions and policies that support marginalized children, families and communities. Deploying Casey’s REI Framework: Lessons from the Civic Sites tells the story of our work to bring these strategies to our long-term portfolios in Baltimore and Atlanta.

Casey maintains a practice of examining our data, work, strategies and partners. For the past five years, we have been collecting and analyzing the racial diversity of our grantees and consultants. We share the data with Casey staff and with our grantees and consultants. We also provide staff with considerations and questions to ask when looking at the diversity of our grantees and consultants and reviewing and analyzing the disaggregated data they provide.

Because we believe diversifying our grantees and consultants is an important component of more equitable results, we are proud to report that nearly 40% of our grantees and almost 30% of consultant organizations are made up of people of color. These numbers have been pretty consistent for the past three years. We are committed to increasing our grantee and consultant diversity by 5% over the next year.

We are also developing a “scorecard” to strategically and systematically measure our progress in operationalizing our commitment to racial and ethnic equity throughout our programmatic work, governance, human resources, operations and investments. We believe that this “scorecard” can serve as a useful resource for the Foundation’s internal and external stakeholders as they partner with us to create a culture of equity and opportunity in this organization and across the country.

It is not enough to want to do good. Philanthropy’s greatest responsibility is to use its resources to do good, especially for people of color who have been trying to achieve the American dream for way too long.