Dave Mineta, an Asian American leader, became a first-time CEO and president of Momentum for Health in 2015. “Being in the top seat, with that 50,000-foot view of how we want our agency to be seen and what role we want to play, I’ll admit I felt alone and intimidated,” Mineta says. He knew he wanted to change the perception of Momentum for Health as a primarily white-serving organization and increase cultural competency across its team of providers, but he didn’t know where to begin. It wasn’t until he joined a group of fellow CEOs, convened through American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley (ALF), specifically focused on deepening knowledge and skills around diversity, equity, and inclusion, that he crystallized an anti-racist vision.

“I watched other leaders and really modeled off what they did,” Mineta says. Within three years of his participation in the ALF program, Momentum for Health established a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative and DEI board committee; hired a DEI consultant; and launched a series of internal trainings on implicit bias, historical trauma, and how to have courageous conversations. Momentum for Health now uses data to analyze leadership composition by race and to inform its hiring, recruiting, and [retention] practices. “I would draw a straight line from the personal and relational work I did through ALF to the progress we have made as an organization,” he says. Now in its fourth yearlong cycle, the ALF Fellows Program has served 42 leaders to date.

The DEI-focused subgroup Mineta joined originated in early 2017, when Shiloh Ballard, an ALF Senior Fellow and first-time executive director at the helm of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, faced allegations of racism from someone in her organization’s broader community. “It caused me to do all the textbook white fragility stuff,” she says. “I asked this person to grab coffee so I could try to better understand, and I'm sitting across from someone who literally sees me as the devil. Whether I thought they were right or wrong, the fact that they were so agitated caused me to do much deeper reflection.”

Ballard began reaching out to other nonprofit leaders, asking how they thought about centering race and equity. “Where is the playbook?” she asked, but nobody seemed to know. She gathered a few peers and pitched them on the idea of a CEO learning and support group.

Through personal invitations, the initial group expanded to include 10 leaders of diverse racial backgrounds. “Initially, I felt like this was my work to do, and I didn’t want to ask any people of color to help me through this,” Ballard remembers. “But other founding members disagreed and felt like there could be greater mutual benefit by opening it up.” This proved important, especially given that over a third of nonprofit leaders of color say they lack social capital in the field, and 38 percent report having never received peer support or on-the-job mentorship.

Read the full article about nonprofit leaders and anti-racism by Stefanie Demong at Stanford Social Innovation Review.