Giving Compass' Take:

• The authors discuss the work of Living Cities, a collaborative of foundations aiming to elevate the economic well-being of low-income residents in U.S. cities and improve racial equity across the nation. 

• Why is it important that funders collaborate on solutions when working toward racial equity?

• Read about how to address racial equity in philanthropy through incremental changes. 

Living Cities is a twenty-five-year-old collaborative of foundations and financial institutions working together to improve the economic well-being of low-income people in American cities. Living Cities’ staff facilitates, seeds, and executes the work of connecting the priorities and expertise of its diverse funders and partners.

Our mission is focused on advancing change at the systems level. While Living Cities’ work addresses racial equity and inclusion at different levels and in different ways in cities around the country, we were not explicit about this focus. Meanwhile, the historical and prevailing context is that the majority of low-income people in U.S. cities are people of color.

Ultimately, doing the work of racial equity requires aligned action—multiple groups and stakeholders within an organization working through difficult issues in concert.

However, to get to that point, multiple steps must first occur:

  • New information: when engaged by Living Cities, Frontline Solutions staff and their partner experts brought in historical facts, contemporary data, and common frameworks that described in straightforward terms the country’s current racial inequality and its root causes.
  • Understanding: Frontline Solutions facilitated interactive learning sessions where staff could discuss, digest, and sit with this new common language.
  • Implications: a task force comprised of Living Cities staff worked to examine all the ways racial equity might impact the organization’s work going forward.
  • Commitment: Living Cities senior leadership and program staff committed to an ongoing process of thinking about ways in which to incorporate their learning into the work of their respective teams.
  • Aligned action: while still a work in progress, Living Cities’ commitment to racial equity has resulted in concrete changes to multiple, seemingly disparate facets of the organization—from the way the impact-investing team evaluates prospective pay-for-success programs to the way it works with government leaders.

Read the full article about racial equity by Nadia Owusu and Micah Gilmer at Nonprofit Quarterly