The coronavirus pandemic has opened many of our eyes to how sectors and systems do or don’t address the ever-growing health and income inequities in this country.

We can approach this realization in two ways:

  1. We can admit the inadequacies of our systems, especially those focused on health, housing, food insecurity and education, or
  2. We can go a step further to recognize that our existing systems have not been built with the safety, dignity and well-being of BIPOC communities in mind.

If we want our communities to thrive, we need to reimagine our systems, policies and how we engage with community to address the root of our inequities. No single funding strategy can magically erase the impact of generations of structural racism and income inequality. Not much will change without the leadership and insight from those most impacted.

As a health conversion foundation committed to community-led approaches, the team at the Healthy Communities Foundation was in many ways primed for this moment. But that’s not to say we weren’t tested — we’ve had to put our values into practice, evaluate the efficacy of our policies and operations, and most importantly, reinforce the ways we aspire to be in right relationship with grantee partners.

We’re still learning and growing, and throughout the journey, we reflect on how we can be in right relationship with our communities and in alignment with just actions and policies.

These questions have guided our reflection. They may help you too:

  • How might existing philanthropic practices perpetuate harm in the community? Do current practices place undue burdens on organizations or box out leaders (especially leaders of color) from networks and resources?
  • How is our staff and leadership reflective of the communities our foundation represents (whether through demographics, lived experience or deep familiarity and expertise of community issues)?
  • Which communities and populations are missing from the data that’s available to you? Whose stories are being told and from what perspective?
  • How do our application and reporting processes impose a greater administrative burden on smaller and under-resourced organizations? The recent SSIR article “Transformative Capacity Building” takes a deeper dive into other ways to take a race-explicit approach with insights from the Rainer Valley Corps.

Read the full article about relationships with the community by Tina Ramirez Moon at Exponent Philanthropy.