Bridgespan prides itself on being an impact-driven organization. We launched 20 years ago with a vision of how we might help make the world a better place. Hundreds of people have joined our ranks, scores of funders have supported us, and thousands of social sector leaders and philanthropists have worked with us and read our content. We are deeply grateful for such engagement and partnership, and recognize the privilege we have to do this work.
Some of the most powerful lessons we’ve learned over the past two decades have come from reflecting on our missteps. Perhaps the biggest one: the long time it took for us—and here I need to be more specific, me and many of my white colleagues—to grasp the centrality of race in almost all of the work we do. For an organization whose animating question from the beginning has been, “How can we have the greatest impact in the world?,” and whose work centers on breaking cycles of poverty, this failure is a deeply troubling part of our story. The reality that our lack of awareness has sometimes helped to hold in place—and in some cases contributed to—greater inequities in society compounds the cost of our error.
Over the past five years Bridgespan has been on a journey, doing the vital learning and self-reflection required to center racial equity in our work. We have sought direct feedback from critical friends. Whether it’s hiring dedicated staff who have deep knowledge of these issues, having racial equity practitioners push our thinking, or engaging our leadership team in racial equity trainings, our focus has been on listening and actually hearing what’s being said. Perhaps most significantly, we have had extraordinary colleagues, largely people of color, who regularly over the years, with care and courage, have asked crucial questions.
We have been reluctant to share our journey because it risks repeating a pattern of centering the wrong people in the story of race. But many trusted advisors, representing a diverse set of communities, suggested that sharing a bit about how we got here would helpfully put the research we are releasing now, and the work we hope to pursue in the future, in context.
Read the full article about reflections on racial equity progress by Jeff Bradach at The Bridgespan Group.