For those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and consider ourselves progressive, it is past time to come to terms with our inconvenient truth: We have a race problem.  Addressing the reality of racial discrimination has led The San Francisco Foundation to adopt an equity agenda to advance racial equity and economic inclusion at a regional scale.

For funders seeking to refresh their engagement strategies, we share the approaches we adopted to listen, consult, and use feedback to reshape our grantmaking strategy and the foundation’s role in addressing inequities facing Bay Area residents.

We commissioned research to provide an equity profile of the Bay Area. We had data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, geography, economic status, and more, which brought greater understanding of the disparities facing Bay Area residents. Yet while the data and the human realities behind it were illuminating, they did not point us toward solutions. For that, we opened up a dialog with our community partners and listened intently to the people most impacted by the inequities in our region.

Listening was critical to reimagining how we delivered on our mission.

In 2014 we launched a listening initiative called VOICE. VOICE became a series of community focus groups with residents, community leaders, and public officials in the five Bay Area counties the foundation serves. We engaged people in conversation. We asked them questions. And, most important, we listened.

In addition to VOICE, we held consultative sessions where we brought in place-based experts including, policymakers and nonprofit leaders to discuss the issues facing the Bay Area and our role in addressing inequities. The consultative sessions were equally important in assessing our work and giving us feedback on how we were positioned to respond to future challenges.

Read the full article about community feedback by Fred Blackwell at Stanford Social Innovation Review.