I’m an optimist by nature. I rarely carry an umbrella when I leave my house because I’m sure it's not going to rain. I’m confident that I can get five things done in the 10 minutes I have before my next meeting. And even in the face of slow progress to fully support Black and Brown student success, I truly believe we can redesign our schools to be equitable places where all students experience love, connection, and support to pursue their goals and passions.

The organization I run, Education Forward DC, has a core value of working intentionally to disrupt patterns of racial inequity in our work and in Washington, D.C. schools. We have a long way to go to live up to this value. Our team has committed to personal and organizational work so that each person can fully contribute to our team, interrupt inequity in our work, and ultimately deepen our collective impact.

Leadership can be lonely, and I have struggled to show up and live this value in ways that I’m proud of. The more personal work I do to build an understanding of my identity as a white woman, the more aware I am of my own blind spots and the work I have ahead. As a team, we’ve made some important changes in the last few years to increase transparency in decision making, shift compensation and promotion practices to be more equitable, and increase the proportion of our funding that goes to Black- and Latinx-led organizations to over 60%. Still, the experience on our team is different for white folks than it is for colleagues of color, and fundamentally we have not done enough to shift the power dynamics in DC that allow capital to accrue to folks with the most privilege and access. The harm I have caused to my colleagues and our inadequate progress as an organization had in recent years dimmed even my relentless optimism, leading me to feel uncharacteristically pessimistic about the road ahead. Fortunately, my friend Gabrielle Wyatt of The Highland Project introduced me to Camelback Ventures’ Capital Collaborative.

Capital Collaborative is a program for leaders in philanthropy who want to deepen their personal and organizational racial equity work. In Capital Collaborative, I found a group of white leaders in philanthropy who shared my commitment to learning and to shifting practices within philanthropy that exclude Black and Latinx leaders from being at the table. My experience in the program has been challenging and difficult at times, but ultimately affirming and supportive. Across the six months of the program, I felt my optimism return as I connected with peers who were also struggling and striving to make change inside themselves and in their organizations. I felt greater motivation to make small changes -- like adding youth voice to our board committees -- and to work harder for bigger, more fundamental changes in the power dynamics that underlie our work, like how we find and select grantees.

The road ahead is still hard and uncomfortable, and I know I’ll make mistakes along the way that unintentionally harm people I care about. Having an affinity space with folks to learn from, build ideas with, and to hold me accountable has given me renewed energy and optimism about the path ahead.

Camelback Ventures’ Capital Collaborative works with white funders and social impact investors who want to deepen their individual and organizational commitment to racial and gender equity — but may not know how. Our unique approach brings together a community of white accomplices to engage in an introspective and concrete curriculum, to diversify their networks and make their grantmaking processes more equitable. You can learn more and complete an interest form for Camelback Ventures’ next 2022 Capital Collaborative here.