Giving Compass' Take:

• Philanthropists are starting to address equity, inclusion, and systemic racism within the philanthropic sector through a systems change perspective and seem more committed to utilizing this approach to eradicate these issues. 

• How can philanthropists hold each other accountable to address racism and equity?

• Read about addressing racial equity in philanthropy through incrementalism. 

Philanthropy is starting to get much more real about its obligation to address inequity and racism, as emphasized by the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations National Conference Twitter feed, plenaries and blog reflections. Right off the bat, Dr. Brian Barnes, co-founder of TandemEd, told us to “make the CEO the Chief Equity Officer.” Pia Infante, co-executive director of the Whitman Institute, asked why we are “using only five percent of our water when the house is on fire.” And in what I’d describe as the intensity apex of the conference, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones said, “Racism is embedded into every institution in this country. I don’t know if we will ever be free of that.”

I believe systems grantmaking and this systems-level consideration of racial injustice at the GEO National Conference represents a tipping point in the grantmaking community.

In a breakout session on learning and evaluation that matches the complexity of systems change, both Dr. John Jackson of Schott and Emily Yu of BUILD discussed their collaboratives’ specific focus on advancing racial equity through comprehensive, systems change work.

One unifying theme emerged from our conversation: Equity is both a long-term goal of, and a mechanism for, systems change. There is a symbiotic relationship between equity and systems change.

This conference was different from other GEO gatherings. While many organizations have vulnerably shared about their equity journeys — like recent blog posts from Frontline Solutions and the Bush Foundation — there was a level of honesty I haven’t seen at a conference before about the role of philanthropy in perpetuating racism and other forms of inequity.

If we want to do intentional work on equity and systems change, we must be willing to do the hard and often uncomfortable internal work as well.
Grantmakers should be ready to assess:

  • whether their internal policies and practices perpetuate inequity or advance equity
  • whether their grantmaking policies and practices perpetuate inequity or advance equity
  • how their programmatic investments (grants, partnerships, etc.), financial investments, and thought leadership incorporate data that is disaggregated by race and considers how systemic racism is maintained via policies, regulations, corporate and consumer behavior, and government spending
  • how their organizational culture and leadership explicitly work to dismantle the dominant privilege in the institutions and systems around them

Approaching systems change with a laser focus on dismantling structural racism and other forms of inequity is, I believe, the future of philanthropic leadership. These leaders have already put equity at the forefront and aren’t willing to hold social change back while the rest of us catch up.

Read the full article about systems change philanthropy by Community Wealth Partners at Medium