Last December, I wrote about the surprisingly complex challenge of aligning on a conceptual definition of BIPOC-led (BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color). In particular, I noted that despite subject matter experts’ general sentiment that the term “BIPOC-led” is about BIPOC individuals holding power in organizations, there are a number of nuances and circumstances that complicate this conceptualization.

For example, there are differences of opinion as to how much BIPOC representation is needed to be considered “in power” (e.g., is it a BIPOC CEO, a BIPOC majority board, or a predominantly BIPOC staff?). There are also questions about whether an organization’s history or future should play a role in the definition, or whether the communities an organization serves should be considered part of what “BIPOC leadership” means.

I hope my previous blog offered a starting point for further discussion and crystallization of your definition of BIPOC-led. If so, it’s time to start thinking about how to measure your definition. A large part of the current discussion about “BIPOC-led” is driven by a desire to better understand BIPOC-led organizations—whether it’s funders wanting to increase the number of BIPOC-led organizations in their portfolio, or researchers wanting to assess the circumstances of BIPOC-led organizations. To this end, conceptional definitions need to be translated into specific quantifiable observations.

Unfortunately, like defining the term, this is easier said than done.

To help (or maybe depress) those of you working on this challenge, here are four key reasons why quantifying what it means to be “BIPOC-led” is harder than you’d think:

  1. Your definition of “BIPOC-led” depends on how you define “leadership” and “a majority.” Even if we have a seemingly straightforward definition of BIPOC-led, such as “BIPOC-led organizations are those in which BIPOC individuals hold the majority of leadership roles”….There are still literally dozens of ways to measure this definition (trust me, I’ve tried). Part of the reason for this is that you will not only need to decide what roles count as “leadership roles” (e.g., CEOs? Board members? Executive team? Managers? Community members?). You’ll also need to specify exactly what you mean by “a majority” (e.g., is it 66%? 50%? 51%?), as well as how the majority is calculated (for example, do you calculate 51% across all individual leaders or 51% of the individuals within each type of leadership role?).

Read the full article about measuring BIPOC-led by Cathleen Clerkin at Candid.