A Review of
Operationalizing Racial Justice
Racial Equity in Philanthropy
Achieving racial equity in philanthropy requires organizations to dismantle the internal power structures that sustain oppression.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the quantity and variety of content-based resources available to foundations choosing to address issues of racial equity. Many of these resources, whether workshops, blogs, or books, have contributed to critical discussions on the role and impact foundations have in the communities of color they serve. These discussions have laid the groundwork for the increasing number of foundations that are now actively realigning their organization’s operations and culture to promote racial justice.
The findings presented in the document are provided by Maggie Potapchuk, founder of MP Associates. With over twenty-five years of experience in advancing racial equity, MP Associates partners with individuals, communities, and organizations in building capacity to achieve racial justice.
When working toward promoting racial justice, it is important that foundations refrain from exclusively addressing diversity in representation. Instead, they must recognize the importance of simultaneously addressing the power structures that perpetuate racial inequity, while simultaneously integrating racial justice as an organizational value. For instance, they must work to value the voices and perspectives of the organization’s staff members of color. The process of operationalizing racial justice will require organizations to develop skills in addressing the inevitable conflict that will result, while also fostering transparency, open communication, and organizational reflection.
Methods and Findings
While there is a common sense of urgency around issues of racial equity, it is important for organizations to first evaluate their commitment to pursue racial justice. In doing so, they must reflect on the risks and disruptions they are willing to experience in their operations, in addition to preemptively establishing their responses to stakeholders who may not support their new mission. At the same time, all employees must recognize their power in interactions with community members and stakeholders to whom they are accountable, and actively work to amplify these voices and perspectives.
Beyond initial reflection, organizations must also strive to build their skills in sustaining initial progress in operationalizing racial justice. With conflict almost guaranteed while pursuing efforts in racial justice, it is critical that organizations show due diligence in maintaining practices of equity. For instance, maintenance of individual comfort for white employees should not be prioritized over hearing from voices and perspectives of staff members of color. These efforts will require organizations to promote transparency and open communication, while centering authentic and respectful relationships as a core organizational value. In doing so, organizations must also signal their commitment to pursuing racial justice through the creation of a racial equity leadership team that is empowered with the resources it needs to promote racial equity in the organization. It is critical that organizations sustain their initial progress by consistently analyzing their internal operations and culture as the foundation for identifying existing challenges, establishing benchmarks, and evaluating progress.
Committing to racial justice goes beyond simply using the organization’s voice to show support for racial equity, or putting forward resources to make incremental adjustments to internal culture and operations. Rather, it must entail consistent efforts to integrate racial justice as a core value within the organization. These efforts must encompass strategies for aligning the organization’s policies and strategies with the values of racial equity and an analysis of how racism has, and is continuing to, manifest. In doing so, foundations can ensure they are remaining accountable to the communities they serve, as well as to their internal stakeholders leading the change process.
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