Embedding Race Equity and Inclusion: A Report from the Baltimore and Atlanta Civic Sites

Posted June 9, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

How does a foundation begin to address wide gaps in opportunities and outcomes for children when data are disaggregated by race? It takes an explicit focus on racial disparities and equity when addressing entrenched problems in education, workforce development and poverty. A race equity and inclusion (REI) framework requires frank discussions about the role of race in society, public systems and philanthropy, as well personal explorations of one’s own perceptions, biases and assumptions. Many people, regardless of their skin color, find such conversations somewhat uncomfortable.

A new report, Deploying Casey’s REI Framework: Lessons from the Civic Sites, documents the Casey Foundation’s efforts to embed a race equity lens in its programmatic units in Baltimore and Atlanta. Each of these civic sites is staffed by a team working in the community to improve education, job opportunities, health and neighborhood assets for kids and families. Deploying Casey’s REI Framework seeks to encourage better understanding of such work in other Casey units and in the field of philanthropy more generally.

As a Foundation committed to improving outcomes for all children, race equity has long been part of Casey’s DNA. In 2013, staff members created a new REI framework. Key strategies of the framework include:

  • educating and equipping leaders with racially disaggregated data products to strengthen decision making and measure progress regarding equitable opportunities and outcomes;
  • providing tools and sharing best practices that support the application of race equity and inclusion strategies; and
  • promoting the implementation of race equity-focused policy and practice changes that increase equitable opportunities and outcomes for all children.

Foundation staff in Baltimore and Atlanta agreed to undergo training, conduct deep team discussions, study data, engage stakeholders, identify equity gaps and develop strategies. One technique employed by the civic sites was “back mapping,” a systematic process to identify the drivers of any given racial inequity shown by data. For example, if the scores of one racial group of children differ significantly on a reading assessment compared with those of another racial group, it is important to look for institutional and structural drivers of this inequity.

Among the common themes and lessons that emerged from the two sites:

  • Use data to frame the issues. This provides a clear focus and a way to present race issues in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way.
  • Make space for the personal. Although the tools incorporated by Casey are highly analytical and focused on addressing the structural barriers and inequities, the nature of racial equity is highly personal.
  • This is a team effort. Beware of making assumptions that employees of color should be the de facto leaders of REI work, or that one person can do the work on behalf of a team.

A fundamental insight from the civic sites was recognizing privilege. Several team members noted that anyone working at Casey, regardless of race, works from a position of privilege. “We have to use that privilege to make a difference,” says Kweku Forstall, director of the Atlanta Civic Site. “How we use that position in allocating our resources is what it’s all about.”

Read Deploying Casey’s REI Framework: Lessons from the Civic Sites

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