Casey Shares Insights From its Journey Toward Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion

Posted September 8, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog caseysharesinsightsfromitsjourney 2017

In June 2017, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion deliv­ered its lat­est report on the demo­graph­ic com­po­si­tion of its staff.

The audi­ence? The Foundation’s full work­force. Some 190 mem­bers total.

At this ses­sion, employ­ees learned that the Foun­da­tion had trans­formed, in less than a decade, from a work­force that was 60% white to one that was near­ly 60% peo­ple of color.

This dra­mat­ic demo­graph­ic shift stems from the Foundation’s own data on child well-being. Such data sug­gest that, to improve the lives of chil­dren of col­or, orga­ni­za­tions must address sys­temic and struc­tur­al bar­ri­ers that chip away at crit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties to thrive.

The trans­for­ma­tion also speaks to Casey’s quest to move beyond sim­ply talk­ing-the-talk and to embrace also walk­ing-the-walk in pur­suit of racial equi­ty. This jour­ney wasn’t always easy—and it’s explored in greater detail in the Foundation’s new pub­li­ca­tion: Oper­a­tional­iz­ing Equi­ty.

As oth­er foun­da­tions and phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions pur­sue their own equi­ty strate­gies, we thought we should be open about our own jour­ney,” says Nonet Sykes, direc­tor of Racial and Eth­nic Equi­ty and Inclu­sion at the Foun­da­tion. Of course, no one jour­ney is the same, but it’s a jour­ney that will be strength­ened if phil­an­thropies trav­el it togeth­er and share their expe­ri­ences and lessons learned along the way.”

Oper­a­tional­iz­ing Equi­ty tells how staff-led advo­ca­cy and edu­ca­tion efforts cou­pled with a man­date from senior lead­er­ship accel­er­at­ed the Foundation’s equi­ty goals.

The doc­u­ment also intro­duces a new con­cept: a five-phase Arc of Learn­ing, which the Foun­da­tion used to help guide its equi­ty efforts. The Arc of Learning’s phas­es are:

  1. build­ing a shared language;
  2. inte­grat­ing racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion into all unit work;
  3. sup­port­ing unit planning;
  4. cre­at­ing com­mon mes­sag­ing; and
  5. devel­op­ing staff capac­i­ty to design and facil­i­tate race-focused meetings.

Trans­paren­cy also played a key role in help­ing staff mem­bers nav­i­gate chal­leng­ing con­ver­sa­tions and changes, accord­ing to Foun­da­tion lead­ers. This com­mit­ment to trans­paren­cy is pre­cise­ly why the Casey Foun­da­tion felt com­pelled to share its sto­ry, says Sykes. We hope that this will help oth­er non­prof­its and phil­an­thropies that are look­ing to trav­el down a sim­i­lar path.”

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