The PLACES Fellowship: A Decade of Advancing Racial Equity in Philanthropy

Posted April 24, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
PLACES Fellowship alumni

PLACES Fellowship alumni gather in Miami

Over the past decade, the PLACES Fel­low­ship, fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, has helped near­ly 130 phil­an­thropic pro­fes­sion­als learn how to chal­lenge long­stand­ing inequities in their com­mu­ni­ties and with­in their own organizations.

The needs of com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and oth­er dis­ad­van­taged groups have too often been dis­re­gard­ed in phil­an­thropy,” says Scot Spencer, asso­ciate direc­tor for advo­ca­cy and influ­ence at the Casey Foun­da­tion. A pro­gram like PLACES is key because it posi­tions racial, social and eco­nom­ic equi­ty at the fore­front of dis­cus­sions rather than treat­ing them as afterthoughts.”

PLACES Fel­lows hail from across the Unit­ed States and Cana­da and rep­re­sent nation­al, region­al and com­mu­ni­ty foun­da­tions that are focused on var­i­ous caus­es — from cli­mate change to gen­er­al com­mu­ni­ty improve­ment. The year-long pro­gram uses con­ven­ing and coach­ing to teach par­tic­i­pants about struc­tur­al racism and how it man­i­fests in foun­da­tions and com­mu­ni­ties. Equal­ly impor­tant: it intro­duces fel­lows to the tools and skills need­ed to dis­man­tle such systems.

The Fun­ders’ Net­work for Smart Growth and Liv­able Com­mu­ni­ties — a mem­ber­ship orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing more than 170 nation­al, region­al and place-based foun­da­tions — launched the PLACES Fel­low­ship a decade ago. To cel­e­brate the pro­gram’s first 10 years, the Fun­ders’ Net­work has pub­lished a col­lec­tion of sto­ries fea­tur­ing PLACES alum­ni talk­ing about the fel­low­ship and its impact on their pro­fes­sion­al work.

For instance, Sheena Solomon, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Gif­ford Foun­da­tion in Syra­cuse, New York, dis­cuss­es how PLACES helped inspire her organization’s Nour­ish­ing Tomorrow’s Lead­ers pro­gram, which aims to add more peo­ple of col­or, young peo­ple, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, and women to the boards of local nonprofits.

PLACES was a true eye-open­er and game-chang­er for me,” says Solomon, who was part of the 2012 fel­low­ship class. After par­tic­i­pat­ing, I was equipped to go to my board and dis­cuss changes that need­ed to be made in our deci­sion-mak­ing around equity.”

As part of the pro­gram, fel­lows have also vis­it­ed sites made famous by the civ­il rights move­ment, such as Lit­tle Rock Cen­tral High School in Arkansas, which was inte­grat­ed in 1957 with the over­sight of Nation­al Guards­men. Dur­ing these vis­its, par­tic­i­pants learn about sig­nif­i­cant events that are often glossed over by pol­i­cy mak­ers and phil­an­thropic leaders.

The site vis­its open fel­lows’ eyes,” says Patri­cia Smith, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Fun­ders’ Net­work. Apart from being a bond­ing expe­ri­ence for fel­lows, the trips remind them of the impor­tance of the work and the sys­temic prob­lems that must be fixed.”

Read more about PLACES and its accom­plish­ments over the past decade

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