The recent decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York to not indict police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the ensuing public reactions and debate, are stark reminders of the pervasiveness of racial inequities in our society. Staff at Living Cities have had many workplace conversations about what these and other tragedies say about our country. We understand that, regardless of what happens in Ferguson or Staten Island, structural racism continues to have profound effects on outcomes for low income people. We also know that as we approach a demographic transformation toward a majority population of people of color, the need to address this issue is urgent.
In the last year, we have begun to think about what Living Cities can do, as a national organization focused on social change, to improve the stark racial disparities and related challenges that people of color face every day. While inequities are common in communities across the country, their effects are dependent on local context. Sometimes, even within the same community, racial disparities manifest differently from neighborhood to neighborhood, or organization to organization. As a national platform, we continue to grapple with defining our role with respect to advancing racial equity. Indeed, we are currently engaged in a long-term strategic planning process that seeks to embed a racial equity and inclusion lens across our entire portfolio in impactful and authentic ways.
To help better understand the appropriate roles of a social change organization with a national scope in addressing structural racism we have researched and spoken with several national organizations that are on a similar learning and organizational change trajectory, including many that are further along in this journey than Living Cities. The insights and lessons that they have shared with us have been invaluable and continue to inform and to serve as inputs into our racial equity and inclusion agenda.
We have compiled a list of these national organizations, including a brief description of some of their important work in this area and resources that they offer that we believe can be helpful to others who are engaging in similar processes:
- StriveTogether’s Race, Class and Culture Workgroup
Convenes a workgroup of local partners focused on improving educational outcomes to discuss how to apply racial equity principles in their cradle-to-career work, to develop a common language for discussing issues of structural inequality, and to develop tools for national network members to better address racial and socioeconomic disparities in their work.
- Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Race Matters Institute
Helps organizations look inward to assess their internal capacity for discussing race before determining how to work externally to decrease racial inequities.
Provides technical assistance and capacity building to local and regional governments that equips them with the necessary tools needed to change policies, practices, and programs that perpetuate racial inequalities.
- WK Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity Resource Guide
Offers a neutral platform for collecting and sharing resources about racial equity. Customizable and adaptable, it can be used to gather information to inform a variety of racial equity initiatives.
Fellowship programs that are focused on developing capacity of leaders to address racial equity issues and to grow a network of social change agents committed to focusing on racial equity issues in their work.
- PolicyLink’s National Equity Atlas
Develops data tools that measure the state of equity in regions across the country to support the work of community leaders and policy makers interested in advancing racial equity and inclusion.
- Race Forward’s Facing Race Conference
Race Forward hosts national convenings to bring together both local and national leaders on issues of structural racism.
Encourages the philanthropic sector to focus on racial equity and diversity issues by convening grantmakers, providing resources and facilitating conversations.
Finally, we wanted to highlight Frontline Solutions, which we have partnered with to help us on our journey towards a greater understanding of racial equity and inclusion. Frontline Solutions is a national consulting firm that offers clients in the nonprofit and public sectors a full spectrum of services spanning strategy, program management and assessment. Frontline is committed to expanding opportunity for all people by applying a critical understanding of race, place, class, and gender.
We hope this list is useful to you as you consider your organization’s place in the needed push to make racial equity a focus of all of our work.