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Part 2: Practice Equity Daily

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1. Build Equity-minded Culture, Structures And Systems

To integrate race, equity and inclusion into your day-to-day work, you’ll need an organizational culture and strong commitment, along with processes and systems that support the work. Here we will explore leverage points for change, including the actions key stakeholders and structural factors related to your learning environment, organizational culture and commitment to using qualitative and quantitative data to drive decision making.

In This Section, We’ll Explore How To

  • Build A Race Equity Culture
  • Identify Leverage Points Of Change

Build A Race Equity Culture

Think of organizational culture as the “glue” that holds the elements of the Wheel of Change together. Building your organization’s capacity to focus on race, equity and inclusion requires specific attention to organizational culture. In “Awake to Woke to Work,”1 Equity in the Center describe a race equity culture as focused on proactively counteracting race inequities inside and outside of an organization. It requires an adaptive and transformational approach that impacts behaviors and mindsets as well as practices, programs and processes.

As Ronald Heifetz states in his book, Adaptive Leadership, “Adaptive challenges can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties. Making progress requires going beyond any authoritative expertise to mobilize discovery, shedding certain entrenched ways, tolerating losses and generating the new capacity to thrive anew.’ What’s more, there is no checklist or ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to the adaptive challenge of creating a Race Equity Culture; each organization has to chart its own path and define its own success using a combination of tools and tactics mixed with personal and organizational culture changes that make sense for the individual context.”2

The Race Equity Cycle3

Your Race, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Team can review assessment data and consider where to start given your organizational history, current needs and capacity.


Identify Leverage Points For Change

The good news about building a race equity culture is that many leverage points exist to support you in making change in your organization. You can think of them in two categories: (1) ways to engage stakeholders in making the change; and, (2) structural supports for making change. We briefly describe each leverage point below. In the workbook, we’ve included key indicators of successful engagement at each stage of the Race Equity Cycle.

Engaging Stakeholders

As discussed in the section of Part One focused on mapping out your process, you’ll need to think about effective ways to engage each of these stakeholder groups in learning and planning, so that they are able to play their various roles in building a race equity culture.

Senior leaders play an important role by using their words and actions to support the changes that build a race equity culture; prioritizing time and resources for the work; and being continually willing to participate with the staff as learners. They can demonstrate an enthusiasm for this work that can help others. Managers also have important roles to play in modeling behaviors, learning in public, prioritizing time and resources for the work, coaching their teams to embrace change and fostering innovation.

Board members, in addition to learning and modeling behaviors, have a unique opportunity to ensure senior management’s accountability to race equity practices and outcomes. They also have opportunities to model accountability themselves as they apply race equity principles and practices to the full range of the board’s work.

Community members play a critical role in this cycle. In fact, if there’s too much separation between organizations and the communities they serve, assumptions about those communities will undermine your efforts to build a race equity culture and pursue equitable outcomes. Community members can contribute to naming critical issues and possible solutions, they can be invited onto your board, inform your organization of important community history and values related to race equity and share resources.

Structural Factors

These are the arenas in which equity can be practiced daily. Your Race, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Team can choose one or more areas for initial work. Generally, organization-wide learning is a good starting place.

Learning Environment
Knowledge and openness to learning is essential to race equity work and shifting your culture. You might start with learning about the levels of racism and understanding how they exist within your United Way and community. This might lead to more history about your core issues. Ongoing learning develops the muscle of talking about race and racism in order to design for more equity in your United Way, from hiring practices and meetings to decision making and data gathering.

Organizational Culture
Equity work can help to fashion a more open, inclusive culture where people are more fully able to contribute their knowledge and skills. It’s not just about helping new people “fit in” with the existing culture. It’s about creating a culture where everyone can show up as their full selves and make their strongest contribution. It’s about creating a strong sense of belonging and meaningful ways for everyone to contribute to the culture. Inclusive, equitable organizational culture can lead to increased satisfaction as well as better outcomes. The work often starts with your Race, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Team and its commitment to always using a racial equity assessment tool, engaging in trainings and conversations and changing policies to support this commitment. Embedding equity responsibilities across all staff and board can be an end result of culture change.

Organizational Structure and Operations
Structures and operations offer many places for change. On an individual level, senior leaders can develop and implement an equity plan. On an organizational level, it can include changes to the composition of the leadership team or management structure, more transparent decision-making processes, or equity considerations in vendor selection and other operations policies and practices. Most organizations’ current structures were created without considering race, equity and inclusion and may even have been explicitly exclusionary or discriminatory at one point. What needs shifting in your United Way in order to foster broader diversity, deeper inclusion and more equitable outcomes?

Gathering and Using Data
Data and stories are central to determining where you need to increase your attention, from monitoring staff diversity, retention and satisfaction to informing new protocols to analyzing your fundraising strategies (for example, data to analyze and expand your donor base). Targeted and transparent data can also contribute to culture change.

  • 1. “Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture”, Equity in the Center/ProInspire. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2009. Page 11.
  • 2. “Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture”, Equity in the Center/ProInspire. Includes quote by Heifetz, Ronald A., Alexander Grashow, and Martin Linsky. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2009. Page 9.
  • 3. “Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture”, Equity in the Center. Includes quote by Heifetz, Ronald A., Alexander Grashow, and Martin Linsky. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2009. Page 9.