The path to equity will not only require a paradigm shift in thinking and behavior – trust must be built between government, philanthropy and community in order to move forward.– DCF Community Equity Project cohort
The Community Equity Project fellowship provided a space for fellows to learn from others undertaking strategic and intentional equity work. The cohort fellows engaged with national and local experts to learn how groups, communities, and organizations adopted an equity lens and restructured for impact. One discovery team explored the experiences and outcomes of organizations which had fully committed to equity. Of particular interest was the organizational transformation necessary to adopt an equity lens and to move the needle toward equity. In regard to organizational transformation and the process of restructuring for impact, the fellows envision that service providers, advocates, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations will remove barriers to well-being; meet communities where they are; enlist the community to drive decision making, attend to the perspectives of those most affected by any decision, and engage everyone in the transparent, inclusive decision making, accountable through data. They also envision that Wilmington’s leading organizations commit to transforming to embrace an equity mindset, policies, and practices.
Restructuring For Impact: Key Elements
The fellows discovered that although organizational restructuring may look different across organizations and cities there appears to be a common process. Organizational adoption of an equity lens and restructuring for equity impact is a multi-faceted, lengthy, and typically messy undertaking. It takes time and commitment. It varies by location, history, personalities, and metrics. And, it is not a linear process; there are stops, rewinds, and repeats.
The fellows created a three-phase process to depict what inevitably is a complicated endeavor. The process includes a preparation phase that, at a minimum, must include open dialogue among representatives from all levels (community residents, service providers, advocacy agencies, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations). Influential leaders from each level must be fully engaged and promote the effort. The next phase is change across vectors. Given that these vectors influence and are influenced by each other, it is most effective to undertake change processes simultaneously. Multiple, aligned change efforts create the transformation necessary to move the needle toward equity. Finally, an equity centered organization tends to be characterized, in part, by two shifts: 1) expanding equity capacity by creating equity positions and/or divisions; and, 2) adopting equity specific strategic goals, action plans, and funding streams. Typically, the equity positions and divisions as well as the strategic goals, action plans, and funding streams include an emphasis on or prioritize race equity.
The fellows also emphasized the need for assistance, guidance, and support from experts in the equity space. A number of national organizations have emerged as leaders in the field. Because the process of restructuring is complicated and frequently tenuous, a key element of effective transformation is engaging experts to assess the landscape and guide the process.
The fellows identified two cities, similar in many ways to Wilmington, where the restructuring efforts offer promising experiences.
The Minneapolis experience underscores the role of philanthropy and of government in the equity journey. The Minneapolis Foundation led the transformation process with the creation of the OneMinneapolis Community Indicators Report to help the entire community better understand, track, and improve how Minneapolis residents are faring across 25 community indicators. The report has served as the measuring stick for progress. The Minneapolis Foundation continues to be a leader in the efforts investing $2 million a year in Civic Engagement program grants to support work towards a “robust and responsive democracy.” The City of Minneapolis began its intentional and focused equity centered transformation in 2003 with decentralizing the equity efforts across city government agencies to promote equity more comprehensively. By 2017, the Race and Equity Division Ordinance was passed by the City Council, establishing a governmental unit accountable to equity. In 2019, the city’s Strategic and Racial Equity Action Plan was released. The strategic plan requires each unit of government to have at least one measure of racial equity.
The Charlotte experience shows how transformation may require the development of a new organization. The Foundation of the Carolinas leads the equity journey in Charlotte and serves as a convenor of a multi-sector collaboration. The collaborative approach has resulted in commitment across sectors. For instance, the Foundation for the Carolinas invested $5 million to seed the creation of a matching private-sector housing fund, Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund, and the City of Charlotte contributed $50 million to the fund. The Foundation for the Carolinas secured $44 million in additional commitments for the fund from Wells Fargo, Crescent Communities, Bank of America, Ally and Barings, and Atrium Healthy among others. The Charlotte Mayor developed partnership with Bank of America, Barings, and Ally Financial to provide lower interest rates to low-income first-time homebuyer and integrated an equity plan in the city’s strategic action plan.
The fellows focused their recommendations on ways in which the DCF might restructure to have a greater impact on equity in Wilmington. Those recommendations include:
- Engage experts to guide the DCF through an equity transformation process.
- Create a project manager position to manage coordination of aligned and collaborative equity efforts. Project Manager will work with existing community organizations to scope design and implementation plan for growing the community action network and informing financing structure for grassroots organizing and capacity building.
- Track and evaluate progress toward equity.
- Broker sustained, collaborative investments in the shared equity agenda.
- Support a Racial Equity Alliance. While grassroots community driven efforts are crucial to transformational change, a broader landscape of changemakers must work together as one high functioning team. The Racial Equity Alliance will be a network of invested and committed stakeholders committed to acting as true allies and champions of race equity in the Wilmington landscape. Equity allies will commit to a year long onboarding process through a comprehensive training on race/equity.
- Provide race equity training and organizational transformation consultation to promote and implement race equity in organizations, institutions, and communities.
- Broker meaningful corporate and institutional commitment to race equity work.
- Broker commitment from The City of Wilmington to make race equity a priority in their business practices, decision making, accountability, and contracting.
The Community Equity Project cohort’s vision and the commitment to advance equity are influencing the work of the DCF. Explore DCF commitments and work at delcf.org/community.