We are writing to update you on the racial equity work we initiated last summer. We embarked on this work in the belief that we could not fulfill the mission of Many Hands without supporting racial equity, while acknowledging at the time that we could not say exactly what that meant.
Today we understand that in order to support women, children, and families in socioeconomic need across the greater Washington region, we need to educate ourselves about the impact of racism, not just on our society, but on ourselves and how we see and live in the world. We also need to move beyond education to counteract those biases, as individuals and as an organization.
This year we undertook three major initiatives to support these commitments:
- We selected a belonging, equity, inclusion, and diversity (BEID) consultant to help us conduct an organizational assessment and to design and lead a racial equity discussion series this fall. All 2021 and 2022 grant cycle members will be invited to participate.
- We sponsored racial equity training for members of the Board and Racial Equity Working Group (REWG).
- We offered a wide range of opportunities for Focus Area Committee members and members at large to learn about racial equity, particularly in relation to our grantmaking.
More information about each of these initiatives is below.
As we reflect on the past year, we are mindful that, as one member reminded us early on, “The first step in leadership isn’t action; it’s understanding.” Over the coming year, we look forward to continuing to learn, as well as translating our growing understanding into action.
We are deeply grateful to all the members who have supported this process by contributing to the work of the REWG: Amy Peck Abraham, Deborah Arrindell, Lynne Battle, Robin Berkley, Joni Celiz, Gail Harmon, Charis Keitelman, Mary Kwak, Susan Liss, Jill Rosenbaum Meyer, Katy Moore, Cynthia Moreland, Karen Murrell, and Shelley Stanfield. And we invite you to join us. For more information about how you can get involved, please contact Mary Kwak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support. We look forward to continuing this journey together.
The Many Hands Board
Together we make a difference
The racial equity work proposal we shared in July 2020 envisioned two phases: one year focused on examining Many Hands as an organization through a racial equity lens and one year focused on reevaluating our grantmaking.
Our first goal for 2020-21 was to create a working group to lead and coordinate our racial equity work and present recommendations for possible changes in our mission, culture, and membership practices to the Board. We soon realized the need for external support in this process. As a result, the Racial Equity Working Group, which includes both Board and non-Board members, spent much of the fall and winter defining the scope of our work and identifying a partner to help guide us on this journey.
This process led us to Conditioning Leaders, a network of coaches, consultants, trainers, and facilitators dedicated to supporting organizations in embedding belonging, equity, inclusion, and diversity throughout their work. We are currently working with Brianna Boggs and Shaunda Lewis to design an organizational assessment that will help us identify strengths and weaknesses in our approach to BEID. This approach will put us in a better position to evaluate, for example, possible modifications to our membership model, which REWG members have begun to research.
In addition, Brianna and Shaunda will lead a three-part discussion series this fall that will help us develop a shared understanding of racial equity and its relationship to our work and our everyday lives. This series will be open to everyone who joined Many Hands for the grant cycle that just ended, as well as members who join us for 2022.
Our second commitment was to invest in racial equity training for the Board. With funding from Philanthropy Together, thirteen members of the Board and REWG participated this spring in virtual workshops with the Racial Equity Institute and Dr. Robin DiAngelo. Both workshops focused in different ways on structural racism. The participants’ reflections on these sessions will help shape the design of our own discussion series. Upon completion of the discussion series and the organizational assessment carried out by Conditioning Leaders, we will evaluate future training needs.
Our third major priority this year was to expand our education program to offer members and friends more opportunities to learn about racial equity in the context of Many Hands’ work. We hosted three public events centering equity: our November discussion of maternal mortality in DC with Andria Cornell and Ebony Marcelle; our December conversation about philanthropy, power, and impact with Tamara Lucas Copeland and Kathy Kretman; and our April book event featuring Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder and CEO of 2020 Partner Grantee Generation Hope and author of the recently released Pregnant Girl. In addition, members were invited to participate in workshops on unconscious bias in grantmaking, trust-based philanthropy, and participatory grantmaking organized by the DMV Collective Giving Network.
A second strand of our education program focused on supporting Focus Area Committee (FAC) members in considering their work through a racial equity lens. We provided FAC members with resources addressing racial equity and bias in grantmaking, as well as links to recommended reading, podcasts, and videos for each focus area. In keeping with our member-driven approach, our goal in providing these materials was to deepen members’ understanding of the challenges facing our community and to spur reflection on the values and biases that we bring to grantmaking. As we prepare for the next grant cycle, we will be considering different ways to integrate these issues into committee discussions, as well as other resources to provide, and we welcome your feedback and suggestions.
To guide and contextualize the different strands of our work, the Board has adopted the following framing language, which was developed by members of the REWG:
In order to effectively support women, children, and families in socioeconomic need, we must understand how race and other drivers of inequity shape the distribution of resources and opportunities within our society. We must also recognize and work to interrupt our own biases so that we, as grantmakers, do not reinforce inequitable outcomes.
To support this work, we are committed to building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization. We believe that empowering a wide range of voices will promote deeper and more lasting learning that will inform our choices as Many Hands members and in our daily lives.
This framing is designed to keep us focused on both the “what” and the “why” of this journey; as we move forward, it may evolve.