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Acknowledging the Challenge of Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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D5 Coalition Director Kelly Brown was asked by Philanthropy Northwest to comment on their most recent report, Journey Into Indian Country, and the areas she thought were most compelling. You can read the report here and read Kelly’s reaction below.

Acknowledging the Challenge of Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

via Philanthropy Northwest Blog

At D5, we’re in constant conversation with philanthropic leaders working to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve been struck by a recurring theme: This is challenging work. Even the foundations that have been at the forefront of this movement for decades still struggle to advance this work inside and outside of their organizations.

It’s stories like those captured in Philanthropy Northwest’s most recent report, Journey into Indian Country, that give us heart about what’s possible. Yes, it’s hard. It’s slow. But it’s worth it.

Despite philanthropy’s long track record of working to advance diversity, many communities are still excluded from full participation in US philanthropy. As the report points out, less than half of one percent of foundation dollars are directed to Native people. When Philanthropy Northwest decided to promote more philanthropic engagement in Indian Country, it took the important step of recognizing how hard that would be, particularly with little knowledge of and few relationships with Native communities. In acknowledging that this journey would take effort, they prepared themselves for an in-depth exploration about how best to do it.

Byron Mallott explains that investing in diverse communities “is not just about putting dollars into programs.” It’s a long-term, relationship-building endeavor that begins with listening to the communities that you are trying to engage. Building the internal will within a foundation to invest in a community previously overlooked is the first, sometimes challenging, step. But it opens foundations to the important and enriching work of learning, understanding the unique need and figuring out the most impactful investment.

Philanthropy exists to serve the common good. For a regional association like Philanthropy Northwest, that means ensuring that those in greatest need in a given geography are being included by philanthropists—or at least that foundations are aware of this need and can then determine if meeting it fits with their missions. This effort to listen to and highlight ways to engage this underserved community is a fantastic example of the role an association can play: Helping its members make fully informed investment decisions that take into account the rich diversity of the people they serve.

The philanthropic world has been talking about diversity for a long time. People are often sensitive about it, and some grow weary when progress seems slow. Journey into Indian Countryacknowledges that yes, progress is slow, but it is steady and there is so much to be learned along the way. And when we decide to be more conscious about who we include when we think about philanthropy, we build relationships and gain knowledge that help us become more strategic grantmakers—empowering both our institutions and the communities we serve.

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