Despite the tempting distractions of sunny Orlando, it was a full house at NCRP’s session at the PEAK Grantmaking annual conference in March. Co-led by me and Project Streamline’s Jessica Bearman, the workshop topic was “Beyond Good Intentions: Self-Assessment for Equity and Systems Change.” It was one of several sessions that focused on helping grants managers incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their practices.

A small group brainstorming activity immediately got the room abuzz:

What is one aspect of your grant processes that helps ensure all the organizations and communities you seek to benefit have equal access? What is one aspect that you suspect may work against that?

Jessica’s display of our “Support/Undermine” notes below capture some of the access issues that emerged:

Jessica Bearman’s display of “Support/Undermine” notes below capture some of the access issues that emerged in the “Beyond Good Intentions: Self-Assessment for Equity and Systems Change" at the PEAK Grantmaking annual conference.

We then explored the concept of power, which is the central frame of NCRP’s forthcoming self-assessment guide for grantmakers. We discussed why power is a central consideration when seeking to advance equity: Achieving equity requires changing systems that perpetuate disparities, and changing systems requires the use of power. We asked how the concept of power applies to their own roles. “We have the money, and money is power,” summarized one participant.

More lively small group discussions ensued as we presented three fictitious foundation – all drawing from real situations that NCRP encountered while assessing a dozen major foundations for our Philamplify initiative. Each scenario contained a set of feedback quotes that also came from real grantees and other stakeholders of assessed foundations.

Participants debated the power and equity implications for their chosen scenario.

Participants debated the power and equity implications for their chosen scenario.

Next, they identified things they could do in their own sphere of influence to address them.

Next, they identified things they could do in their own sphere of influence to address them.

In conclusion, the group shared resources that can help grants managers be mindful of equity issues in their work. In addition to NCRP’s forthcoming self-assessment guide for using power to advance equity, Jessica noted several PEAK resources, including: Project Streamline, Assessing the How of Grantmaking and Successful Structures.

We all came away from the session inspired and ready to “blow up” inequitable grants practices!

 Lava erupting from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent in Kilauea, Hawaii.

To receive notice when the NCRP self-assessment guide is released, sign up to get our materials at: www.ncrp.org.

Lisa Ranghelli is the senior director of assessment and special projects at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

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