Building a Race Equity Culture in the Social Sector

Mar 28, 2018
  • Description

Across the social sector, a fundamental element of social impact remains missing: race equity. Race equity, the condition where one's racial identity has no influence on how one fares in society, is essential to social change. However, it is impossible until we address the structural racism that is entrenched, not only in our nation's history and culture, but in the mindsets, policies, and practices of nonprofit and philanthropic management. This requires transformative change to these organizations, and to the sector overall.

As noted in Building Movement Project's (BMP) report Race to Lead, only 20 percent of CEO/executive directors of social service organizations and the foundations that support them are people of color. Furthermore, the common belief that bringing more people of color into the sector inevitably means that they'll rise to the leadership level is a myth. BMP's research confirmed that the talent pipeline is healthy, and that the desire for advancement among people of color is strong.

As outlined in our publication Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, I and my colleagues at Equity in the Center believe that this change, and the social impact it can drive, are possible within the context of a Race Equity Culture; that is, an organizational culture focused on the counteraction of race inequities, both internally and externally.

Our research found that senior leaders play a critical role in building a Race Equity Culture. First, they support managers and teams in examining all four levels on which racism operates in society—personal, interpersonal, institutional, and structural. Second, they foster the conditions that shift mindsets, policies, and practices toward race equity.