On June 8-10, thirty-four funders from across the United States gathered virtually to kick off the second Foundations for Racial Equity (FRE) community of practice. We came together to forge new relationships, learn about the work that others are doing related to racial equity and ending homelessness, and to articulate goals that we want to work toward over the next two years.
Showing Up Ready to Work
An intentional part of designing Foundations for Racial Equity is ensuring that folks show up ready and willing to work. Responding to the requests of a few participants of color, we curated a list of foundational racial equity concepts and resources we expected participants to be familiar with before showing up to our opening convening. In assigning this as required knowledge, we were clear that while participants didn’t need to be “experts” in everything, they at least needed to come with a level of awareness and understanding to engage in meaningful dialogue.
Foundational learning and pre-work included understanding:
- Levels of racism: interpersonal, institutional, and structural/systemic. We recommended reading: Levels of Racism: A Theoretic Framework and a Gardener's Tale, by Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, which has a great metaphor to describe the levels of racism.
- Equality vs. equity vs. Justice. The definitions and examples on pages 8-10 of Grantmaking with a Racial Justice lens, explain the difference between racial equity and racial justice. As the guide says: "A racial equity lens separates symptoms from causes, but a racial justice lens brings into view the confrontation of power, the redistribution of resources, and the systemic transformation necessary for real change."
- The History of Race and Homelessness in the United States. This webinar recording of The History of Race and Homelessness is available to Full Members of Funders Together. If you aren’t a Full Member, we recommend checking out A Brief Timeline of Race and Homelessness in America.
You can find some of these foundational concepts and additional resources on our racial equity resource page.
What We Learned During the Convening
We introduced the Spectrum of Extractive to Regenerative Philanthropy from Justice Funders to facilitate conversation about where folks are now and where they’d like to go. This spectrum is part of Justice Funders’ Resonance Framework for Philanthropic Transformation. Participants shared that the framework was helpful for painting a picture of a desired future state and that they appreciated hearing ideas from others about how to get there, and we talked about how it’s also important to recognize that a tool is just a tool.
We practiced deep listening through a storytelling exercise called appreciative interviews, where participants shared examples of when they were successful in advancing racial equity in small and big ways. Doing this pushed participants to practice active, intentional, and empathetic listening. One participant remarked that “You don’t often get to bring your story into the work, which is great and rare.”
Through small group brainstorming and large group coaching, we also drafted questions and goals that we want to address and work toward over the course of the next two years and did a virtual gallery walk to help make learning visible. A few themes emerged from these goals:
- Shifting power, resources, and mindsets so that communities and people most impacted by homelessness/housing instability are driving the agenda and distribution of dollars
- Increasing transparency, accountability, and democratic decision-making in one’s grantmaking strategy and to increase trust with service providers, grassroots organizers, and people experiencing homelessness
- Creating more alignment and energy to shape advocacy activities and change policy at local and national levels
Over the next two years, we'll continue to check in on these goals and questions and use them reflect on what's happening and what we're learning. For now, we'll share one question that Sean Dollard, Program Officer at the Colorado Health Foundation offered that all of us should ask ourselves every day:
“True power-building and power-sharing occurs when folks most impacted by all forms of injustice in housing have power, voice, choice and agency to manifest liberation in their lives. So, how do we, as philanthropy, show up authentically and ensure power is centered where it should be?”
What We’ll Explore Moving Forward
As we continue to deepen our relationships over the next two years, we’ll explore some of the following topics as they relate to housing justice and ending homelessness:
- Power. Power came up in conversations in the context of the funder-grantee relationship, in working with people with lived expertise, in thinking about land and housing structures, and in wanting to support organizing and movement building.
- The impact of racism and white supremacy on homelessness and housing. We’ll explore topics like generational trauma, white dominant culture, and the connection between racial capitalism and homelessness.
- Policy and advocacy at local and federal levels. Two questions that have come up are “What’s happening at the federal level related to racial equity and homelessness?” and “How will that impact local communities, and what’s the role we as funders can play?”
- Grantmaking strategy and practices. These include practices such as participatory grantmaking, community-designed funding models, as well as how conversations about moving the board to adopt new grantmaking strategies that are laser-focused on race.
Over the next two years, we are excited to continue to learn and build relationships with one another and to share with all of you what we’re learning and working on as we go along.