This morning kicked off Pause! Shift! Engage!, MCF’s 2013 Philanthropy Convening. The hundreds of grantmakers and partners in attendance just heard from Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of W.K. Kellogg Foundation, who shared insights on the foundation’s journey toward integrating greater racial equity in its work, and how others can do the same.
Buy-in at All Levels
Speirn shared that when he started as president and CEO in 2006, staff had recently gone through an intensive anti-racism workshop. The workshop had a clear impact but some mixed results, as many staff felt unsure where the foundation’s leadership and board stood on issues of diversity.
Speirn addressed this by asking the board of trustees to undertake this same workshop, turning it into a shared experience between board and staff.
When he later asked the trustees what they wanted to tell staff about this work, their direction was clear: “Tell the staff to be the most effective anti-racism organization it can be.” This provided the clear mandate needed for the foundation to promote racial equity and dismantle institutional racism in all its work.
Another key insight from Speirn: For a foundation, it’s easier to create a new grantmaking program and ask grantees to adhere to a vision of racial equity than to look inside and ask how the foundation can make itself an inclusive environment. However, grantees and other partners were looking to the foundation to lead by example, so internal practices had to be addressed head-on.
Through tools such as the Intercultural Development Inventory, workshops led by White Men as Full Diversity Partners (again a shared experience with both board and staff), and a peer action learning network created by the Council of Michigan Foundations, W.K. Kellogg Foundation made significant progress on aligning all its work around a shared vision of diversity.
A significant step from W.K. Kellogg Foundation in demonstrating its commitment to diversity and equity was to publish the demographics of its staff and board on its website every year. This includes not just overall demographics: they are also broken down by different positions, such as board, executive leadership, program officers, etc., to give the public a fuller picture.
Through these reports, the public could see that the foundation staff moved from being comprised of 21% people of color in 2002, to 40% in 2012.
From Counting People to Making People Count
Speirn also emphasized that counting people was only the first step on the journey. It’s important not to just have diverse people at the table, but that they also have a real voice instead of being expected to conform to an organization’s monoculture. At the final stage, these voices fully matter and contribute to better outcomes.
Speirn closed by sharing his pride that after many years of service to the foundation as a staff member, La June Montgomery Tabron will become W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s first African-American president and CEO starting in 2014.
Look for more from the convening to come soon on this blog, and follow #MCFengage on Twitter for live updates!