Thanks to Jeff Poulos, for organizing last week’s training for Board members and staff of Philanthropy Massachusetts. Angela Park, who facilitated the learning session, offered concrete steps each of us can take, as individuals, organizationally and as a sector, to embed justice and equity into our philanthropic work. The gathering was the first step toward Philanthropy Massachusetts’ commitment to examine and amplify issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are terms which each have a distinct meaning, and we were cautioned around the tendency to overuse the acronym and “buzz word” “DEI”, commonplace in our sector to describe this complex and nuanced work. For example, while diversity can measure the similarities and differences that exist in an organization, we learned it may not always reflect policies and practices that are equitable. What are the words, phrases, and definitions we will use to frame justice and equity for our organization and what are we trying to accomplish?
One of the things I especially appreciated about the session was a reminder of the importance of language we use as funders. “Coded” words used to describe communities we work with, like “minority”, “disadvantaged” and “disempowered”, can inadvertently reinforce the notion that people with less access to resources are “less than” or subordinate to those of us with more. When we refer to supporting “diverse communities”, what do we really mean? Are we supporting African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native American organizations or organizations that support people subordinated by race? Going forward, I will be more intentional and explicit about the words I use. I want to make sure I’m not unintentionally perpetuating messages and mistaken beliefs that stereotype and subordinate the communities we are in partnership with.
Describing this work as “forever work” rather than “one and done”, our facilitator acknowledged at the outset that discussions about equity and justice require conversations about class, race and culture, subjects which, for some, feel uncomfortable. We were reminded that it’s when we’re feeling just a little bit uncomfortable when the greatest learning takes place.
I’m pleased and proud that Philanthropy Massachusetts is beginning their engagement in this work and I look forward to its continuation and sharing it with our members.
Josie Greene, Trustee & Director
Josephine and Louise Crane Family Foundation