Board Blogs: Updates on WA Women’s Foundation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Work

Grace Chien headshotA recent article by Dorian Burton and Brian Barnes published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review begins as follows:

“Historical injustices – perpetuated by racial and cultural conflicts and exacerbated by a lack of empathy – are at the heart of America’s growing economic, social, and political inequalities. Nowhere is this gap of authentic empathy and justice more pronounced than in the American philanthropic sector, where often well-intentioned people make decisions for communities they do not come from, may not understand, rarely interact with, and almost never step foot into.”

This quote was front and center in focus groups recently conducted with Foundation Board members, committee leadership and staff by LueRachelle Brim-Atkins, a consultant engaged by the Foundation’s Board of Directors to design curriculum and execute a training implementation plan to fulfill the recommendations of our DEI Task Force.

The DEI Task Force was formed by our Board in the summer of 2017 to develop a plan for expending grant funds received from BNY Mellon and two individual donors to support of the Foundation’s “diversity efforts.” After meeting over the course of several months, the DEI Task Force made the following recommendations:

  • Educate the Board, committee leadership, and members to deepen their understanding on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • After providing a basic level of education to deepen understanding,
    • Conduct an inventory of what WA Women’s Foundation is currently doing to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
    • Undertake a top to bottom operations, policy and procedure review to understand the implications for advancing or impeding DEI in WA Women’s Foundation.
    • Review current programming to assess whether we are engaging diverse perspectives.

Last October, the Board approved these recommendations and included in our Strategic Framework 2020 a goal of building a culture of inclusion by educating the Board, committee leadership, and staff to deepen their understanding on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. To implement this recommendation, the Board authorized the Task Force to proceed with selecting an educational partner to develop and deliver appropriate DEI curriculum.

Over the course of the past year, I have been privileged to serve on the DEI Task Force. I served as the Task Force’s original Chair and during our first phase of meetings, the Task Force membership included Cherry Banks, Maura Fallon Martha Kongsgaard, Ann Kumasaka, Diankha Linear, Donna Lou, Morgan Dawson, Beth McCaw, and Aki Shibuya. During the second phase of work, Ann Kumasaka and Donna Lou stepped forward as co-chairs and led the process of identifying consultants that might work with us. As a result of our research, the Task Force recommended and the Board approved in July the selection of LueRachelle Brim-Atkins, a locally and nationally recognized trainer/consultant to support the Foundation in this important learning journey toward organizational transformation. (For more on LueRachelle’s background, click here)

LueRachelle is contracted through December to help us accomplish three goals: (1) Deepen the Board, staff, and committee leadership’s understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion along with the meaning and process of creating an inclusive, multi-cultural organization; (2) Develop a plan to advance values for equity and inclusion throughout the Foundation; and (3) Undertake a  process to help the Foundation identify the values  and policies that will guide its work in light of the new strategic plan. Over the past month, LueRachelle has conducted a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews with Board, committee leadership, and staff to assess individual and organizational readiness for change. This information will form the basis of the training design that will be carried out starting in September and will continue through the end of the year. At that time, an evaluation will be conducted to determine how we might extend training opportunities to the full membership.

This work will add further insights and understanding as we move forward with the evolution of our grantmaking process and the implementation of our new strategic plan. Many thanks again to BNY Mellon and our donor members who have launched us on this learning journey.

2 responses to “Board Blogs: Updates on WA Women’s Foundation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Work

  1. Will we hear more about the results of the focus groups?
    Are individual members also a part of the discussion?

  2. Toby, we did not get a written report from LueRachelle on the results of the focus groups as they were conducted for LueRachelle to gain insights into curriculum design. We are viewing this work that we’ve been doing at the leadership level with LueRachelle as a potential pilot for a larger group of members, so stay tuned! There will be more opportunities for our broader membership in the new year.

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