Arabella Advisors’ Chicago office recently had the pleasure of hosting a salon discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the world of philanthropic giving. The event, Unpacking Funder Fragility Around Racial Equity: How to Do it and Why It’s Important, was co-sponsored by Forefront and featured the insightful Angelique Power, president of the Field Foundation of Illinois, alongside Bruce Boyd, a senior managing director here at Arabella. Over the course of the evening’s interactive Q&A, moderated by Kim Casey from Forefront, Angelique and Bruce candidly discussed their experiences working to advance racial equity in the world of giving. The video compilation below records some of the evening’s most resonant moments.
After noting the recent surge of awareness and attention related to DEI and racial equity in philanthropy, Angelique observed that “conversation about race and racial equity in mixed company is always scary.” Many of us “don’t have the tools to know how to talk abut it… We’re so scared of offending or being offended that we don’t have these conversations.” But we need to have such conversations, comfortable or not. Why? Because if we don’t, “we codify racism, we give it our blessing.”
Bruce agreed, admitting to his own ongoing discomfort as a self-described “old white guy” who’s been working to engage on this issue over the last five years. He also added that “for all of us as a community to make progress on this issue we need white people engaged and involved as well.”
In one of the most memorable moments of the night, Angelique then provided an analogy for better understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion–not only as an overarching topic, but as three separate facets. Using the metaphor of running a restaurant, she described the aspects of DEI as follows:
- “Diversity is keeping your restaurant the same, but inviting a few people who are different from you to partake of the meal.”
- “Inclusion is checking in on those folks who are different from you. How was your wine? Do you want to learn how to make our menu at home?”
- “Equity is about sharing power and resources. Who has ownership? Who has the power to invite?”
Asked to reflect on the racial equity work he’s recently been involved with, Bruce noted that, “to make a difference on just about any issue, you’ve got to be thinking about equitable grant making. … Whether you’re thinking about employment, education, or environment, all of those require authentic, meaningful, real engagement with front-line, grassroots communities.”
Building on this point, Angelique noted that, too often, philanthropy tries to “creat[e] solutions to these really big problems when we don’t have the visionaries who actually have experience designing solutions” in the room. Too often, “the assumption in philanthropy is that proximity to capital makes you smart. And that just seems like a dangerous assumption.”
“And,” Bruce added, “a false one.”
Summing up the importance of racial equity work, Angelique stated it plainly: “The reason to do racial equity is because you’re not actually going to get any results if you’re not acknowledging historic racism—and if you’re not funding the visionaries who have the lived experience to solve the problems. It’s the best return on investment, and it’s us doing the job we’re assigned to do.”
To watch the full video, click here.
To learn more about Arabella’s DEI journey, click here.
To learn more about the work of the Field Foundation, click here.