A Call for Philanthropic Leaders to Lead on Racial Equity

Ben Hecht, president & CEO of Living Cities, a collective of 19 of the world’s wealthiest philanthropic and financial institutions, writes in The Chronicle of Philanthropy of their journey "to embed racial equity in our culture, which means becoming more accountable to the communities we serve and addressing the root causes of inequality."

Hecht explains,

For many years, Living Cities took a race-neutral approach to its grantmaking. However, we didn’t see the gains we’d hoped for in the lives of low-income people and their communities. Racial gaps across all indicators — income, wealth, health, and more — continued to widen. During the past decade, we took a critical look at our approach and realized that if we truly hoped to improve the well-being of all people, we must put race at the center of our giving strategies.

The following actions, derived from Living Cities' experience, are important steps for success, according to Hecht.

  • "Understand history and target root causes. As grantmakers, we can’t simply respond to conditions in the world around us. Our actions must be grounded in an understanding of the root causes of poverty to address them."
  • "Work from the inside-out." After discussing how Living Cities has used, among other tools, trainings and a framework that has helped their staff members and others they work with deepen their ability to see, understand, and stop the ways that racism shows up in each of us, Hecht states he is now more capable of advancing racial equity when handling procurement, hiring, and investments for Living Cities.
  • "Change the 'how.' To end racism in the communities where we live and work means we must uproot it within our own institutions. Doing this has required all of us at Living Cities to understand and transform the elements of white institutional culture that shape our norms, policies, and practices and perpetuate the status quo."

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