January 20, 2021
What’s next?: Critical steps all nonprofits need to consider for achieving racial equity goals in the workplace
Local experts say transformative change demands a comprehensive strategy
by Shari Finnell, editor, Not for Profit News

With the events of 2020 heightening awareness around the need for racial equity and social justice reform, nonprofit organizations have been at the forefront of efforts to institute transformative change.

Yet, no matter how much progress was made in 2020, achieving racial equity in the workplace will continue to be one of the most important issues organizations must tackle for at least the next decade, predicted Ben Hecht, the CEO of Living Cities, a collaborative of foundations and financial institutions, in a Harvard Business Review article.

The work toward racial equity must be comprehensive and deliberate, according to two local experts who are immersed in racial equity initiatives.

“It’s important for organizations to do an assessment of all their systems, including policies and procedures, how you recruit and hire, how you promote, and what ongoing training looks like,” said Tim Nation, executive director of the Peace Learning Center, which works with schools and organizations on educational initiatives around equity, social and emotional learning and restorative practices. “Not-for-profit organizations also need to assess how connected we are to the community. Do we act as saviors who know all the answers? Or are we really connected to the community in a way that we’re able to truly understand what their needs are?”

Nation also said it’s important to determine if the composition of the organization’s board and staff is representative of the communities they serve.
The Peace Learning Center, which has been at the forefront of racial equity initiatives since its inception in 1997, continues to assess itself against those measures. “We have, at the Peace Learning Center, established a racial equity committee that is assessing where we are with all of those different components — determining our strengths and weaknesses, and identifying areas that we can improve.”

Michael Twyman, principal/owner of InExcelsis, an Indianapolis-based consulting firm, said the work to achieve racial equity within the workplace can seem daunting but nonprofits and other organizations must commit to it as they would with any other major initiative.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s necessary work,” said Twyman, who also is an associate faculty member of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “If we’re willing to do the work for other initiatives because we believe they’re important, we must put forward the resources to make racial equity happen.”

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