INSIGHTS ON
OUR JOURNEY

June 27, 2018 | From Our CEO, Kevin Walker: Why DEI?

Our CEO, Kevin Walker, speaks out to launch our diversity, equity, and inclusion work....

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION (DEI) MAKES PROSPERITY POSSIBLE FOR ALL

We’ve made a commitment to advance DEI intentionally, in everything we do, because sustainable prosperity can’t be achieved without it.

INSIGHTS ON
OUR JOURNEY

June 27, 2018 | From Our CEO, Kevin Walker: Why DEI?

Our CEO, Kevin Walker, speaks out to launch our diversity, equity, and inclusion work....

“This is a vision, not a current reality. We’re starting on a journey to weave DEI into the Foundation’s fabric, starting from within.”

— Kevin Walker, President & CEO, Northwest Area Foundation

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WHAT’S DEI?

DEI describes an approach we’re using to more fully live out our mission, which is to support efforts to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity across our region of eight states and 75 Native nations. We envision a region where this is truly possible for all people—and DEI can help make that possibility a reality.

DIVERSITY: The presence of individuals with various identities.

There are many kinds of diversity: race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, country of origin, education, religion, geography, and physical or cognitive abilities. Valuing diversity means recognizing differences between people, acknowledging that these differences are a valued asset, and striving for diverse representation as a critical step toward equity. (Source: Race Forward)

Why it matters to us at NWAF: We value and celebrate diversity across various identities. We strive to be a workplace where all staff and visitors feel welcomed and respected.

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EQUITY: Just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and thrive on their own terms.

Equity starts with recognizing different challenges, needs, and histories of a given group. To become more equitable is to promote justice and fairness within the practices, policies, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. To accomplish this, there must be systems that create, support, and sustain justice. (Source: Informed by D5 Coalition and Race Forward)

Why it matters to us at NWAF: Our mission focuses on helping people in our region achieve sustainable prosperity and thrive on their own terms. We believe that prosperity is possible for all people in our region. Currently, that is not the case. Our priority communities (Native Americans, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and people in rural areas) have been, and continue to be, disproportionately under-resourced. Our work focuses on improving practices, policies, and systems to create more equitable outcomes.

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INCLUSION: The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences, offers respect in words and actions, and fosters a sense of belonging for all people. (Source: Informed by UC-Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity)

Why it matters to us at NWAF: We believe inclusion is more than simply diversity and quantitative representation. It involves authentic and empowered participation and full access to opportunities. It also means ensuring everyone is able to contribute meaningfully to better decisions and greater effectiveness in our organization. (Source: Informed by Race Forward and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations)

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WHAT’S OUR DEI JOURNEY?

Our region needs more diversity, equity, and inclusion for prosperity to be possible for all people—and we’re on a journey to determine our role in helping this happen.

WE’RE DELIBERATELY BEGINNING WITH OURSELVES

The first leg of our DEI journey is internal. But we’re not doing it in a vacuum. We’re learning from experts and others who’ve engaged in DEI work to help chart the best course for our journey.

To be a useful ally to the people we serve, we must be diverse, equitable, and inclusive ourselves. Otherwise, we’re likely to reinforce the very cycles of poverty and injustice we seek to change.

FINDING THE BEST WAY TO MOVE FORWARD

We want to weave DEI into the fabric of our organization. The effort is touching everything that we do, from our culture to how we show up in the community to how we use our resources.

Along our DEI journey, we will continue to listen and learn from the people of our region to understand their different identities, challenges, and needs.

We’ll be thoughtful about applying what we learned. We hope to lift up all voices to be sure that they’re included in decisions that impact our region and that the results produce prosperity for all.

GUIDED BY OUR PRIORITY COMMUNITIES

We’ve set out on the journey in the knowledge that some communities experience more poverty than others because they’ve been denied their fair share of resources and opportunities.

Our funding strategy prioritizes these communities, and they’re at the center of our theory of change.

Their wisdom informs our strategy. These are strong communities with vibrant cultures and resiliant spirits.

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?

Our priority communities have been telling us for a long time that the policies and systems of our region don’t work for everyone. Why? Because these policies and systems continue to create barriers that lead to gaps in opportunities to find good jobs, start businesses, or build assets that might lead to prosperity. Too many people in our priority communities live in crisis or a paycheck away from it.

We’ve listened and learned, striving to support our communities to thrive on their own terms and achieve sustainable prosperity. It is the purpose that drives us every day.

OUR JOURNEY INCLUDES AN INTENTIONAL AND ACTIVE COMMITMENT TO RACIAL EQUITY.

We are also committed to racial equity. Communities of color and indigenous communities experience striking levels of poverty and other social and economic disparities. The causes are rooted within a deeper historical context of trauma, inequality, and barriers based on racial discrimination.

We’re in the process of defining how we’ll carry out our commitment. It will be a top priority.

FULL STATEMENT

For us to achieve our mission to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity we need to make an intentional and active commitment to racial equity. Communities of color and indigenous communities experience striking social and economic disparities. The causes are rooted within a deeper historical context of trauma, inequality, and abusive institutional structures and barriers. Racial discrimination at all levels—individual, institutional, and structural—has denied opportunities for communities to thrive on their own terms. An intentional and active commitment to racial equity is integral to our efforts to build a more just, inclusive, and prosperous region for all of our priority communities: Native American communities, communities of color, rural communities, and immigrant and refugee communities.

We’re in the process of defining how we’ll carry out our commitment. It will be a top priority. We believe this will involve:

  • An understanding of how race plays a role in biasAttitudes that unconsciously affect our decisions and actions. (Race Forward, 2015) and privilegeA set of advantages systemically conferred on a particular person or group of people. (Race Forward, 2015) on a personal, organizational, and societal level.

  • An examination of how race impacts all of the organization’s priority communities.

  • Gaining a more complex understanding of how race often intersects with other marginalized communities, including: LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees, women and girls, working-class poor, and undocumented.

  • A dedication to continually learning more about racial equity and using our learnings to adapt how we function as individuals and operate as an organization.

FULL STATEMENT ∨

NEXT STEPS: WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE PAVEMENT

Through the rest of 2018, we’re holding discussions among our staff and board to develop goals and plans for our efforts. As part of this, we’re fostering stronger relationships internally and with our grantees and community partners.

It’s all very much a work in progress. We’ve already spent more than a year learning about possibilities from DEI thought leaders and other funders and also laying out the definitions and ideas you see here.

Whatever we do, we’ll be transparent by sharing what we’re learning and doing with you, on this page in real time, as we take the next steps.

Tools & Info

Learn more about DEI from organizations and thought leaders that are informing our journey:

Questions or thoughts? Contact us.

“Native CDFIs are weavers, connecting families, communities, and entrepreneurs to the resources necessary to bring dreams to life for multiple generations.”

— Kevin Walker, President & CEO, Northwest Area Foundation

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