By: Catherine Addo, Co-Head of Office, New York & U.S. Equity Chair
As movement-builders and partners to brands, philanthropies, nonprofits, and coalitions from all walks, we encounter this question time and time again. The committed, the well-meaning, and the works-in-progress all want to know how to contribute to racial progress in a meaningful, ongoing way that connects authentically to their core missions — a journey Purpose has been on for some years now, with ever more work to do.
As we know, there’s no simple fix when it comes to untangling the generations’ worth of attitudes, institutions, and practices that contribute to racial injustice in the United States and other countries that nurture similar biases. What we’ve found more helpful than chasing a singular solution is practicing how to change the way we think about the social challenges we’re already committed to dismantling each day. By examining our work with an intentional eye, we can start to make sense of where “working on race” can really begin.
Our new web experience, Exploring Racial Equity Impact , is a virtual workbook sharing three common impact prompts we use to bring a racial equity lens to our work toward an open, just, and habitable world.
- Our issue. From food insecurity, to healthcare access, to the negative impacts of climate change, nearly every social issue in the United States is colored by racial factors, among a host of other dynamics. The “What’s the systemic story?” impact prompt challenges us to ask: have we taken the time to understand the role of race in a given issue space, from its historical origins to the policies in place now? Without this insight, we could find ourselves building onto or even fully replicating systems that have never worked for people of color or other oppressed groups.
- Our action opportunities. The impact prompt asking, “Where are the opportunities to act?” can help push our commitment to “work on race” beyond abstract goodwill to a plan for dismantling concrete injustices. By unpacking different facets of race, from the construct itself to dynamics like bias and lived experience, we can start to determine what a set of specific racial equity action commitments might look like. When layered with what we know about race within our issue space, this can become very powerful work.
Of course, you don’t have to get to a plan of action this way — an issue space or a cultural moment may have a very clear need that your organization is well positioned to take on right away. But for those still exploring where to start to make a difference, a prompt like this can help highlight real opportunities for change.
- Our creative process and content. The United States racial justice movement has a historically rich and inspiring creative landscape that’s only grown over the ages. From some of our favorite individual creators, to leading advocacy groups and thoughtful brands, this work is often emotive, expressive, and highly collaborative. When we’re eager to join in the tradition of using creative content to change hearts and minds on race, the impact prompt asking, “How can you create empowering content?” encourages us to pursue every opportunity to be respectful, authentic, and uplifting in our process and end products. When done with care, the creative heart of racial justice campaigning can lead to huge strides in understanding and welcome more and more people into the movement.
We hope these prompts — far from exhaustive and informed by everything we learn from our network, team, and the movement around us — are an inspiring jumping off point for fellow change-makers looking to align their goals with better racial outcomes in the United States and beyond. We believe in the sharp minds, big hearts, and committed communities of the social impact sector to follow in the footsteps of the great movement leaders before us and hold racial equity impact at the heart of social change.
This thinking has been inspired and informed by our ongoing work with partners, clients, trainers, and our ever-growing network of equity-committed staff and contacts.
If you’re looking for a thought partner in your social impact work, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at https://www.purpose.com on February 2, 2021.