Racial justice requires an equity lens

Racial justice requires an equity lens.

As the world shook following George Floyd’s murder, calls for racial justice emerged with outrage and passion. Protesters from distant corners of the world implored that we address the root causes of systemic racism. This call to action is coming as our country is still reeling from the clear disparate impact that the global pandemic and economic devastation is having on BIPOC communities and those without documentation. Leaders who have been tepid about using the word race, because it disenfranchised some, are now emboldened to be explicit.

Masked WomanClearly, today presents a window of opportunity to address the systems at fault. Many bold leaders in different fields – from boardrooms to basketball courts – have issued calls for reform. Philanthropy is no exception. Philanthropy is, and should be, among the first to call out injustices and invest in addressing systemic disparities. In our foundation's role as part of the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, we could see the need to support our colleagues in institutionalizing the practice of using an equity lens. Take the window of opportunity and open it wider – as wide as possible – and then remove the hinges to keep that window open forever. That is our challenge. How do we institutionalize what we are doing now?

At SVCF, we are institutionalizing our equity lens in everything that we do, from what data we collect, to who we hire and how we measure impact.

What is an equity lens?

For our foundation, an equity lens means having the discipline to ask and answer questions that keep equity and racial justice at the center of our work. We hope that sharing this thought process helps others who are on the same path, as we strive to institutionalize these practices and together build a more equitable world.

Asking the right questions:

On establishing a racially just outcome:

  • Is the program or policy explicitly targeting investments that will expand BIPOC leadership capacity and power?

On processes:

  • What forces are driving this program or policy?
  • Have impacted/targeted communities contributed their leadership and voices in this process?

On taking a systemic approach:

  • Does this program or policy perpetuate or help to dismantle historical, legal, or other barriers set in the past?
  • After identifying disparities, how will they be mitigated or eliminated?

On evaluation:

  • Are we measuring impact with sophistication to understand the impact on BIPOC leaders and communities, as well as those who are undocumented?
  • Do we understand both the positive and negative consequences of our investments and advocacy efforts?

For Silicon Valley Community Foundation, we prioritize establishing clear goals and asking ourselves these crucial questions; this is part of our discipline, to ensure our racial justice and equity goals remain our guiding light. We encourage others who share our vision of a more just and equitable Silicon Valley to follow suit — keep these questions top of mind as we work toward these common goals. Let’s build a better Silicon Valley, together.

View more of Gina Dalma's reflections from the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable here.