Bolder grantmaking: Integrating Racial Equity Impact Assessments in requests for proposals

July 6, 2017
By Yanique Redwood

Social justice work is tiring, painful and unpopular, but there is nothing that is more important to me than this work. I am grateful that it is so integral to our foundation’s mission.

Dr. Yanique Redwood accepts the 2016 NCRP Impact Award from Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).

Consumer Health Foundation, as one of our board members puts it, has run into burning buildings when others were running out. So, it was an honor to receive a 2016 NCRP Impact Award, knowing that we were joining 17 other courageous peer foundations who have prioritized smart philanthropy practices such as targeted grantmaking and supporting advocacy and community organizing.

Since winning the award, we continued to demand bolder grantmaking and leadership of ourselves on racial equity, especially given our current moment. We revisited our grantmaking protocols and developed a new practice to ensure that our investments are truly impacting communities of color.

For the first time in our history, we are requiring that potential grantee partners use a racial equity impact assessment tool when applying for a grant. Although we are mindful of the burden that learning how to use a new tool places on our partners, we are committed to supporting the field of advocates who have asked for assistance in operationalizing racial equity. We believe that engaging in racial equity impact assessment is a first step.

According to Race Forward, a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) is a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. REIAs are used to minimize unanticipated adverse consequences in a variety of contexts, including the analysis of proposed policies, institutional practices, programs, plans and budgetary decisions. The REIA can be a vital tool for preventing institutional racism and for identifying new options to remedy long-standing inequities.

In partnership with Western States Center and borrowing from existing tools, we have developed an REIA tool that asks questions such as:

  • Are people of color disproportionately and adversely impacted by this issue, policy, regulation, program, practice or budget? If yes, in what way and why?
  • Are stakeholders from different racial/ethnic groups – especially those most adversely impacted, leading the development of proposals to address the issue, policy, regulation, practice, program or budget? If not, who is missing? If yes, in what way? If not, why not and how can they become engaged?
  • Do the stakeholders know the systems of power that must be interrupted in order to gain racial equity? If no, what would be needed to make that possible?
  • If there is a policy, regulation, practice, program or budget under consideration to address an issue, does it address the root causes of racial inequities and racialized outcomes? If not, how could it address the root causes?
  • If there is a policy, regulation, practice, program or budget under consideration, can you anticipate adverse impacts of unintended consequences?

It is no longer enough to say that our organizations are impacting communities of color because of the issues that we work on or where we are located. To reduce inequities, we must do more. We must analyze the way history informs current conditions faced by communities of color in order to determine the right interventions.

We must disaggregate data by race/ethnicity to identify groups and places where our interventions will have the most impact. We must be in partnership with communities so that those most impacted are leading the development of solutions. And we must work with our elected officials and agency leaders to educate them about the solutions that they can formulate into policies, programs and systems changes to advance racial equity.

For some, thinking in this way has been difficult. For others, it is very natural to consider their work through a racial equity lens. We recognize the continuum, and we are balancing the need to take leadership in this way while providing capacity building for advocates who are expressing commitment to racial equity.

We will share lessons with the field after our first full year of implementation, and we hope other funders will join us in having more intentional conversations with our grantee partners about how their work advances racial equity.

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