We can’t train our way to equity
Last month, in honor of Black Philanthropy Month and in need of community healing, I brought together nine Black women funders focused on workforce development, education and the national skills gap.
Sitting at an inflection point, the moment felt bigger than us in some ways. Our conversation was led by questions about the abstracted “future of work” and where it’s headed. We debated how the philanthropy community could step up to address today’s crises and cultivate a more promising future. We shared the fears, concerns, and challenges that keep us up at night — and the projects that energize us.
One of the day’s participants, Tameshia Mansfield, a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, shared a particularly poignant idea: “We can’t train our way to equity.” In workforce development, we have a tendency to narrowly focus on training programs, but that only goes so far. Programs alone cannot fight for equity. Below are a few of the most stand-out takeaways to transform the funding practices that fuel our future of work:
- It starts with the funders: Many of the women I spoke with shared that they have seen the return first-hand when organizations dedicate time, dollars, and responsibility to improving their internal practices. A few named Camelback Venture’s workshop for white philanthropists as one tool to critically examine equity within the grantmaking process. For workforce development organizations, it’s particularly valuable to recognize how they are addressing the future of work for their Black and brown employees — in addition to the workers and grantees they support.
- The playbook is out the window: All of us are feeling a sense of urgency right now — we are chasing systems-change innovation, hoping to create impact beyond the immediate safety net for American families. For grantmaking organizations, now is the time to support their grantees in flexible ways to help them meet success and sustain wins. For organizations with a commitment to serving underinvested communities, disrupting funding disparities — the “philanthropic redlining” that many leaders of color experience — needs to be central to their work.
- Be the wind in each other’s sails: I heard so many stories of how colleagues, friends and family are coming together to support one another. This may have been the first conversation between this group of women, but I certainly hope it is not the last. For Black women, in particular, it’s these circles of trust that allow us to hold space to navigate the complex intersections and systems that we’re centered within. This type of community-building is also true for allied funders, founders, and anyone leading an organization — we need not only spaces for connection but the resources to amplify each other’s work.
Our conversation did not end with the last exit of our Zoom windows. For the women that joined me, this is a dialogue that stays with us day after day. Before closing, we each took a moment to write down one word that we associate with our vision for the future of work. In the photo above, you’ll see our hope for a future with a greater focus on equity and community.
What’s your one word?