In the Read

Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture (by Equity in the Centre)

Equity in the Centre is a project of ProInspire, a United States-based organisation, dedicated to activating leaders at all levels to accelerate equity at the individual, organisational and systemic levels. Equity in the Center works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase race equity – the condition where one’s racial identity has no influence on how one fares in society.

While the project’s aim is to create an equity culture that equally values the humanity and lived experiences of all persons of different races, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities, classes etc, persistent racial outcome gaps in health, income, education and housing demonstrate structural inequity based on race, hence the focus on race equity.

Equity in the Centre created this publication in collaboration with other thinkers and leaders in diversity, inclusion and race equity in the social sector. They undertook an extensive literature review and conducted interviews and focus groups to identify the key elements that accelerate progress as organisations move through phases toward race equity.

Equity in the Centre believes that the attainment of race equity requires examination of all four levels on which racism operates – personal, interpersonal, institutional and structural. It also requires everyone to recognize their role in enduring inequities and a commitment to change. The authors argue that building a race equity culture focused on proactive counteraction of race inequities inside and outside of the organisation, is foundational to creating a more inclusive and equitable environment.

As a social sector, Equity in the Centre proposes that race equity must be a core organisational goal in order to fulfill organisational missions.

Equity in the Centre’s research identified different stages on the path to race equity:

AWAKE – organisations are focused on people and increasing the representation of people of different racial backgrounds in their workforce and boards.

WOKE – organisations are focused on culture and creating an internal environment which is inclusive where everyone is comfortable sharing their experiences and everyone is equipped to talk about race equity and inequities.

WORK – organisations are focused on internal and external systems change to improve race equity, with the goal of integration of a race equity lens into all aspects of an organisation including evaluation of processes, programs and operations.

The research also identified strategic elements of an organisation, which when leveraged, build momentum towards a race equity culture.

Organisations that demonstrate a commitment to race equity, move beyond special initiatives, task forces and other check-the-box approaches and exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Leadership ranks hold a critical mass of people of colour
  • Staff, stakeholders and leaders are skilled at talking about race, racism and their implications
  • Programs are culturally responsive and explicit about race, racism and race equity
  • Communities are not merely recipients of services but treated as stakeholders, leaders and assets to the work
  • Expenditure on services, vendors and consultants reflect organisational values and a commitment to race equity
  • Evaluation efforts incorporate the disaggregation of data based on race
  • Continuous improvement in race equity work is prioritised

Some tips to get started:

  1. Establish a shared vocabulary. Ground your organisation in shared meaning around race equity, structural racism, and other terms related to this work.
  2. Identify race equity champions at the board and senior leadership levels. Select those who can set race equity priorities, communicate them broadly, drive accountability and influence the speed and depth at which race equity is embedded in the organisation.
  3. Name race equity work as a strategic imperative for your organisation. Define and communicate how race equity connects to your mission, vision, organisational values and strategies.
  4. Open a continuous dialogue about race equity work. Use research and learnings from other organisations to start the conversation with your team or individuals who are invested in your organisational cause.
  5. Disaggregate data. Collect, disaggregate and analyse based on race, and report relevant data to get a clear picture of inequities and outcomes gaps both internally and externally. Some examples include staff engagement, performance, promotion, retention and compensation data disaggregated by race and program or service data disaggregated by race.

Access the full publication here.

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