Fostering Equity and Inclusion

Throughout the Foundation’s 2018 community conversations and strategic planning process, stakeholders across our region expressed a desire for the Foundation to uphold equity and inclusion as guiding principles in our work. The Foundation has committed to better modeling the importance of equity and inclusion both internally, in our organizational culture and processes, and externally, in our grant making and related practices.  We hold Equity and Inclusion up as both one of the Foundation’s five priorities and a cross-cutting value that informs everything we do.

What We Believe

Pursuing equity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do – it is smart. Embracing diverse perspectives and voices is critical to ensuring a vibrant, inviting community. Our goal is not to reduce the complexity of who we are but to foster an increased awareness and appreciation of our diversity and differences. People from any background should feel welcomed to the table, empowered to raise issues that matter to them, and involved in decisions that impact them. This allows all of us to learn from the conversations and relationships that result and be a part of creating change.

What We Mean When We Say “Equity”

When we say equity, we are referring to the achievable ideal where everyone in our community can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. This is not the same as “equality”, which implies offering identical resources and opportunities to everyone. Equity means meeting people where they are and paying special attention to the most marginalized. Driven by data, this type of intentional support unlocks potential and helps ensure each individual has what they need to thrive. In the near term, greater equity means improved outcomes for communities. Over the long term– if we tackle issues at the root– a focus on equity can permanently shift what future generations expect from life in our region.

Equity Grants and Initiatives

The Impact We Seek

Promote the values and practice of equity and inclusion in our community by:

  1. Developing public awareness, dialogue, and action to reduce barriers and ensure fair opportunities for everyone
  2. Increasing capacity of and support for residents to drive positive change and create fairer systems for all
  3. Promoting opportunities for meaningful participation by any marginalized groups and for dialogue and relationship building across differences

What Progress Looks LIke

While there are many roads to increasing equity and inclusion, below are some measures the Foundation will track that we see as critical markers of progress. We will also track qualitative measures and – because this work is dynamic and we are learning – may evolve our measures over time.

  • # of total participants engaged in cultural conversations and educational events
  • # of total events and opportunities to learn, share and have open dialogue conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion issues
  • # of opportunities for cross-cultural interaction and community-building
  • # of additional programs and systems of support for underrepresented communities
  • # of total individuals engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion specific training
  • # of participants from marginalized communities receiving financial or social support
  • Total amount of $ towards supporting under-served communities
  • # of new support networks, both formal and informal, for marginalized populations
  • Increased access to safe, attractive community facilities
  • Increase in environmental preservation plans, policies, and practices

We will also be tracking longer-term community outcomes like the data points highlighted above.  Our premise is that the Foundation can contribute to moving the needle on these outcomes over time.


To understand the complexities of equity and inclusion, it is important to explore where inequities and inequalities currently exist.  Laura Moore of Opportunity Insights, in her presentation “The Geography of Upward Mobility in Birmingham, shows through major indicators of social equity (education, incarceration, income, and wealth) the glaring disparities between our low-opportunity and high-opportunity neighborhoods and, more specifically, the Black and White members of our communities.

While the barriers we face as a community may seem insurmountable, an increasing number of foundations have realigned their priorities and practices around racial and social equity and can serve as examples as we move forward in the execution of our strategic plan.   For example, the Community Foundation of Dubuque held conversations throughout their region resulting in the creation of “Inclusive Dubuque”, a peer-learning network of partners dedicated to developing an informed, equitable and inclusive community with 60 organizations and individuals from across sectors including philanthropic, governmental, and business entities.   Key successes for the Inclusive Dubuque Network includes the development of a Community Equity Profile to explore the disparities that exist in their community, a regional partnership that resulted in a Civil Rights and NAACP speaker series spanning four months, and a series of workshops aimed at facilitating conversations among community leaders around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We know we have more to do and learn, and we will continue to find ways to better engage and include diverse voices in all of our work. Doing so will, we believe, improve the outcomes we and our partners achieve.