Fostering Equity and Inclusion

Our communities represent a wide range of cultural, gender, ethnic, religious, racial and social backgrounds, comprising diverse voices, experiences, needs, and contributions. 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.

Looking at our past and present, it is clear that some groups in our community have been disadvantaged along lines of race, gender, class, geography, sexual orientation, ideology, religion, ability, and more.  We can actively work to change inequitable systems that still exist today. As an endowed institution, we can use our assets to help empower a wide range of individuals and organizations to create transformational change.

The Impact We Seek

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

  1. Developing public awareness, dialogue and action in addressing systemic barriers underserved communities face
  2. Increasing self-efficacy/agency and systems of support among local residents’ to build leadership capacity to organize and advocate for key issues in the region
  3. Promoting opportunities for people to interact and relate to people from marginalized backgrounds in social and professional settings

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.

  • Number of total participants engaged in cultural conversations and educational events
  • Number of total events and opportunities to learn, share and have open dialogue conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion issues
  • Number of opportunities for cross-cultural interaction and community-building
  • Number of additional programs and systems of support for underrepresented communities
  • Number of total individuals engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion specific training
  • Number 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


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.