We’re better off, when we’re all better off.
As an organization deciding how resources are allocated and to whom, we must consider how our efforts are either reinforcing the status quo or intentionally working to undo systems of oppression.
Our vision for a Puget Sound region where everyone thrives regardless of income or race relies on recognizing that societal disparities continue to increase between racial groups. SVP Seattle is committed to intentional leadership and increasing our understanding of these issues.
Starting in 2018, SVP staff, board, key partners and stakeholders are confronting tough questions to define clear policies and practices of racial equity throughout the organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
We are in the business of social change, and to be successful in this work means being fearless in calling out the barriers standing in the way of achieving the impact we seek. SVP Seattle’s board and staff have engaged in deep conversations with partners, community leaders, social purpose organizations and other funders over the last several years to better understand how we can deliver on our vision of a thriving region. The onboarding of CEO Solynn McCurdy has further affirmed our need to move forward with increased intention. What we heard, and what we know from over 20 years of SVP history, is that to be effective philanthropists we must address race. It is time to take decisive steps to align our community impact model with racial equity, and start by taking a firm stance to center racial equity as more than a value, but as a guiding principle and practice.
Who else is focusing on racial equity?
The evolution of our sector’s focus on racial equity has been led by trailblazers like Ford Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation. We are not in this alone, and we will not do this alone. Seattle Foundation, Philanthropy Northwest, Social Justice Fund, Washington Progress Alliance, and others have also explicitly committed to investing in changing the status quo in our region. We look forward to partnering with local leaders in this work.
How have we been working to implement racial equity through the years?
In 2011 there was a confluence of activities that pushed SVP to explore our commitment to racial equity in order to be more effective in our work. We underwent a total rebrand and re-visioning, forcing us to ask What does SVP truly stand for? This led to our north star: We envision a community which, regardless of income or race, all children receive an excellent education and all people live and work in a healthy environment. All Children. All People. Regardless of income or race.
Then, in 2012 we convened the Diversity, Cultural Competency & Equity Committee (DCCE), a dedicated group of SVP Partners, board members and staff, and hired Heidi Schillinger of Equity Matters as our consultant. The DCCE conducted a 6-month evaluation of SVP’s practices, programs, community relationships and reputation through in-person interviews and online surveys.
What changes have we made up until now?
Since the DCCE’s evaluation, SVP solidified equity as a core value and has made some strides to implement its recommendations:
- In grant committees we have included equity and demographic information in the learning phase for committee members.
- Added formal equity criteria to the grant evaluation rubrics.
- Instituted the Equity Matters workshop and other similar trainings for partners and staff. Approximately 150 partners have attended these trainings.
- Incorporated racial equity as the lens through which we frame our education sessions.
- Expanded our fellowship program to focus on racial diversity (6 fellows/annum).
- Implemented an equity framework and strategy throughout our Collective Action grantmaking.
What changes can we expect in the next two years?
Social Venture Partners remains a network of partners who believe social change takes more than money, it also takes our human and social capital. SVP Seattle will continue grantmaking, capacity building, skilled-volunteering, investing in collaboration and leveraging the skills, perspectives and lived experiences of our partners.
To lead with equity, SVP is not changing everything we do, we are evaluating how we do it, and how it is supporting our goal to break down systemic barriers. Over the next year the staff, board and key stakeholders will define clear policies and practices of racial equity throughout the organization — from strategy and grantmaking to organizational operations and governance. We will explore deeper ways to invest our dollars, time and social capital in organizations and community efforts that are working at the root of inequities in our society. Likewise, we will expand, evolve and grow our partnership and the engagement opportunities offered.
What are the goals of the change?
First and foremost, our goal is to make more meaningful progress toward our vision of a Puget Sound region where everyone thrives, regardless of income or race. The urgency behind this vision continues to increase as our region’s opportunity gap rapidly widens. Ongoing trends in King County demonstrate that in every measure, people of color face disproportionate inequities in educational, economic, and health outcomes compared to white people.
What is racial equity?
Diversity involves the awareness and appreciation of difference. Cultural competency focuses on skills development for working across cultural lines. And racial equity looks squarely at access to resources, power and privilege. It examines how systems (education, criminal justice, healthcare, housing, etc.) impact individuals and communities. While important steps to achieving racial equity – diversity and cultural competency do not solve systemic oppression alone.
How do white people fit into this work?
There is a place for ALL people in this work and at SVP Seattle. Everyone has an opportunity to leverage their privilege to improve outcomes for our region’s most marginalized communities. As a white person, recognize whiteness as an asset, something owned and embodied. It facilitates entry into elite or exclusive spaces, even our SVP network. It allows you far more mobility, comfort, and safety than those without it. In your development as an SVP Partner, volunteer and philanthropist, think about how you can seek to understand the inherent and pervasive disparities and assets of communities of color.
We are all on a journey and we all start with learning, listening, entering from a place of curiosity. Talking about race can make people uncomfortable. SVP’s commitment to addressing inequities is not to pass judgement on ourselves or others, but rather to acknowledge the discomfort so that we can put the issues on the table and work to make things better.
How can I participate in furthering SVP’s vision?
Be informed: Read books, watch documentaries, attend lectures, start a conversation. If you are white, do not just rely on people of color to teach you about their personal experience with race.
Step out of your comfort zone: Be mindful of who you spend your time with at home, in your leisure and hobbies, where you shop and spend your money. Does it include, create space for, and support people and communities of color?
Use your privilege (financial, social, political) to confront racial injustice when you see it happening, whether in the grocery store or the boardroom.
Stay engaged with SVP: There is great work happening with our community investees and partners throughout our SVP network right now. We are on a journey together to learn, design, test, and scale new efforts around racial equity. This work is not a quick fix, there’s not a best practice that we can rapidly implement. And many philanthropic organizations – locally and nationally – are grappling with this issue. So be patient, give yourself some grace, and know that in time we will make progress.
Where can I start learning about racial equity?
- Understanding racial equity, Equity Matters
- Understanding King County Racial Inequities, United Way King County
- Seattle schools have biggest white-black achievement gap in state, Seattle Times
- Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project: Racial Restrictive Covenants, UW
- King County quick stats, U.S. Census Bureau
- Income Inequality in King County, King County