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SVP International

20th Anniversary Equity Journey Reflections

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland
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The 20th anniversary of SVP Portland gives us an opportunity to reflect on our evolution to an organization that puts anti-racism and social justice at the core of our goals. We want to share our progress toward our commitment to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in order to stay accountable to our Partnership and community.

Ensuring all children have access to high-quality, culturally-relevant early learning experiences is essential for our community’s prosperity, and this fueled our 2017 commitment to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion — because our organization’s efficacy and the shared successes of our community are at stake. We started this journey by understanding that race plays an outsized role in the inequitable outcomes we see, and recognized that we needed to take intentional steps if we wanted to be a part of creating better outcomes for our kids. 

Our first commitment is to be Transparent. We regularly publish metrics for the three commitments below on our website so that our success, or lack thereof, is available to all. If we’re not reaching our goals or living up to our values, it’s there in the data.

Our second commitment is to Invest in equity. Where SVP commits its resources is a reflection of our values. Based on research showing that 67% of Multnomah County children experiencing poverty are children of color, disproportionately high given children of color make up only 41% of Multnomah County’s population. Therefore, we commit at least 67% of our human and financial capital to organizations and initiatives that are culturally specific or responsive, though it is often much more.

Our third commitment in this journey is to Learn. We partner with the Center for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) to help with our continual learning process (and, in turn, support their growth). Every Investor Partner who works with our Community Partners first engages in DEI learning, and our leadership (staff and Board) participate in ongoing learning sessions with CEI, benefiting from their facilitation and tools. As an evolution of our Equity Committee, in 2020 we developed the Equity Team who is currently developing a shared language, a deeper awareness of the root causes of inequities, and a really strong Why for how imperative and urgent this work is, both personally and organizationally. SVP Partner Larry Fox reflects that, “Fighting racism is more than just learning about it and feeling differently about race.  Since it is ultimately about changing power and rules for the common good, it moves philanthropy into overlapping with political (but not conventionally partisan) territory. We have a lot to learn to be effective in this space.” We’ve learned a lot, we’ve come far, and we have so much farther to go. This commitment to learning has no end date.

Our final intentional goal is to Become. And we are still becoming. We have committed to being an anti-racist, multicultural organization. To be anti-racist is to accept the premise that racism is pervasive in our culture and its institutions, and then undertake individual, collective, and organizational actions that interrupt this system of advantage for white people, which is also a system of oppression for people of color. One of the steps we need to take as an organization is to more closely resemble the communities we serve. Thus, we are updating our internal operations, policies, procedures, and practices to be more inclusive, with a focus on a culture of belonging. We are also working to diversify our staff, Board, and Partnership. These changes have all begun, but none of them are complete because anti-racism is an ongoing process. SVP Partner Tobias Sherwood reminds our Partnership that, “As we move forward as SVP Partners, we will be hearing the term anti-racist quite often. SVP is shifting its identity intentionally to be anti-racist because there must be a collectively held belief that to do otherwise would simply be the status quo, and that the status quo is racist.”

We know that lasting change will not happen overnight within our Partnership, nor the broader community. Our commitment will continue beyond our current goal, and regardless of discomfort or setbacks. Executive Director Lauren Johnson is hopeful about our progress, “We’ve made good strides in serving as a trusted partner who shows up with cultural humility in our community, and there is growing momentum amongst our Partnership to being anti-racist, both of which make me optimistic that we are moving in the right direction. We remain deeply committed to long-term change and passionately believe in the importance of centering equity in our work. We recognize this is imperative to our relevance and impact, and we have the opportunity to serve as a leader in philanthropy and champion a shift from the mindset of charity to one of justice.” 

We invite your feedback, support, and accountability, helping us work toward our commitment to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. We also encourage all Partners to invest in learning more about issues of racial and social justice, and what each of us can do to work toward more equitable opportunities and outcomes in our community. Here are several we recommend:

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