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New Report Highlights Opportunities to Address Structural Racism

The Bridgespan Group, in partnership with the Racial Equity Institute, has released a new report that unpacks the work needed to dismantle structural racism and offers philanthropy recommendations on advancing this work in the communities they serve.

What does it really mean to give in ways that will help create an equitable society? The Bridgespan Group, in partnership with the Racial Equity Institute (RE), has released a new report on dismantling structural racism and how philanthropy can help.

Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Unlocking Social Progress by Addressing Structural Racism explores what this work entails and lessons to be learned for funders.

According to the report, structural racism occurs when public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms work to perpetuate and reinforce inequity.

The report explores how a medical center in North Carolina virtually eliminated racial disparities through the work of the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative (GHDC).

White patients at the medical center were completing their cancer treatment at a significantly higher rate than Black patients, with a gap of approximately 7% points.

According to the report, all it took to close the gap and improve treatment and completion rates was an unwavering focus on the root cause of the disparities.

The report outlines several critical characteristics found in work that addresses structural racism and works to achieve equitable structural change, with a focus on GHDC’s efforts, including:

  • Building a shared analysis: For GHDC’s success, it is critical that members have a shared understanding of how structural racism leads institutions and systems to produce the racial inequities that the collaborative seeks to change. All members are required to attend anti-racism workshops that offer a historical analysis of the structural and systematic nature of racism present regardless of the issue.
  • Leveraging the expertise of communities: GHDC used a community-based participatory research approach to ensure that community members had equal standing with academic researchers and healthcare workers.
  • Bringing in the institutions you seek to transform: GHDC purposefully included a medical institution as a collaborator alongside academics and community members.
  • Engaging with and learning through conflict: GHDC practices not ignoring tensions but has the willingness to discuss and examine them as they arise.
  • Maintaining momentum: It is critical to ensure institutions remain committed and diligent. A strong relationship with a community partner can be the driver of that accountability.

The report offers several suggestions, including both changes in thinking and approaches for philanthropy to adopt, as well as ways to change funding practices:

  • Make the investment in understanding the depth of racism: It is critical for funders themselves to engage in ongoing learning about race and racism to provide continuity through departmental turnover, policy change and political shifts. According to the report, the learning is always ongoing, so giving while learning is critical.
  • Shift mindsets: Becoming a funder who gives in ways that authentically champion racial equity requires a mindset that does not lose sight of the foundational structural racism producing existing inequities. The report recommends the Presidents’ Forum, a peer-to-peer support and learning network, where foundation CEOs can candidly discuss issues of equity and think through difficult questions.
  • Be clear on your role and respect the role others play: Allow a wide range of individuals to come together and offer their unique strengths without succumbing to traditional hierarchies or allowing titles to define influence. Knowledge and education are not the same thing; experience is important, too.
  • Value the work to build community infrastructure: Building authentic community partnerships is necessary to hold systems accountable and protect the progress made. If well-resourced, it has the potential to be activated again and again to propel new and different wins.

According to the report, embracing flexibility, trust and patience is needed to achieve structural change, and it won’t happen overnight. Philanthropy could take structural racism head-on by supporting, nurturing and fostering the root causes and reimagining systems to foster equitable outcomes.

“We have such a long way to go, but we are optimistic. The nation is filled with organizations, collaboratives, networks, and grassroots efforts that, like GHDC, that are doing work that thinks in big, innovative ways to dismantle our inequity. Philanthropy can and should do more by giving to these transformative efforts,” Cora Daniels, co-author and editorial director of Bridgespan said.

Want more?

Download the full report.