“You have to get over the fear of facing the worst in yourself. You should instead fear unexamined racism. Fear the thought that right now, you could be contributing to the oppression of others and you don’t know it. But do not fear those who bring that oppression to light. Do not fear the opportunity to do better.”
― Ijeoma Oluo
Throughout 2017 and 2018, the staff of IISC, our Board of Directors, and some of our affiliate consultants worked together to examine our past and current areas of focus and set a new strategic direction for IISC going forward. The result of this work is that IISC is rolling out a strategic direction for the next several years that is grounded in our 25-year history of strengthening collaboration and addressing critical future needs of our sector and the world. IISC will innovate at the intersection of equity, networks, and love, with racial equity as our core strategic focus.
What is racial equity?
IISC defines racial equity as “all groups have access to the resources and opportunities necessary to improve the quality of their lives and differences in life outcomes cannot be predicted on the basis of race”. Racial equity assumes that groups and communities that have been historically marginalized and oppressed based on race will have an equitable share in the power and control of organizational and societal resources. Racial justice means having policies, beliefs, practices, attitudes, and actions that promote equity for people of all races.
We believe that racial equity is a critical driver of transformational collaboration in this era. At this moment, with fascism on our doorstep and white supremacy in our White House (and beyond), we cannot be neutral or quiet about addressing racism. We have the opportunity to do what is right: to fundamentally transform the DNA of this society by doing our part to uproot racism. We are ready to take on racial justice as our primary focus and to walk in the courageous footsteps of racial justice leaders before us, centering the leadership of people of color at IISC.
IISC and racial equity
We want to be clear: although this strategic direction is new, racial equity is not new work for us.
In 2015-2016, IISC partnered with Summer Search Boston to implement structural changes to the organization’s internal policies and external practices based on a series of racial equity workshops. The work, which served to advance internal racial equity and deepen relationships, has influenced Summer Search national, as well.
Since 2012, IISC has facilitated the work of Food Solutions New England (FSNE), a regional food systems network that takes a systems perspective emphasizing wholeness, connectivity, and interdependence. FSNE’s work is guided by racial equity because of a growing awareness that race was a significant predictor of food-related disparities in the region.
IISC is well into year two of working with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Center for Health Equity to build institutional capacity to support its racial justice initiative, Race to Justice. With partnership with Race Forward, we are building the capacity of a cadre of nearly 125 senior level leaders to train more than 6,000 DOHMH staff.
IISC has led years of work, from 2002 to 2016 with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to integrate racial equity and inclusion into the foundation’s programming and operations. Most recently, we built the capacity of each unit of the foundation (200+ staff) to assess its progress toward integrating race/ethnic equity and inclusion into its activities and operations.
IISC understands that the problem we are trying to address is that oppression, racism, political divides, and isolation have created a world that prevents all of us from realizing our full potential and from creating a healthy society that promotes liberation, equity, and collaboration. In order to counter that problem, IISC has been building collaborative capacity in individuals, organizations, and networks working for social justice and racial equity. We have understood for some time that change needs to happen at fundamental institutional and structural levels, and that to do so requires longer term interventions and attention to how power is shared within institutions. We are now explicitly embedding racial equity into every thread of our consulting and training work.
As we continue to more explicitly focus our work on racial equity from an intersectional perspective, we hope that you are up for joining us along the way. In the coming years, we will be enhancing and announcing new offerings, tools, and trainings and we will need engaged, committed allies to journey with us in experimentation, feedback, and dissemination!
We are moving towards a vision of the world we want through a new and enduring focus: racial equity. As with most journeys, our movement forward will be more joyful and stronger with other travelers. We look forward to engaging together in further conversation and action.