Equity is central to the Bush Foundation’s purpose: to inspire and support creative problem solving, within and across sectors, to make our region better for everyone.
TO INSPIRE AND SUPPORT CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Diversity of thought is a critical ingredient in creativity and innovation. Communities are smarter and stronger when they draw from a wide variety of experience, perspective and wisdom.
TO MAKE OUR REGION BETTER FOR EVERYONE
The Bush Foundation is about place — a region of three states and 23 Native nations. This region’s future will be defined by how well every person in it does — at home, in school, at work and in the community. This region’s future, therefore, depends on institutions and systems that work well for all people. Too many do not.
This is not just about whether organizations are intentionally excluding or disadvantaging people. Racism, for example, is not only hateful acts. Racism can also be embedded in policies and practices that are well-intended and meant to work for all, but just don’t. Organizational failings, big and small, can combine to systemically exclude and disadvantage people. These barriers can limit individual opportunity and limit our collective regional potential.
Every person in our region can impact institutions and systems. Institutions and systems are created and perpetuated by people. To change institutions and systems is to change the minds and the actions of people. There is a role for all of us to play.
At the Bush Foundation, we believe that bridging cultural differences and adapting organizations to work well for everyone are essential skills for leaders to be relevant and effective — whatever their purpose and whatever their politics. These are skills one has to learn and practice.
- It is learning about and understanding your own history and context and why you think and act the way you do. It is learning about and understanding other people’s history and context and why they think and act the way they do. And it is empathetically adapting to work effectively across differences.
- It is the ability to examine policies and practices to see who may be excluded or disadvantaged by them, regardless of the intent. And it is the ability to work with those affected by policies and practices to design and redesign them to work well for everyone.
Within the Bush Foundation, we are working on these skills to bring an equity lens to all we do.
Without a doubt, definitions of and conversations about equity and inclusion have changed since Archibald Bush’s generation. Our stated commitment to uplifting the whole region has not. We have struggled at times to live up to our aspirations; at times our actions have contributed to social, economic and racial disparities. Those shortcomings are real opportunities for us to think and act differently about how we advance equity in our region.
As a charitable foundation, we have a particular obligation to live up to high standards of diversity, equity and inclusion. We have a power in the issues we raise, the questions we ask, and the people and organizations we fund. For us to be effective in addressing community issues throughout the region, we must be sensitive to and savvy about differences such as culture, race, income, gender identity, geography, physical and mental abilities, religious belief, or any other difference that is meaningful in understanding an issue and how it might be addressed. We see equity as part and parcel of excellence. And we are committed to becoming excellent.
As we work toward being more equitable in our work at the Foundation, we plan to publicly share our successes and setbacks in hopes we can be useful to others. We do so with humility and recognition that we are – and will always be – a work in progress.
We are working to bring an equity lens to all that we do — from our major strategic priorities to the countless small decisions we make every day.
In 2018, based on continued learning and feedback, a staff committee updated the original equity framework below to create our Inclusivity Practice (pdf). We are currently working to embed this practice into our daily work and decision making. We anticipate that as we continue to grow and learn we will also continue to update our practices and tools.
Our original equity framework stated that before making any decisions, we need to:
- Ensure we understand the WHY. To consider or evaluate any policy or practice, we must understand its strategic and operational intent. If it is an existing policy or practice, we must understand the original motivation and goals and how effective it is in meeting those goals.
- Ensure we understand WHO is affected. At the outset and throughout a decision-making process we need to identify and engage key stakeholders. We want to ensure we get enough input from enough people to fully understand the impact of the status quo and the potential impact of any change.
Then, we consider five questions:
- Whom do we want [it] to serve?
- Are there people who are (or may be) excluded from or not served well [by it]?
- If so, would making [it] more inclusive and/or making [it] work better for them advance our purpose and/or strategy?
- If so, how could we design or redesign [it] to do so?
- How will we hold ourselves accountable for having the impact we intend?
How we will keep equity a priority and hold ourselves accountable:
- We are working toward having an equity mindset in all we do. Every one of us in the Foundation should strive to apply an equity lens to our day-to-day decision-making. We also formally use our framework as part of all significant group decisions.
- We apply an equity lens to all our annual strategic priorities. In addition, we annually set at least two strategic priorities for the primary purpose of advancing our organizational equity work. These priorities are led by Action Learning Teams and are tracked on our organizational strategy dashboard which is reviewed quarterly with the Board.
- We will share our journey including what we tried, what we learned, what worked and what didn’t — even if it doesn’t always make us look so great.
- We conduct annual organizational check-ins on our overall progress and challenges. This should include our own assessment as well as gathering outside perspectives. We document our progress and identify action steps for current challenges.
- We have ongoing staff development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, focused on individual and team goals and skill building. We tie this work to the Intercultural Development Inventory and regularly retake the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) to gauge our individual and collective progress.
- We weave cultural competence exercises into our Board agendas — with an emphasis on helping Board members to build their understanding of self and the perspective they bring while also building empathy and understanding for the communities we serve.
- We want to have broad ownership of equity work across the Foundation and expect every staff person to play an active role. To help guide the work, we have a Foundation-wide Equity Team. The Equity Team’s role includes:
- Shepherds annual process for selecting equity priorities, based on suggestions by and consultation with all staff and informed by external stakeholders, when possible.
- Conducts annual organization check-in and updates our equity statement to reflect new progress and challenges.
- Updates equity plan annually.
- Oversees the creation and distribution of “Equity Learning Briefs.”
- Serves as resource to the Action Learning Teams and others.
- Designs ongoing staff development.
- Creates opportunities for staff discussion on equity-related issues on an ongoing basis and when issues arise internally or in the world.