A Brief History (REPG)
History and Evolution
In 2002, the Annie E. Casey Foundation commissioned Marga Incorporated (then called DJM & Associates) to scan a range of practices in philanthropy with respect to race, ethnicity and various forms of diversity. Approximately thirty foundations of all types were engaged one on one for this study. Results of this research were ultimately captured in the 2005 report, Race, Culture, Power, and Inclusion in Foundations: A Report Conducted for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. As the interviews in preparation for this report progressed, a desire for peer exchanges among foundation representatives emerged. Subsequently, the research incorporated focus groups and panels that further heightened interest in ongoing exchanges of ideas and practices among foundations. A subset of participants in the study began to meet to create a vehicle through which peer communication to inform and enhance practice regularly.
This initial group included the Annie E. Casey Foundation, along with the San Francisco Foundation, the California Endowment, the Haas, Jr. Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Marga Incorporated organized and moderated these conversations, extending from the role that naturally evolved via the Annie E. Casey Foundation – sponsored research. While the initial research took a very broad view of race, ethnicity, and diversity in philanthropy, including grant making and institutional practice, the body that ultimately became the REPG honed its focus with a particular emphasis on race and ethnicity and on the systemic internal practices that can enhance a foundation’s capacity to remain relevant and serve increasingly diverse communities. It has been clear to REPG member foundations that the most critical social concerns that philanthropy tends to pursue bring racial dimensions. The greatest challenges around health, education, economics, the environment, and other critical areas tend to be manifested most adversely in communities of color. If philanthropy is to maximize its value in these important arenas, it must improve its ability to understand and reflect communities of color. This requires identifying grantee demographics, measuring progress by demographics, establishing plans to impact these demographics, diversifying leadership, and engaging organizations and companies led by and serving communities of color in ways that far exceed traditional expectations and practices.
As it solidified and became official in 2006, the REPG added the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies. Each member foundation established a three year work plan outlining ambitions to transform and/or enhance internal systems to improve impact in communities of color. Each foundation enters REPG from a different starting point. Work plans are thus accordingly varied. Progress toward these intentions is periodically demonstrated in reports distributed at the Council on Foundations’ annual conferences. Two such reports, Profiles in Foundation Giving to Communities of Color Volumes I and II, have been distributed.
Foundation representatives in REPG have been those who have been champions – voices continually encouraging greater internal attention to the centrality of race and ethnicity to the core mission and purpose of these institutions, even in the face of opposition. Such champions are situated in various positions in foundations, often leading from the middle. Even when they are perched at the top of foundations, institutional change requires many players, occurrences, and collective internal buy-in. The REPG is defining and refining what it takes to re-examine and reform how foundations take responsibility for reducing racial and ethnic disparities and improving race relations.
To learn more about the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.