n May 2018, our Social Innovators Breakfast Series launched a special summer focus: Navigating the Unintended Consequences of Systems Change. Though we anticipate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) will be an important component for all events in the series, we decided to kick things off with a DEI-specific topic: Navigating the Unintended Consequences of moving from Equality to Equity.

We are grateful to our three panelists for representing a range of perspectives and experiences, and for sharing their expertise and lessons learned:

  • Heather Chikoore, Policy & Equity Specialist with the Colorado Education Initiative;
  • Tara Manthey, Vice President of Advocacy and Communications with the Colorado Children’s Campaign; and
  • Nancy Csuti, Vice President of Research, Evaluation & Strategic Learning with the Colorado Trust.

Panelists discussed both internal and external shifts driven by an organizational focus on equity. Internal work includes making structural changes such as hiring, performance management, and evaluation practices as well as staff training and education. External work includes dedicating time and resources to foster a genuine relationship with diverse partners, supporting grantees to advance equity, and working with marginalized populations to elevate their key concerns and progress.

“It’s been life-changing for me,” one of the panelists reflected when asked about personal growth on the journey to furthering equity, recognizing privilege, dismantling systems of oppression, etc. “I just wish I’d learned this years ago… the fact that I am White has made all the difference and that recognition has been pretty eye-opening.” In fact, one of the lessons panelists shared was the realization of how they may have unknowingly perpetuated inequities by hiring based on existing relationships by not asking candidates about their experience tackling inequities, thinking this work exists within the 9am-5pm window as opposed to a constant effort, unwittingly asking staff of color to do the emotional labor of educating White staff, etc.

Audience members also contributed to the dialogue by posing thoughtful questions to our panelists, illuminating their own struggles, lessons, and hopes for championing equity in Colorado. We hope this event prompted important reflections and provided concrete ideas for advancing equity – and we hope it is one of many ways funders, advocates, and other professionals can leverage each others’ knowledge and shared values to continue this important work.

Other events as part of our Navigating the Unintended Consequences of Systems Change series include:

• July 31: Colorado’s Economic Growth
• August 29: Addressing Food Insecurity

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