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Dispatch from #ForumCon19: Finding (Some Clarity) in the Muddled World of Equity

Friday, August 16, 2019

This is a guest post by Taryn Palumbo, Executive Director at Orange County Grantmakers.

Taryn Palumbo, Executive Director at Orange County GrantmakersWhat is Equity? Equity has become a loaded term, meaning something different to practically everyone. Sitting in a room of Executive Directors and CEOs on the first day of the conference it was a relief to realize that the benefit of diversity of understanding is a wonderful diverse approach to addressing the challenge.

In March of this year, Orange County Grantmakers commissioned the Orange County Equity Profile, a 120-page report examining various economic indicators in Orange County with an eye towards resolving inequities that exist in our community. Since then, our focus has been on “what next?” How do we take the information contained in the report and turn it into action? During the course of the conference, my fellow attendees explained their approaches, the programming developed and how it connected to the needs of their grantmakers. It was evident that resolving inequity, like so many other things in philanthropy, cannot be a one-size fits all approach. There is no “magic bullet” solution that leads a community to a more equitable future. Instead, each organization shared another nuance of their development in understanding how to approach this issue, leading to a more complete resolution of the central question: “what is equity.”

Some key-takeaways I took away:

  • To truly grasp what equity means, there must be an understanding of the history of the community you are trying to serve from both a social and economic standpoint
  • Equity work takes TIME. The conversations are deep - not wide - and each time leaders and grantmakers come together, another layer is peeled back.
  • To define a framework, learning must come FIRST. This learning can take various forms -internal to an organization, external with your members, and finally outreach involving the entire community
  • The establishment of a framework cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. Equity must be weaved into the very core of an organization’s mission.

It was remarkable to hear the journeys of other PSOs as they established their own approach to addressing equity. Connecting with my fellow PSO leaders was a great reminder to slow down, breathe, and focus not on what we are doing in the present, but instead on the outcome we hope to accomplish. At the end of the day, I found myself reflecting on a common word of advice heard during the conference – trust that you are moving at the speed of your members and the needs of your community.

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