Last summer, following the groundswell of protests against racism and after important conversations among staff and the Board of Trustees about the urgency to act, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation committed to examining how we could contribute our resources and energy toward justice and equity for Black people and people of color.
I joined the Foundation in September 2020 and was heartened to learn of these commitments, including the emphasis on holding ourselves accountable to this work. Addressing the deeply embedded structures and impact of racism in the United States is a long, and difficult journey, and despite progress, there is significant, urgent, and difficult work to do that will take all of us.
At the Foundation, we are actively examining the core question of how we can contribute most effectively to a more just and equitable world, and here in the U.S., a less racist society. As promised and in the spirit of accountability, following is an update and an invitation to continue to be in dialogue with us as we move through this humbling and essential journey.
Infusing Justice and Equity Principles Into Our Work
As I shared with our partners in March, we are heading into a long-planned, periodic review of our grantmaking strategies. To inform this strategy review, I am leading the Foundation in a participatory process, which we are internally calling Vision to Strategy, to examine the Foundation’s mission and values and align them with our goal of infusing justice and equity into our work. The outcome of this process will be an articulated vision and mission, refreshed values, and a strategic framework, that enables us to advance justice and equity in our work in the U.S. and around the world. We are examining our practices as well as what we do. Together, these elements will inform and guide our grantmaking strategy reviews later this year, and our future work over this next critical decade.
New Justice and Equity Grantmaking and Mission Investments
In June 2020, the Foundation Trustees established a new five-year $100 million justice and equity fund and took the immediate step to provide a $20 million grant to the Solidaire Network’s Black Liberation Pooled Fund to support organizers and leaders in Black-led movement efforts. Since then, Solidaire has granted more than $2 million of that funding to support the urgent and immediate needs of movement leaders and organizers who have been facing a heightened risk of danger and violence due to the current political climate in the U.S. Solidaire plans to use $7 million more to support multi-year, general operating commitments that will fund more Black-led social change organizations and movement groups focused on organizing around Black Liberation and supporting and strengthening the broader, Black-led movement ecosystem.
In December 2020, we allocated an additional $10 million from the $100 million justice and equity fund to support big picture solutions, new ideas, and creative approaches to advance justice and equity goals across and within the issues and geographies we currently support. Our thanks to our many partners who have already engaged with us to provide ideas and feedback as we deploy these funds in 2021.
One way we have used these funds is to support community-centered solutions to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Monterey County, California. With this funding, grassroots organizations are collaborating with the County Health Department to address the health inequities now so starkly apparent due to the pandemic. Community Health Workers (CHWs), who live and work among people hit hardest by the pandemic, especially Latinx communities, are reaching out in Spanish, English, and Indigenous languages to share information about how to stop the spread of COVID-19, to connect people with resources such as food, housing, and cash assistance, and to secure COVID-19 testing and vaccination appointments for community members. This effort puts resources and solutions into the hands of those who best know the community.
In addition to grantmaking, we deployed $25 million in mission investments to support Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) addressing racial equity credit gaps that prevent those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – most often communities of color – from building livelihoods, wealth, and housing security. This effort included a $5 million program-related investment to Oweesta, a CDFI intermediary creating and stabilizing small businesses and housing opportunities for Native communities throughout the country as they recover and rebuild from the pandemic.
Reexamining How We Operate
We recognize that responding to these challenges of deep injustice and inequality will require ongoing work at the personal level, the organizational level, and across the field of philanthropy. To help guide these efforts across the Foundation, I have created a new senior staff position, the Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice, who will report directly to me and lead the development and implementation of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice initiatives in support of the Foundation’s values, culture and strategic priorities. We have also commissioned an internal human resources audit to review the trajectory of employee experiences at the Foundation and determine the steps we can take to create a work environment where employees of diverse perspectives feel not only included, but that they belong.
I am grateful to all our staff and Trustees who have pushed us forward on this path and to our grantees and partners who have been in conversation with us through this process. I am eager to emerge from our strategic visioning process with a clear, unified approach to infusing all our work with justice and equity. We still have much work to do and remain resolved in our continued commitment to this long journey of contributing more fully and effectively to a less racist, more just and equitable America.
As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback and hope to continue learning from each other.