“Racial inequity harms the lives and prosperity of everyone, not just people of color. Curbing inequities is more than the right thing to do—it’s an imperative for achieving the social outcomes grant makers wish to see.”

That’s the thesis of a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy,  outlining six steps foundations can take to heal racial divides. Authors Lori Bartczak and Starsky Wilson encourage funders not to be satisfied with collecting data about the disparities within their own communities, but to go further by using grant dollars to help close those gaps.

As an example from the field, Bartczak and Wilson cite the Cultivate: Women of Color Leadership program, a collaborative effort here in Chicago to support women of color engaged in social, economic and racial justice movements. Over the last five years, this program has worked to build leadership skills among participants, which in turn strengthens the organizations they lead, and the community justice ecosystem as a whole.

BUILDING AN INFRASTRUCTURE FOR WOMEN OF COLOR LEADERS

Cultivate was developed as a joint project among the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Chicago Foundation for Women, Crossroads Fund and The Chicago Community Trust. At each partner organization, the staff members overseeing the project are women of color themselves, modeling the collaborative nonprofit leadership that Cultivate is designed to advance.

The program has five goals:

  • Support the personal and professional development of women of color
  • Develop a framework that intentionally incorporates race and gender in the participants’ leadership and professional development
  • Build a safe and healthy space for women of color to discuss and learn about alternative models of leadership, organization building, community organizing and movement building
  • Advance the sustainability and longevity of individual women’s leadership, while enabling a pipeline for new leaders to emerge within grassroots organizations
  • Nurture relationships to create a learning community across organizations and fields of work

To date, more than 80 women of color have participated in Cultivate. Over the course of a year, each participant attends bimonthly working sessions focused on leadership development, organizational development and movement building skills, in addition to working one-on-one with an executive coach to hone their personal practice.