-by Brian Payne
president and CEO of CICF
and president of The Indianapolis Foundation
We have important work to do.
The teams at Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), The Indianapolis Foundation and Legacy Fund, have been watching the growing body of research that tells a dismaying story about the American Dream. Studies from The Brookings Institution, nationally, and locally in partnership with Indy Chamber and The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP); Stanford researcher Raj Chetty; and several others, confirm three things:
- There is a growing gap between the affluent and poor in Central Indiana.
- The chances of making it out of poverty are slim; the odds of doing better than your parents are narrowing.
- A person’s race has a profound impact on whether he or she has access to opportunity.
If we want Central Indiana to be a healthy and thriving community with inclusive economic growth, something has to change. At CICF, we’re going all in. We have a new mission:
To mobilize people, ideas and investment to make this a community where every individual has equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter their place, race or identity.
We aim to create neighborhoods and environments that empower people, change unfair systems and dismantle institutional racism to make this a place where everyone can thrive, from Sheridan to the Southside; whether a product of the Appalachian Migration or The Great Migration.
Our staff and board have been laying the foundation for this work over two years. We’ve already taken several important steps:
- Every CICF employee and most of our board members have attended the intensive two-day Undoing Racism workshop, developed by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, and presented by Child Advocates of Marion County. This has helped us become smarter about the ways institutional racism impacts inequity. We have continued ongoing staff education and discussion about issues including education, mass incarceration, implicit bias and more.
- CICF launched an ambassador program, featuring 36 diverse residents from neighborhoods and population groups in Marion and Hamilton counties. Trained in design thinking and empathy research, these ambassadors talked to their neighbors to assess the opportunities and needs in their neighborhoods. The result was a comprehensive qualitative report that, along with national and local research, and our deep knowledge of community, will inform our work moving forward. For our regional community leadership to be effective, we have to first listen and learn and do things with communities and not to them.
- We hired our very first vice president of opportunity, equity and inclusion, Pamela Ross, who, among other duties, is leading efforts to change the culture at our foundation to one that explicitly prioritizes opportunity, equity and anti-racism. We know that the foundation cannot change the community outside our walls if we do not change what happens inside them by questioning everything we do and how we do it.
- In 2016, we became one of the co-founders of the newly formed Community Foundation Opportunity Network, a national leadership and action network of 47 community foundations committed to narrowing the youth opportunity gap.
- This summer, we embarked on an effort to synthesize and gather quantitative data that, coupled with qualitative information from ambassadors, will provide a picture of the state of equity in Central Indiana..
All of this preparation will help us craft strategic plans for Marion and Hamilton counties to put action behind our new mission and guide our work in the region for decades to come. We will officially debut our plans in the first quarter of 2019.
CICF and its affiliates have always been dedicated to working with the community and our donors to address Central Indiana’s most pressing needs. Right now, we believe there is no more important work than this.