—by Brian Payne, President and CEO, Central Indiana Community Foundation
In 2018, the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) philanthropic collaborative, including The Indianapolis Foundation, Hamilton County Community Foundation and Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, made a promise to our community—to make Central Indiana a place where everyone has an equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter place, race or identity. The racial reckoning of the past few years has sparked many organizations throughout the nation to introduce or re-examine the role of equity in their values and work. Our collaborative continues to learn, adapt and take actionable steps to fulfill our promise and live out our mission.
This is hard work that demands patience and humility. No individual or organization that commits to equity gets it right all the time. The path forward is not linear. We have struggled in many areas – especially internally – as we work toward inclusivity, sharing power and living our values. But we would like to share some progress that our collaborative has made since we first embarked on this journey. The following are four projects that demonstrate how we are executing our mission by partnering with colleagues across the country; creating more equitable pathways to opportunity; making possible frank discussion about race; and building a platform for others to launch their equity journeys.
NEON: Connecting with national colleagues on the path to equity
We cannot make lasting and meaningful change by ourselves. Relationships are essential to equity. In early 2021, the Community Foundation Opportunity Network selected CICF and The Indianapolis Foundation to join a cohort of seven community foundations across the country as part of Nexus for Equity and Opportunity Nationwide (NEON). Among the objectives: To prove the efficacy of aligned action toward common goals, provide a template for the community foundation field and seek national investment. This network, including community foundations from Hawaii, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Lincoln (NE), Cleveland and three from Connecticut, works together, guided by a shared set of goals, metrics and strategies within a broad racial equity framework to create systemic change in power and leadership, and income and wealth. Member foundations share research, best practices and measurement tools, while doing the unique work required by their communities.
Connected Communities: Creating equitable pathways to opportunities
CICF’s Connected Communities initiative, a partnership with the City of Indianapolis, is an expansion of Marion County’s trails and greenways that will connect individuals to each other, to places and to opportunities through world-class pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. We will invest in pedestrian and protected bicycle infrastructure in communities to help increase upward mobility, health opportunities and access to employment, education and recreation. The first major project begins with a five-mile expansion of the B&O railway trail to complete a 16.65-mile corridor connecting Haughville, Hawthorne and Fairfax to both Speedway and Brownsburg. Resident voice is critical to this project and our collaborative’s value is that we do things with and not to communities. Discussions among community members, partner organizations and stakeholders helped partners prioritize investments to provide residents with what they say they need in their neighborhoods.
Robert E. Lee & Me: Pushing forward with discussion
Candid and open discussion is a powerful tool in the work of equity. Earlier this year, Hamilton County Community Foundation and United Way of Central Indiana invited staff and board members to read the memoir, “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause” by Ty Seidule, a retired United States Army general and historian. Two virtual discussions were held, and later the group gathered in person for an additional conversation with the author. Participants spoke transparently about our country’s racial history, their personal experiences and learnings, identity and family stories. This experience helped to build stronger, more authentic relationships among leadership of our collaborative, while expanding the discussion about equity and understanding of racial history in Hamilton County. Plans are in the works to bring Ty Seidule back for similar conversations with high school students.
The Movement of 10k: Moving people toward works of equity
The CICF philanthropic collaborative started its equity journey with intense learning that led to changes in action. A new digital platform, launching in the fall, makes that journey accessible to others.
Funded by The Indianapolis Foundation, the Movement of 10,000 (MVMT10K) supports people in their commitment to advancing racial equity in Central Indiana. The goal: To recruit and engage at least 10,000 people to get smarter about systemic racism in our country and community and to make change through a life’s practice of real action. MVMT10K is a digital gym for people to exercise their commitment to equity, providing resources, community and accountability.
The platform is powered by a partnership with Haystack, a local certified minority-owned business that is helping to design, architect and provide thought-leadership for this project.