A Letter from Kate Wolford as McKnight Releases a Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
As we honor the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ve been reflecting on the vision of racial justice and equal opportunity he sought to achieve.
While we have made progress over the decades, our society still judges people by the color of their skin, and our laws, systems, and cultural norms still do not give everyone the same life chances. This is wrong. It is unacceptable. We can and must do better.
It is in this spirit that I share The McKnight Foundation’s new statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which our board unanimously adopted.
This DEI statement builds on our long history of philanthropy in diverse communities to extend opportunities for all to thrive, and it challenges us to press toward a more inclusive and equitable world. We see the values of diversity, equity, and inclusivity as mission-critical. Without embracing these values, we simply cannot achieve our program goals or have the impact we want to have.
Given the deep and persistent evidence of structural racism in our home state and nation, we take a “race and” approach, which acknowledges race as a consistent factor when it comes to questions of equity. We also recognize the role of intersectionality and lift up “racial, cultural, and socioeconomic status” to include indigenous and immigrant communities and reflect our major grantmaking areas. I encourage you to read the accompanying notes for additional context.
This statement will naturally spark questions about what has changed at McKnight and what may soon change. After all, statements are only as transformational as the concrete goals, policy changes, and accountability standards that follow. We began this journey with the premise that if we want to see change in the world, we have to start from within and foster a culture of equity with our own organizational policies, procedures, and practices.
Over the course of 18 months, McKnight staff participated in a series of intensive trainings using the Intercultural Development Inventory to deepen our ability to engage effectively across differences. As we consider future decisions, the statement offers us a North Star.
Working with Alfonso Wenker of Team Dynamics, we are developing a DEI action plan for the next two years. Staff have brainstormed a list of priority areas where we’d like to make improvements. I also know the Foundation benefits immensely when we look outside our four walls and gain community perspective. Toward that end, I invite you to share your feedback in a brief and anonymous survey.
We will keep you updated on our progress in the months ahead. For now, we offer you our statement and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership as we work toward creating a more sustainable and equitable future together. As we say in our statement, we see this work as “our shared responsibility—and our shared opportunity—because what is at stake is nothing less than our shared fate.”