The practice of inclusion and belonging must be a constant practice.
At almost every decision we make in our daily work – whether in organizational strategies or internal culture – leaders have choices to make about whether we will build up more barriers or break them down for people. It is reassuring when organizations and leaders in positions of power come together to break them down, and such is the case with the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy. Convened by the presidents of the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations, the Presidents’ Council consists of 17 foundations who have committed to work together to advance inclusion for people with disabilities.
In a recent meeting with the leadership, the Presidents’ Council asked Independent Sector to encourage our philanthropic community members to join the effort. The long-term vision of the Presidents’ Council is to create cultures of inclusion at our organizations through policies and practices, increase the number of staff and board members with disabilities, and create more opportunities for disability-specific grantmaking to disabled persons organizations (DPO) and disability-inclusive grantmaking. And while this is primarily a philanthropy-driven effort, we also want to highlight that the Presidents’ Council website has an incredible amount of resources for foundations and nonprofits that want to improve their own policies and practices. As nonprofit leaders, these resources could be used in your own conversations with your foundation partners or donors about the necessity of this work, the resources needed to do it right, and why it improves your organization’s ability to be a healthier and equitable institution and community.
This effort, like many in our sector to drive toward equity, justice, and liberation, is centered in a notion of our collective vision to ensure all people thrive. We must and do acknowledge that our systems and structures have been built on foundations of racism, sexism, and ableism, and the linkages between all three and other forms of oppression are long-standing and deep. But in that acknowledgement, we also call on leaders to be bold in expressing and supporting what we are for. The Presidents’ Council is one answer to the disability community’s push to acknowledge and address ableism in our equity movements. And it is in partnership with community and those with lived experience that we start shifting how we do our work in the future. It’s really up to us to shape a world in which we have not yet lived – a world where we truly are healthy and thriving without all the “isms” that have held us back.
We are grateful for the Presidents’ Council for taking this on and pushing the national conversation, and we encourage you to lean in, learn more, and make the necessary changes.