It’s Time to Be Explicit on our Journey Towards Racial Equity

2020 has been a year of introspection at the NC Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) as we committed ourselves as an organization, board of directors, and staff towards intentionally centering racial equity in our internal organizational operations. Racial equity is a core value at NCECF – we acknowledge that confronting systemic racism is an essential part of realizing our vision that each North Carolina child has a strong foundation for lifelong health, well-being, and education. We will work collaboratively to develop and execute strategies to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion are shared values that are ever-present in every aspect of our work.

“Racial equity has been an instrumental component of our programmatic work so that all young children have the right to equitable outcomes to achieve their full potential. Now we have an opportunity to incorporate it into the foundations of NCECF on the organizational and individual levels to build our internal capacity,” shares Sumera Syed, Organizational Equity Officer – a newly established position at NCECF.

NCECF invites other organizations to witness our journey, hold us accountable, and commit themselves to working through their own challenges to transform themselves and their organizations so that we can all create more equitable outcomes for young children and guarantee that every child has genuine access to opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Some of the areas that NCECF has been working on include:

Creating an internal team to build organizational capacity and provide strategic direction.

One of the action items that emerged from our board and staff racial equity retreats in 2018 and 2019 with CounterPart Consulting was that building an organization that actively combats racial inequities externally through programmatic work (e.g. Pathways to Grade Level Reading, Campaign for Grade Level Reading) must involve heavy lifting internally to develop a set of informed policies and practices that ensure racial equity within the organization and hold us accountable.

NCECF developed a Racial Equity Committee that includes members of the board of directors and staff and is led by our Organizational Equity Officer. The Racial Equity Committee, in partnership with NCECF staff, set the strategic direction and a means of accountability by developing A Commitment to Racial Equity. Through the statement, NCECF commits “to ensuring that racial equity is applied in every aspect of our work and that it is woven throughout our organizational framework.”

Gathering baseline data and information to self-identify areas for organizational change.

Through research and consultation with experts, NCECF decided to use a modified version of the Coalition of Communities of Color’s Tool for Organizational Self-Assessment Related to Racial Equity, to gather initial data on the practices and procedures that can drive organizational change. Staff and the board are currently completing the self-assessment, with the aim to build out an Equity Action Plan before the end of the year.

An outcome that emerged from examining internal processes was the institution of a floating holiday. This additional, flexible day off will enhance equity at NCECF by allowing all staff members to celebrate holidays or engage in volunteer opportunities that are important to them, besides the traditional federal holidays that NCECF currently offers.  

Creating a safe space for open dialogue to have difficult but necessary conversations.

Addressing our personal blind spots – unconscious biases that can narrow our vision and potentially influence our behaviors – has led to deep conversations with board and staff that are broadening perspectives and building a shared language of understanding around racism, anti-racism, and white privilege within NCECF. We developed a list of materials, including articles, books, movies and podcasts, that progress through the history and present of race-based policies in United States. The board and staff are now engaging in facilitated conversations around those materials to deepen our thinking and understanding about racism on the individual, institutional, and community levels and how it impacts our shared goals at NCECF.

“We [NCECF] cannot ask our partners to lean into racial equity if we are not willing to do our work first. NCECF acknowledges that we are at the beginning stages of this journey and are making an intentional commitment to deepen our analysis, accountability, and actions – both internally and externally – to amplify the transformation and impact of the early childhood system in North Carolina,” said Tracey Greene-Washington, NCECF board member and President of Indigo Innovation Group.

We look forward to providing updates as our organizational journey towards racial equity continues to unfold into 2021.