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Diversity at the California Endowment: Important Enough to Measure

December 10, 2015

About seven years ago, our board of directors engaged in a conversation about the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion at our institution. While we re-affirmed our allegiance to these values, which were present at the inception of the California Endowment, we concluded that we needed to ratchet up the seriousness of our resolve. The issues that arose included: Are we, as a foundation, committed enough to this issue to measure and track improvement? And while we have metrics for a range of equity indicators in our healthy communities work, Sons and Brothers program, overall strategic plan, etc., why don't we have them with respect to diversity in our operations and structure as a foundation?

Diversity Audit 2013 coverSo, off we went. We resolved to create a tool to assess our progress, now known as the Diversity Audit (44 pages, PDF). In it, we committed to expressing the value of, and a commitment to, diversity across a range of parameters: on our board, at the management level, among our staff and grantees, as well as among our contractors, consultants, and even investment managers. We wanted to be able to express our commitment to diversity/equity/inclusion regardless of how one might engage with the foundation.

The process of creating and then institutionalizing the Diversity Audit required the support and engagement of our board, management, and staff. There's a saying, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Today, we pay particular attention to recruiting new board members and senior management who value diversity, equity, and inclusion. And we look to them to ensure that our commitment to diversity "lives" beyond any one individual or position and becomes ingrained in the DNA of the California Endowment. While turnover in any organization is inevitable, we do not ever take this commitment lightly.

We also required the support of a savvy, thoughtful partner to hold our organizational hand throughout the process, so we procured the services of SPR Associates. SPR worked with our staff to develop the right kind of data collection practices and reporting platform; we needed our human resources, grants administration, contracts administration, program and learning staff, and investments team to all be in the boat. And, obviously, it required us to embark on the business of asking grantees, contractors, and consultants for their diversity information – in the right way. As a result, we now pose the diversity question almost every time we engage in a financial or business transaction.

While it is focused on the use of metrics to track progress, the Diversity Audit should not be confused or mistaken with the use of quotas. Simply put, we don't have numerical goals that define "success" in the area of diversity. Instead, we want to know whether we are an organization that reflects the incredible diversity that the state of California – and the communities we serve – now boasts. Can we look ourselves in the mirror and comfortably state that our commitment to diversity is real and will grow stronger over time?

Headshot_robert_rossThe Diversity Audit has helped us strengthen our culture and express our values through our policies, practices, and processes. And to ensure that that remains the case in the future, we will review our progress with our board every three years and will share our successes and mistakes with the field in the belief that our efforts and values can inform the sector's learning. Diversity is even an element of my performance measures as president and CEO of the Endowment. And that's the way it should be.

Robert K. Ross, MD, is president and chief executive officer of the California Endowment, a health foundation established in 1996 to address the health needs of Californians. A version of this post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talks blog.

 

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