The Journey Ahead

In mid-December, I had the opportunity to travel throughout China with my family. One memory I return to often is our visit to Mount Hua where we climbed thousands of steps carved into the side of the mountain, stayed the night in an unheated hostel at the tip of one peak, and visited Daoist temples perched on sheer cliffs. For centuries, pilgrims have climbed those same steps to pray, seek advice, and dream. The air was thin, the steep steps too numerous to count, and I often held on for dear life. We watched the stars come out, lanterns flicker on to guide the pilgrims, and the sun rise spectacularly. It was cold and hard and scary at times—and also inspiring

Mount Hua, Shaanxi Province, December 2019.
Photo credit Katie Allan Zobel.

After months of planning, the Community Foundation formally launches its organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion work this week, and I am reminded of that climb and of the Daoist philosopher, Lao Tzu’s quote: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I imagine this journey ahead for the Foundation will be long and difficult at times, yet surely it will also be infused with insight, inspiration, and hope.

We began this journey last year by reviewing our strategy as a funder and regional leader. We surveyed donors, our nonprofit grantees, community and business leaders, and the broader public. We identified needs, catalogued our strengths, and mapped a new strategic vision: to increase equity and opportunity for all who live in our region.

Dismantling systemic racism requires putting equity at the center, making a commitment to tear down barriers to equal opportunities and build better outcomes for all.

Working toward increasing equity requires listening and learning.  We are starting with ourselves. Among our goals this year are to:

  • Develop shared organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) vision and framework
  • Take an honest look at our internal culture, including our policies, structure, practices, and personnel
  • Create a plan for addressing gaps and inequities, including a plan to continue DEI-education and capacity building among staff and volunteers

This work will be guided throughout the year by our consultant partners, Inclusive Performance Strategies from Grand Rapids, MI.

We will continue to blog about this journey over the year, to share the process and reflect on the challenges and the progress.

We know this work will be hard, but we are committed to affecting real and lasting change in our community. It won’t be a walk in the park; it’s a journey of a thousand miles.

Katie Allan Zobel