Stronger Foundations blog - Building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive foundation sector

ACF Chief Executive Carol Mack introduces our latest report, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice

With enormous thanks to all involved, I am pleased to launch the first report of ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative. The report seeks to address one of the key questions facing foundations today: how can we ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are at the heart of what we do?

Why is this such an important question for foundations? At their best, foundations enable civil society to thrive in all of its rich plurality. They can take a long-term view, act independently, champion novel ideas or less popular causes, preserve that which is at risk, and provide funding for social needs or public goods that are not yet met by markets or government. And yet. We live in an unjust and imperfect world; unless foundations are also conscientious about the ways in which they work, we can risk perpetuating injustices and undermining the social good that we all seek to do.

At our last strategic review, ACF members asked us to take a stronger lead in identifying excellence and offering challenge to support foundations to develop their practice. Improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the foundation sector is a critical aspect of this. In fact, I would go further. If we put DEI first - as this ACF initiative has done - it will ensure that the right people are in the driving seat and able to inform all the other decisions that foundations need to make: about their strategy, their investments, their funding practices, their engagement and transparency, and their learning and impact (all of which are issues that our Stronger Foundations initiative is examining, and on which we will report in due course).

In developing this first report, we have drawn on the insights, experience and expertise of a diverse working group drawn from ACF’s membership, as well as four expert reviewers, and evidence and practice from the UK and abroad. We are very grateful for all of their contributions to date and we welcome others, as we will continue to build on this area of our work in future.

We are confident that this report will be relevant for all foundations, including family foundations, those with few or no paid staff, those for whom DEI is a relatively new consideration, and those that are already pursuing excellent practice in this area. The recommendations are built around nine pillars of good practice; we are confident that there will be scope for all foundations to continue developing.

ACF itself will seek to do so too. We have published our own DEI statement, setting out the steps that we are taking ourselves, such as through our recruitment processes and working practices. It includes a commitment to publish new information about the diversity of our board and staff. We are also considering what additional support we can offer or facilitate for our members and would welcome your views on this.

Beyond the publication of this report, we will seek to engage with our whole membership on this and the other strands of the Stronger Foundations initiative. As we say in the report, this is the start of a conversation, not the final word. But it’s also a time for action, and we hope that this report gives foundations plenty of inspiration to plan their next steps. We would like to hear from you if you have ideas or feedback for us on any aspect of this work – please email engage with us @ACFoundations.

Carol Mack
Chief Executive

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