Director’s Desk: May 2021

A couple of years ago, many of us had the opportunity to hear Glenn Harris from Race Forward speak at Meyer’s Housing Summit on creating and operationalizing racial equity. He had so many great nuggets of information but the one that stuck with me the most was this simple quote, “what you put intention to, grows” I’m excited that for this month’s newsletter Neighborhood Partnerships staff and Board are sharing our 2021 Equity Plan which reflect our continued intention, commitment and prioritization for creating, operationalizing and advancing racial equity, diversity, and inclusion at NP. We know we still have a lot of work to do, but as our organization looks to the future and we reflect on our journey thus far I wanted to share and celebrate some of our wins and the important progress we’ve made as an organization.  

For NP, our racial equity work was accelerated after a one-year journey with the Center for Equity and Inclusion in 2018, which included individual and collective work to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion, and interpersonal, cultural, and systemic racism. This resulted in an organizational equity statement, operationalizing equity tools like an equity filter and agreements, and our first equity plan, which the organization has been implementing and continuing to develop, with the work led by an internal Equity Team.  

Over the last two years, NP has taken the following internal steps to operationalize race equity: revising our hiring and onboarding practices, revising personnel policies and benefit offerings (including raising the pay of our lowest paid staff in our 2021-22 budget), revising our employee assessment and development practices, creating clear and transparent decision-making processes throughout the organization, and sharing decision-making authority. The Board has also begun prioritizing its own equity work as well, and has made changes in board composition, instituted term limits, revised board operations practices to support adding new board members of color, and last year created a Board Equity Subcommittee. This year, the Board created its own equity goals with an overall goal of creating a culture of belonging.   

Additionally, NP has shifted the focus of one of our positions to expand their role to be the Equity Integration and Digital Technology Manager. Part of this role, held by Derrick Taruc, is to continue and strengthen the work of mutual accountability and implementation of NP’s equity goals, and to support cultural change work within the organization. And this year will also see NP embarking on a strategic planning process that centers race equity. This process will outline a clear vision for how NP advances housing and economic justice in Oregon.

Externally, staff have worked to develop leadership opportunities for our partner organization and people directly impacted by our work, both in housing and economic justice, as well as to engage people directly impacted to have an opportunity to engage and uplift solutions. Within the IDA Initiative, we have held a series of equity trainings, partners have created equity goals and we’ve leveraged our data to develop racial equity benchmarks for the Initiative. We’ll report out on additional specifics on the work of the IDA Initiative in a future newsletter. Within our housing justice work, we’ve been supporting the creation and growth of Residents Organizing for Change, a network of residents of affordable housing who are advocating directly for policy change, and participating within the Housing Alliance. Our work is increasingly focused on centering the voices of those most impacted by racism, systemic oppression and harmful policy responses. Our roles as conveners and organizers allow us to build a deep base of relationships that informs and strengthens our advocacy. 

Our commitment to race equity has impacted every level of our organization and the work we do. Our focused intention to this work has meant NP has put considerable time and energy not only into diversifying our organization staff and board, but to also creating an organizational culture of belonging and structure that supports BIPOC community members to thrive as part of our organization. At this point in our organization’s 32-year history, that means we now have the most racially diverse staff and Board we’ve ever had.

These are significant shift and changes and I believe are worth sharing and celebrating. I’m so proud to be a part of an organization that is actively and intentionally doing the work necessary to be anti-racist and working to improve the quality of life and create opportunity for all. We know we can’t do this work alone and look forward to your continued support and engagement. Together we can create an Oregon where all of us have the sense of belonging, stability, and the resources that we need to work toward our dreams today, and for generations to come … creating opportunity for all Oregonians.