Today we join others in disseminating a report from Multnomah County’s Coalition of Communities of Color  that addresses the relationships among foundations and communities of color in Oregon.
The just-published report – Philanthropy and Communities of Color in Oregon: from strategic investments to assessable impacts amidst growing racial and ethnic diversity – grows out of two earlier reports.
Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile  (May 2010) documented racial disparities across 27 systems and institutions in the Portland metropolitan area. Those sobering findings support the increasing focus at Meyer Memorial Trust and other foundations on equity, disparities and diversity.
In 2009, MMT joined with Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington, the Foundation Center and several of our peer foundations to seek a better understanding of the extent to which our resources are reaching people of color in our region. This collaboration resulted in Grantmaking to Communities of Color in Oregon (December 2010), a report that is serving as an important tool for funders to assess their capacity to track specific populations reached by their grants and to reflect on their giving within the context of their missions and priorities, Oregon’s demographics and the broader Oregon philanthropic community.
As a responsive, general purpose foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust has a broad perspective on equity and diversity – income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities/disabilities and geography are examples of some of the many aspects that regularly factor into and influence our work as we strive to use our resources to build and support thriving communities.
Oregon’s demographics are rapidly shifting and disparities in quality of life continue to deepen among different segments of our population. Disparities in areas such as income, educational attainment, employment and health are particularly visible in our communities of color and there are not always meaningful opportunities for all residents to fully participate in civic affairs and a diverse cultural life. Racism and privilege have had destructive effects on communities of color, even in ways that are not easily recognized. The latest economic crisis has had a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, making the need to close these gaps more urgent. These trends have serious implications for everyone in our region.
As we and other Oregon funders have begun to more deeply explore how equity overlays our respective missions, funding strategies and how we collect data, the Coalition of Communities of Color in Multnomah County has offered its perspective, engaging with us in discussions about strengthening our connections with communities of color. These discussions and the Coalition's report provide additional layers of thought-provoking input and ideas, which is further informing MMT’s work around equity.
Equity, disparities and diversity – deep and complex issues with integral ties to our region’s ability to thrive – are important to Meyer Memorial Trust and are essential factors in our ability to further our mission. We have a history of funding partnerships with Coalition member agencies, other culturally specific organizations, mainstream nonprofits and public institutions throughout Oregon that are working to eliminate disparities, open doors to opportunities for people of color and other marginalized populations, and celebrate and preserve the diverse, vibrant cultures that define our region. We look forward to continuing these relationships and establishing new ones as we strengthen and sharpen our equity lens to address the needs of people and build assets in all of our region’s communities.
As we approach our 30th anniversary, we have been revisiting the mission, vision and values that drive Meyer Memorial Trust's work. Working towards equity has been at the center of those discussions and decisions as we plan for the coming year and those that follow. When we report on that work, we will share our progress, acknowledge our challenges and reflect on what we learn.
To mark MMT's 30th birthday in April 2012, we look forward to unveiling our renewed mission, vision and values and outlining more specifically how we will work toward equity. There is no more important work for us to do.
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