January 15, 2018

Investments in Racial Equity: Leadership and Commitment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

SOCAP Post Author

In supporting the first Racial Equity track at SOCAP17, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation elevated the business case for racial equity and engaged attendees in conversations that went far beyond awareness. For anyone within the social capital markets ecosystem, the call for racial equity warrants reflection and action. In inviting the SOCAP community to rise to this challenge, the Kellogg Foundation shared their own journey and commitments to invest in racial equity.
Now a core focus of both their grantmaking and investing, racial equity wasn’t always central to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. From the main stage at SOCAP17, A.J. Jones shared that LaJune Montgomery Tabron, CEO of the Kellogg Foundation, was actually the first African American hired as a professional staff member for the foundation in 1987, and their board also had its first black member only 30 years ago. This had real consequences because, as Jones explained, “We were serving…communities which we did not look like as an organization, thus inhibiting our ability to have a truly authentic connection, but more importantly,  a deep sense of girded responsibility for how we usher the next generation.”
The response to this realization has been a thorough realignment for every single person in the organization, from board leadership to staff at the front desk, to embed the understanding that “the issue of racial equity is your issue.” Additionally, WKKF took a deeper look at how the asset and investment side of the house aligned with programs, and how their investments could integrate equity and diversity as key outcomes, beyond the bottom line. Jones acknowledges that this process wasn’t easy, saying, “some of the most difficult conversations you can have, are those within your own house,” but it was critical to shaping the future path for the foundation.
In his plenary comments, Jones highlights investments that the Kellogg Foundation has made in an Entrepreneurs of Color Fund in Detroit, launched in 2015, which recently made news as additional commitments from Kellogg Foundation, J.P. Morgan and others tripled the size of the fund to $18M. So far, the fund has lent or approved $4.5 million to more than 43 minority-owned small businesses, resulting in over 600 new or preserved jobs. Fifty-three percent of the loans are supporting minority women-owned businesses and 70 percent of the loans have supported small businesses based in Detroit neighborhoods.
Jones also spoke about the importance of changing the narrative around race, and investments that Kellogg is making in the media and entertainment industry. They partnered with famous producers Norman Lear, Common, and Shonda Rimes on the America Divided series, which featured narratives around inequality in education, housing, healthcare, labor, criminal justice and the political system and follows celebrity correspondents as they explore aspects of inequality related to their own biographies.
After his plenary talk, we sat down with Jones to learn more about both of these areas of investment:

We’ll be sharing additional interviews with SOCAP17 speakers in the coming weeks. Sign up for the SOCAP newsletter to stay connected and receive the latest news and updates on our community and SOCAP18.

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