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How Partnerships Can Advance Innovative Approaches to DEI

SOCAP Global February 28, 2023

Philanthropy and Social Capital Help Bring New Voices to the Table

Leaders of private, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations are collaborating on innovative approaches to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Several of these leaders were part of a session at SOCAP22 that highlighted innovative partnerships to drive progress on DEI. 

Moderator Tanya Odom, Director of Equity and Inclusion at the Walton Family Foundation, said the foundation formalized its commitment to DEI by adding it to its strategy. “That means there is accountability and evaluation associated with it,” she said. As more philanthropic organizations do the same, it’s important to rethink models and methods and acknowledge missteps along the way. “That power and privilege is there in philanthropy, and we don’t try to skirt it,” she said. “But how do we use perhaps where we are and the tables where we are to bring other voices and maybe to open the door (for them).”

By building on existing roles and relationships, organizations can amplify the impact of partnerships to address inequities and drive systems change, said Chad Hiu, Senior VP for Strategy, Equity, and Impact at the YMCA of San Francisco. “In the nonprofit sector, partnerships provide space, they provide accountability, and they provide impact,” he said. “Partnerships across sectors are the only way that we’ll be able to actually create real change. … When we think about the dynamic of two organizations across sectors, that’s how we can actually push each other’s organizations to grow.”

Collaborations with people across sectors on DEI initiatives can spark changemaking conversations that may not be possible within organizations, Hiu said. Being in community with others and listening to their stories can help organizations consider new ways of tackling challenges. “At the Y, we’re trying to dive into systems change — trying to uncover the policies, practices, procedures to help us really do that work. And it’s hard,” he said. 

Acknowledging the challenge of reversing centuries of systemic oppression is an important step in each organization’s DEI journey, said Jaynemarie Angbah, Director of the Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) Change Learning Journey at Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. “The thing we’re tackling is immense,” she said. “This work is a lot of small, incremental changes over time that ultimately will lead to massive shifts and change.”

Angbah said the philanthropic organization prioritizes partnerships that highlight resources and connect people for changemaking conversations. “The deeper we lean into equity as an organization, the better we understand that the true art or act of partnership is lifting up the voices of the most marginalized in a genuine way with a level of humility that mitigates the power and privilege that is embedded in what we do and gives voice to those who would not be at the table or who were voiceless,” she said. 

As CEO and Founder of Vantage Point, Morgan Mercer aims to use technology as a tool to drive empathy and impact. As an impact investor, she aims to use capital to achieve that same goal. Partnerships are a crucial part for both goals, she said. “It really doesn’t take that much lift for companies and organizations in the private sector to think about how to relate to their audiences in a way where they’re leveraging partnerships,” she said. “In order for us to feel compelled, we have to feel like a problem impacts us.”

Her investing decisions are influenced by a team’s diversity, a product’s ability to broaden access to information or services, and the founder’s willingness to pay it forward. “Do they mentor other founders? Do they invest their time in increasing access and other resources for other founders? I think about the personality side of things as well when I think about investing.”

Watch How Philanthropy and Social Capital Can Help Advance Innovative Approaches to DEI

SOCAP22 - How Philanthropy & Social Capital Can Help Advance Innovative Approaches to DEI


Jaynemarie Angbah, EdD, Director, Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) Change Learning Journey, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies

Morgan Mercer, CEO and Founder, Vantage Point

Tanya Odom, Director of Equity and Inclusion, Walton Family Foundation

Chad Hiu, Senior VP for Strategy, Equity, and Impact, YMCA of San Francisco

Equity and Inclusion / Racial Equity
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