Applying a Trauma Informed Lens to an EDI Framework in Philanthropy
Traditional approaches to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in philanthropy often fail to provide a process through which funders move from gatekeepers to allies that work with grantees as valued partners throughout the funding process. Funders must take the time to implement the processes necessary to recognize the strategic supports grantees need to deliver on their missions, which then roll up to the larger mission of the funder. This is particularly important in creating equitable practices for grantmaking and for evaluation and reporting, both of which often utilize a “top-down” approach which may unintentionally exclude organizations without the capacity to comply with certain requirements.
At HCAS, we use a Trauma Informed Care Approach as a lens that complicates how equity, diversity and inclusion are understood and enacted by keeping the needs and perspectives of grantees and communities central to the process. We believe that equitable philanthropy is trauma-informed philanthropy and our approach to advancing EDI in the grantmaking space provides an approach for organizations to think deeply about their mission while critically elevating the needs of their grantees. The HCAS approach moves EDI principles from loosely understood buzzwords to essential questions that funders must ask in order to ensure their actions towards equity, diversity, and inclusion align with their intentions. This unique framework provides a necessary process for funders to consider the intersectionality of identities, environments, and systems that contribute to equitable - and non-equitable - dynamics of power in the lived experiences of individuals and communities.
The figure above describes our process for applying a Trauma Informed Lens to an EDI Framework. This process first seeks to define equity, diversity, and inclusion from a person, organization, and community-centered perspective. It then aligns the essential questions which funders must continually revisit to ensure that EDI is actively addressed in strategy and practice. Applying a trauma-informed lens to an EDI framework requires an elevated understanding of the meaning of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
As such, we understand Equity as a disruption of a one-size-fits-all approach to philanthropy, and instead implementing a needs-based, inclusive approach. This sentiment is situated in an understanding that equality is not justice; rather, equity is justice. The essential question guiding the principle of equity is: How do we responsibility account for diverse strengths and needs when aligning resources?
Diversity is understood as having an awareness, acknowledgement, and sensitivity to one’s differences. We understand differences to have meaning beyond the most commonly understood nuances of race, class, and gender, to also include personal, physical, and mental health differences. We challenge ourselves to think about difference beyond recognition and towards acknowledgement. The essential question guiding the principle of diversity is: How can we create a decision-making table that represents a cross-section of diverse individuals and perspectives?
Lastly, we understand Inclusion as having access to power and privileged spaces, where diverse voices are valued and heard. That is, it is not enough to include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences at your proverbial Table. Those around the table must value diversity and inclusion and seek to understand and value the experiences of those at the Table. Furthermore, the Table must be a place and space of power and decision-making. The essential question guiding the principle of Inclusion is: Who do we invite to our decision-making table? How do we intentionally create a table where people feel empowered to share their voices?
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