The Just Imperative: First Update

June 7, 2018 Perspectives
, author
Julia M. Stasch
Former President

MacArthur’s mission is to help build a world that is more just, verdant, and peaceful. As president, I have charged our team to lead with a commitment to justice – a commitment that begins with our own staffing, internal operations, policies, and practices, and extends to our grantmaking and beyond.  A commitment to justice is not only a core value at MacArthur; it is also a timely imperative at a moment when organizations large and small are grappling with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and as our nation continues to confront its own history of often failed efforts to ensure equal justice and equitable access, consideration, treatment, and opportunity.   

Over the past year, MacArthur staff members worked with me to refine what we call the “Just Imperative,” a framework that lays out the rationale, the mandate, and the charge to lead with a commitment to justice. Priority areas include: 

  • Recruiting and hiring more diverse candidates at every level of our staff;
  • Purchasing more goods and services of all kinds from minority- and women-owned businesses;
  • Engaging diverse consultants, contractors, and investment managers;
  • Elevating the voices of those who are not always heard in policy and in grantmaking strategies;
  • Ensuring that our grantmaking considers and supports a broad diversity of organizations and helps to address historic and structural inequities.

Our staff jumped on board with enthusiasm and initiative, suggesting steps to take, identifying barriers to tackle, and taking immediate action across many areas. A formal Just Imperative Working Group comprising staff from across the Foundation will now build on efforts already underway. 

This is the first update on our progress. We share highlights of our early efforts below, acknowledging that our commitment to justice is a journey that does not end, and that we have much more hard work ahead. To help us stay focused and accountable, we will report on our progress each year.

We welcome constructive feedback and counsel.

The Just Imperative in Action

Our People

  • We have added new resources to help us identify qualified candidates, with a special focus on people of color and people with disabilities. 
  • We share information about the diversity of our staff and Board on our website, with annual updates, and we are committed to continue to hire diverse candidates at every level of the organization. 
  • We do extensive outreach to ensure that the pool of candidates for our summer internship program includes high-potential young people of color.


Our Operations

  • We are adopting a formal program to ensure that we identify and retain a diverse set of suppliers, vendors, and consultants.
  • We are working with our evaluation and learning partners to ensure that our goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion are front and center in their staffing choices, evaluation designs, data collection efforts, and the interpretation of findings, and we are helping to build diversity in the pipeline through internships and funder collaboratives focused on field capacity building.
  • In our recent office renovation, we required that our general contractor ensure significant participation in the work by subcontracting with minority- and women-owned firms.  Similar participation is also required in construction of other tenant spaces in our headquarters building.
  • Our office renovation incorporated gender-neutral office restroom facilities.
  • We are improving access to our historic building through accessible modifications at the front entrance.
  • We commissioned an expert audit of the accessibility of our website and implemented significant site enhancements to ensure a better user experience for people with disabilities.


Our Investments

  • We have identified minority- and women-owned investment management firms and firms where people of color or women are key principals, to be sure that we are considering all firms that meet our investment criteria; we are committed to doing more.  
  • To date, we have invested directly or indirectly in 13 funds with managers that are minority- or women-owned, or where women or people of color are key principals, including African Americans, Asians, and Latinx, with total committed capital of nearly $500 million.
  • With an initial $50 million, we established a new fund with a major investment management firm to help identify and invest in minority- or women-owned managers whose assets under management or long-term performance do not yet meet our investment criteria, and to help identify firms that we might invest in directly. 
  • We maintain a watch list of other diverse firms that may become open to investment, increase their assets under management, or improve long term-performance records to meet our investment criteria.
  • We have alerted our external investment managers to our commitment to diversity among key staff.
  • We ensure that our candidates for paid internships in our investment department include women and people of color.


Our Programs

  • In Chicago, our direct awards in 2017—121 grants and impact investments totaling $40.2 million—underscore our commitment to strengthen Chicago nonprofits, contribute to civic partnerships, invest in vital communities, and advance diverse, influential leaders. We have been actively seeking community input into the selection of grantees, greater diversity in the leadership of grantees, and leadership opportunities for women, people of color, and people with disabilities.
  • In Climate Solutions, we are broadening the coalition for climate action by bringing in constituencies that have been left out of the climate conversation, and elevating their voices in policy decisions, to promote more equitable outcomes, including broader participation in the new energy economy.
  • In Criminal Justice, we are working to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems, including in Cook County, our home. We support local jurisdictions in their efforts to make their systems fairer and more rational so that jails hold only those who may cause harm to others.    
  • Our 100&Change competition challenged the $100 million awardee and other finalists to ensure full participation in, and benefits for, people with disabilities in their projects.
  • In Journalism and Media, we are focusing on greater voice, influence, and empathy for often excluded and under-represented individuals, organizations, and communities, and on facilitating leadership opportunities for people of color.


Our International Offices

Our offices in India, Mexico, and Nigeria are led and staffed by citizens of those countries and they are defining what it means to lead with justice in each country’s distinctive context and culture.