The Just Imperative: Update on Progress
August 26, 2019 | Perspectives

Section Links:

     - Our People
     - Our Operations
     - Our Investments
     - Our Programs


Last year, my first report on the “Just Imperative” opened with the following text:

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 failed efforts to ensure equal justice and equitable access, consideration, treatment, and opportunity.

On this journey of learning, interrogation, reflection, and action, we share this update to hold ourselves accountable, for constructive feedback, and to contribute what we are doing and learning as part of this essential effort underway in philanthropy and beyond.

The Just Imperative is a framework that lays out the rationale, mandate, and charge to lead with a commitment to justice. It asks us to consider: (1) what we are already doing to incorporate the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into all we do; (2) what more we can do; (3) what resources we need; and (4) what barriers we need to tackle. 

Under the leadership of a cross-Foundation Just Imperative Working Group, all programs, teams, departments, and country offices completed a “Snapshot Exercise.” Responding to these four broad questions, the exercise yielded more than 1,100 data points for synthesis by the working group. 

This exercise created an encouraging baseline from which to grow more intentional efforts to live the Just Imperative. It also revealed solid support among the staff for the following actions, some of which are already underway:

  • Engagement of an expert to help guide future efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Adoption of a supplier diversity policy and program
  • Adoption of a practice to collect demographic data on grantees and (where appropriate) grantseekers to help us understand trends and gaps in our grantmaking portfolio
  • Review of all internal policies and procedures to ensure that they advance the values of the Just Imperative
  • Adoption of practices that increase the diversity of candidate pipelines in all areas of interest to the Foundation
  • Provision of resources to expand networks, find new voices, and create opportunities for staff to engage with other organizations to better understand diverse perspectives
  • Provision of space and resources to build trust and connections among staff
  • Institution of meeting practices that ensure inclusion, good facilitation, and access to resources
  • Examination of where there may be unnecessary hierarchy

A formal, comprehensive plan is the next step. With the help of expert strategists, our comprehensive plan will include these and other institutional-level actions, as well as specific action plans being created by every program, team, department, and country office as they endeavor to incorporate the Just Imperative into their work and workplace.

I am gratified by the many ways that members of our staff have embraced the Just Imperative. They are challenging leadership to fulfill the promise of the mandate and challenging themselves and their colleagues to align their actions with the mission of the Foundation in creative and authentic ways. A new president will take the helm at MacArthur soon. He will find an energized and committed staff, eager to learn where he will lead in this effort.

Many of the actions described in the first report are ongoing. In the spirit of sharing and hoping to learn, the highlights from the past year that follow include illustrative examples of specific activities, large and small. We are eager to hear what other organizations are doing as well.


Our People

We continue our efforts to ensure that MacArthur benefits from a diverse staff that brings a broad range of human characteristics, experiences, and perspectives. There is a report on our website on the race, ethnicity, and sex of our Board and staff. We are in the process of revising our internal practices to ensure we are acting consistently with additional demographic questions we have begun to ask our grantees. We will be as transparent as possible with this information, while acknowledging that the methodology behind, and reporting of, additional diversity categories is evolving and imperfect and that privacy must be protected.

While there is more to do, we have examined our methods and processes. We have made important progress in recruiting strategies, including more partnerships with organizations focused on historically and chronically underrepresented groups. We have tripled the number of internships and broadened our network of partner schools, to provide young people, and particularly young people of color, exposure to the sector and the possibilities for a viable and fulfilling career. 

"I am gratified by the many ways that members of our staff have embraced the Just Imperative."

In addition to a focus on full-time positions, we are making efforts to increase sector feeder pipelines for early career professionals. There are examples in investment management, impact investments, and evaluation. Our investments department has created two-year rotating positions for early career analysts in key areas and recruited creatively and aggressively to ensure a diverse pool of candidates. The Impact Investments team established a relationship with the Toigo Foundation, which focuses on career advancement and leadership development of talented people in the finance sector from underrepresented groups. The evaluation department is partnering with the American Evaluation Association's Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program, which engages and supports students traditionally underrepresented in the field of evaluation.

We have examined and updated key workplace policies, including working from home and time out of the office to reduce disparities between exempt and nonexempt staff and we have modified maternal and parental leave policies to better reflect the realities of contemporary life. 

In pursuit of fairness, we have implemented a uniform, across-the-board compensation increase for all staff members who are striving for excellence in the quality of their work, Foundation citizenship, and pursuit of the common good. 

Finally, to foster learning and engagement, all Chicago-based staff have participated in introduction to systemic racism training and we offered more intense training to everyone interested, with more training to come a part of a comprehensive plan; we support a speakers’ series with guests that represent interesting, provocative views; and we encourage staff-organized events such as a film festival of Foundation-supported documentaries that explore timely issues like the history of disability rights, justice for victims of police brutality, impunity for violence against transgender individuals, and the rise of new, dynamic, and diverse political leadership.


Our Operations
With expert help, we completed the design of a supplier diversity policy and program. To begin to implement it, we established a baseline by cost center and contracted for a sourcing database to help our staff identify new suppliers, vendors, and consultants. We have recruited a staff working group to monitor progress, and plans are in the works for training in tools and processes for everyone involved in purchasing. 

We engaged an expert consultant to recommend ways to increase access and participation for people with disabilities at MacArthur events, both at the Foundation and at outside venues. We are also working to ensure that our invitations to such events are more welcoming. 

While we have benchmarked our website against standards for accessibility for people with disabilities and made significant enhancements, we want to encourage and help our grantees work toward meeting these standards as well. We have commissioned WebAIM, based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, to produce a booklet and website to share basic information on how to assess and improve website accessibility, with a focus on low-effort fixes. These products, expected by the end of the year, will be shared with our grantees and the nonprofit sector more broadly, encouraging those committed to social change to ensure their web content is accessible to people with various disabilities.

As the owner of our historic headquarters building, we are modifying our emergency preparedness communications and practices to improve our support for tenants and guests with disabilities.


Our Investments
We continue to make efforts to identify investment management firms owned by people of color and women to consider for our investment portfolio. The amount of assets under management by such firms varies as new investments are made or exits take place. However, since we became more intentional in our efforts to increase the diversity of our managers, we have invested directly or indirectly in 17 funds with investment managers whose owners are women or African-American, Asian, or Latinx individuals, with total committed capital over the last few years of $564 million. 

While the standard metric is assets under management by firms that are majority-owned by women and people of color, we are also interested in identifying and considering firms and funds where such individuals are key principals, as this is often the path to influence and ownership over time.


Our Programs
Building on the work of peer foundations, we have begun an effort to collect demographic data on our grantees and impact investees. Our goal is a routine survey of the demographic characteristics of the board, leadership, senior staff, and other staff of the U.S.-based organizations in our grant and impact investment portfolio and their reach. This information will be compiled and analyzed by an external consultant and shared with the Foundation anonymously, aggregated by program area and the portfolio as a whole. Over time, we will be able to see and respond to trends and gaps. While some programs collect such data as part of a decision-making process and are clear with applicants about that, the information from this survey is a learning exercise for the Foundation and will not be used to evaluate individual organizations in any way.

We are also taking steps to align with the Equitable Evaluation Initiative, in its belief “that evaluation and evaluators in the philanthropic sector have a moral imperative to design and implement evaluations that contribute to equity.” MacArthur is joining several other funders and partners in this initiative.

Our support will help fund a suite of tools to make the case and serve as educational supports for bringing equitable evaluation into the field of evaluation and across the philanthropic sector. Closer to home, we will explore ways that our evaluation staff and evaluation and learning partners for all our programs might already align with the equitable evaluation principles and places where we can refine and improve our practices toward greater equity.

"Building on the work of peer foundations, we have begun an effort to collect demographic data on our grantees and impact investees."

In addition, while every program is working to align its decisions with the values of the Just Imperative, following are just a few illustrative examples.

For Chicago, in my essay MacArthur in Chicago: Reflecting on 2018, I reported that we awarded 129 grants totaling $49.3 million and a single, long-term $15 million impact investment. This continues our commitment to strengthen Chicago nonprofits, contribute to civic partnerships, invest in vital communities, and advance diverse, influential leaders. Earlier this year, we launched a collaborative initiative with the Field Foundation of Illinois, to offer Leaders for a New Chicago awards. The Field Foundation centers racial equity in its grantmaking, and these awards support individuals who are leaders in their communities, professional fields, or interest areas. As Chicago redefines itself, this program advances equity and access to opportunity and fosters conditions that recognize and promote people who bring a broad diversity of background and experience to leadership positions.

Our Climate Solutions program is focused on the reduction of greenhouse gases. Climate change disproportionately affects certain communities; it is important to make sure that efforts to address global climate change do not do the same and that, ultimately, the outcome is a cleaner, safer, and more equitable future for everyone. In the U.S., we reached beyond sizable national organizations and added to our portfolio the Blue-Green Alliance, Partnership for Southern Equity, Just Transition Fund, Sojourners, Groundswell, Climate & Clean Energy Equity Fund, and the U.S. Climate Action Network. Through these organizations, the portfolio now benefits from attention to income inequality, equity in regional energy policies, connecting climate to moral values through media and trusted messengers, and linking community-based organizations to traditional environmental groups in a supportive peer network to influence policy.

The Journalism & Media program's Nonfiction Multimedia Storytelling approach funds more than 15 partner organizations that support a wide array of documentary media makers with financial and creative development resources. The goal is to strengthen an enabling infrastructure for storytellers from historically underrepresented backgrounds to realize their creative and journalistic visions. These include Chicken & Egg Pictures, which supports women and gender non-conforming filmmakers, and the Southern Documentary Fund, which provides resources to filmmakers in the regional South. A new generation of more emergent organizations includes Brown Girls Doc Mafia, the Asian American Documentary Network, the BlackStar Film Festival, and Youth FX’s NeXt Doc program.

Our program also invested in the Media & Storytelling program at the Field Foundation, which supports media organizations in disinvested neighborhoods, providing more resources for storytellers from communities that have been underrepresented and, crucially, misrepresented. Finally, with disinformation and misinformation increasing, we doubled down on support for organizations working with young people, especially in rural areas and places with little media infrastructure. The goal is to equip the next generation to be critical media makers and discerning consumers of media reaching them through traditional means and new media platforms.

We launched the second round of 100&Change, our competition to award a single $100 million grant to an organization, partnership, or collaboration to make significant progress on a profound problem of our time. Addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion, applicants are asked to describe how they ensure diverse representation among active participants in program design, consulting, staffing, advisors, and partners. The application explicitly asks all applicants to include a budget line item for reasonable accommodations for beneficiaries or staff members with disabilities. In the inaugural 100&Change competition, all finalist applications were reviewed by disability experts. Going forward, all finalists will receive feedback from disability inclusion experts as well as experts on racial equity.

Next year’s report will reflect the aspirations and progress based on a comprehensive plan that will guide us going forward.

While we consciously recruited a diverse group of more than 400 judges for the inaugural 100&Change, we did not collect demographic data. For the second round, we are building a survey that will mirror the demographic data we are collecting from our grantees and impact investees. This information will inform future outreach to judges and help us set recruitment benchmarks across a variety of indicators.

Finally, we were pleased to add to our small Philanthropy portfolio the Presidents’ Forum on Racial Equity in Philanthropy and plan to identify other organizations focused on various aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Next year’s report will reflect the aspirations and progress based on a comprehensive plan that will guide us going forward.

It has been an honor to work with such passionate, committed colleagues at MacArthur to create and begin the inspiring and challenging process of living the Just Imperative. As the framework concludes, this is a high standard, hard work, and a journey that does not end; we will not get it right every time; but what is important is the commitment and consistent efforts to incorporate the Just Imperative into our work and our lives.

Stay Informed
Sign up for periodic news updates and event invitations.

Connect with us on social media or view all of our social media content in one place.

The privacy of your data is important to us. We've updated our privacy policies in response to General Data Protection Regulation.