Lumina Foundation has a long-standing commitment to achieving racial equity—the point when an individual’s race or ethnicity no longer predicts educational outcomes. Creating a learning system in which Black, Hispanic, and Native American people are a priority was crucial to our launch 20 years ago.

But commitments are only as good as the actions that follow. That’s why Lumina has adopted an equity-first approach that puts racial justice and equity at the center of everything we do. To achieve this, we will:

  • Design our work to increase educational attainment among the groups who face the greatest barriers to securing education and building their skills. It also means we will work to remove barriers that cause differential outcomes by race and ethnicity.
  • Focusing on efforts designed to benefit people of color.
  • Work with partner organizations on how they demonstrate commitment and capacity to lead on racial justice and equity.
  • Support our partner organizations’ efforts to form racially and ethnically diverse boards, leadership teams, and staff that reflect the communities they serve.

We believe racial justice will be achieved when the obstacles to increased attainment, whether policies, practices, or other impediments, have been removed. Our strategic plan offers an opportunity to alter our grantmaking and our awarding of contracts to advance this objective.

We will begin with a partner survey to build a database of organizations committed to pursuing racial justice and equity in education and training after high school. We encourage organizations—whether new to Lumina or old friends—to complete the survey thoughtfully.

We want to learn more about your organization’s mission, geographic focus, and alignment with our strategic priorities. We want to better understand how you are prioritizing racial justice and equity—and the extent to which your organization’s board, leadership team, and staff reflect society and the communities you serve.

Through this open call, we hope to identify new organizations and partners aligned with Lumina’s mission and the Equity First approach. And we intend to strengthen existing relationships through dialogue and a shared understanding of what it means to commit to achieving racial justice and equity.

We will collect better demographic information. And we will talk with groups we are interested in working with to learn more about where they are on their journeys.

Everyone, including Lumina, is in a different place. Over time, we have changed our internal hiring practices and how we recruit board members to create a more racially diverse and inclusive culture—and yet, we have much work to do. We have done in-house training to get more comfortable talking about racial issues in our work without making people defensive, and we’re interested in learning how your organization approaches culture change tied to the pursuit of greater diversity and inclusiveness. Finally, we are looking for a commitment to pursuing equity and justice.

We’re approaching an equity-first orientation with humility, and we’re interested in learning from you and sharing what we have learned. We don’t believe our efforts to address disparities in outcomes among people who are Black, Hispanic, and Native American can succeed without addressing structural racism in all of its forms.

To create opportunity, we anticipate using broad solicitations. We are deeply committed to openly and fairly identifying and assessing the partners best suited to help us. Open calls can help us diversify and strengthen our networks.

We will support our partners through structured dialogue and orientation and have regular check-ins with all of our partners to explore opportunities for growth. Also, we anticipate offering broader learning and development opportunities along the way.

Foundations alone cannot resolve society’s problems. But we believe philanthropy can set a better example by putting the pursuit of justice and fairness at the heart of all we do. We invite you to join us.

Paola Santana and Amanda DeLaRosa are strategy officers at Lumina Foundation. They support states’ efforts to increase educational attainment and eliminate racial inequities.

Lumina awards an initial round of nearly $3.2 million in grants to 11 organizations working to achieve racial justice | January 13, 2021

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