In June, Social Solutions CEO Erin Mulligan Nelson wrote to our clients, staff and communities about actions we as a company would be taking to do our part to dismantle systemic racism, inequality and injustice. This has guided our company and our teams over the past few months – and we remain committed to supporting anti-racist initiatives.
Erin invited everyone within the Social Solutions network to be part of an ongoing dialogue and commitment to creating lasting change. Issuing a statement was never the end game for her, or for us as a company. To keep true to our commitment to ending racism, we know we need everyone’s support, ideas, and voices.
In June, we asked our employees to direct company dollars to national and local anti-racism organizations that they believe can create the most impact. These funds went to Black Lives Matter, The Bail Project, Minnesota Freedom Fund, Equal Justice Initiative, Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement, Action Bail Fund, Rebuild & Heal Immigrant Businesses in MN, Giving Fund, Latino Economic Development Center, NAACP, Color Of Change, and Southern Poverty Law Institute.
We know that change starts with each of us. To support ongoing learning and create greater empathy and understanding, Social Solutions has invested a set amount of money for every employee in what we call the Staff Equality Learning Fund. These funds are for materials – online coursework, books, periodicals, etc. – that advance an individual’s awareness of systemic injustice and inequality. Across our entire team, we are seeking to broaden our thinking on all areas of inequality, including race.
The Social Solutions team has also been meeting regularly for virtual diversity and inclusion forums where there are open discussions to listen, communicate and learn.
Anti-racism has been front and center at Social Solutions over the last few months. And we want this to be everyone’s conversation, where everyone within the company has a voice and can feel heard. When we told a few team members that we were going to publish a follow-up to our recent blog post, here’s what they had to say:
“Anti-racism is more than just being an ally or paying lip service to diversity. Social Solutions’ work to dismantle the structures that perpetuate racism has been placed front and center in our diversity forums and conversations. These opportunities to connect and share our experiences encourage personal accountability and action from everyone who participates. I am so proud of all my colleagues who come to these conversations with a desire to learn and a commitment to fighting policies that perpetuate inequality.”
Alexandrea Jackson, Enterprise Account Executive, Apricot 360
“Having conversations like this, where we can be open about what we believe, challenge each other, and be challenged back, is extremely healthy and productive. It forces us to articulate our beliefs – and inevitably identify the flaws in our thinking and improve.”
Deshawn Jackson, Director of Cloud Ops & IT
“I am so proud to work at an organization that lives and breathes our belief in the importance of being anti-racist. Here at Social Solutions, our leadership team has created space to empower each employee to better understand systemic racism, the roles we can play in recognizing our part in the system, and the actions we can take toward change. It means so much to see our company facilitating dialog and safe spaces where employees can hear about each other’s experiences and uncover their own unintentional biases, seek out information, and grow as individuals.”
Ashley Boyer, Vice President, Education Solution Sales
“Company culture matters, and leadership matters. It is so awesome to see that Social Solutions believes that Black lives matter, and they back it up! Our company and our executive leadership, they really do get it. They listen, and I’m so proud to be a part of this journey with them.”
James Beard, Enterprise Account Executive
“There’s no quick-fix button for the problems of systemic racism and the effects of racial inequality. I think the one of the greatest things that companies can do right now is to facilitate the opportunity to learn—so that people can grow and the system can change. These past few months have been a learning journey for so many of us. I strongly believe that Social Solutions has played a big part in enabling and encouraging me to expand my understanding of race and inequality, and how I can take steps to be part of long-term solution.”
Zac Elbel, Senior Product Marketer
“Working for a company that actively pursues increasing diversity is a must for me. Our mission every day is to help those that are actively helping people to do their work better so that they can continue to do that important work… Right now, part of actively helping people means increasing our own education and understanding so that we can be the best partners possible to our nonprofit and public sector clients.”
Hannah Bentley, Graphic Designer
“This time has made us all look critically at the ways in which we exist in and, through silence and inaction, continually perpetuate a system founded in white supremacy. I’m so grateful to work at a company that knows being anti-racist shouldn’t be controversial or political. It is imperative to the work we do, the clients we serve and the culture we’re aiming to create here. During this time our leadership team and as a result the entire company has been proactive, engaged, honest and most importantly willing to be challenged. Their continual investments of money, time and attention proves every day that this commitment is more than good PR to them. There is a lot of work to be done and I’m inspired to see what we can accomplish as a community that respects that true professionalism doesn’t check humanity and activism at the door when you clock in.”
Steph Adriaenssens, Enterprise Sales Executive, Apricot 360
With many deep-rooted, race-based issues coming into greater focus and urgency, we have been reading about and discussing the stark reality that nonprofit organizations led by people of color tend to win fewer grants and less grant money than nonprofits with white leaders. Together, Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland and the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network are working to increase funding to Black-led organizations with Black Philanthropy Month.
Black Philanthropy Month, observed every August, was created to inform, involve, inspire and invest in Black philanthropic leadership to strengthen African-American and African-descent giving in all its forms, for the benefit of our planet, communities, organizations, and lives. Since August 2011 when the first Black Philanthropy Month was observed, the mission has reached roughly 17 million people and become an increasingly year-round, diasporic initiative that illuminates the ingenuity and transformative impact of generosity in Black communities.
With this initiative, we don’t want to simply talk about it; we are asking the same question we posed back in June: What can we do?
Led by the energy from our teams and partners, we will continue to champion organizations that seek to end racism. In addition to our internal commitment to fostering a culture of ongoing learning and encouraging the support of organizations that seek to end racism, Social Solutions is developing key external initiatives with our partners with the goal of advancing racial justice. (Look for a future blog post, where we will share more about the programs we are working on with our impact-focused partners.)
In the spirit of ongoing action, we encourage you to seek out race-related learning opportunities, share your learnings with others, prioritize increasing racial diversity among your teams and partners, give what you can to organizations whose missions are to end racism and look for ways to increase the visibility of Black-led social impact organizations.
There is still much work to be done. We’re with you to create a better future.
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