Our Race Equity and Inclusion Journey

To understand our REI journey, we acknowledge our beginnings and look strategically to the future.

When local industrialist Raymond John Wean created the Wean Foundation in 1949, it is unlikely that he could have foreseen the focus and work of the Foundation today. From growing and professionalizing staffing to innovating strategies and forging new and important collaborations, the Foundation has maintained its commitment to a principle that has shaped its work: the deliberate and intentional engagement of residents is essential for authentic, lasting change to occur.

Building on this vital principle, the Foundation integrated principles of race equity and inclusion (REI) into all aspects of its work and established key REI outcomes to focus each initiative. This intentionality provides motivation to remain committed to this rigorous, at times arduous work, and to fulfill our vision of empowered residents creating an equitable Mahoning Valley.

Key points of learning from our ongoing REI Journey

  • We have learned that now is the time to take action and to bring residents, race equity and inclusion center stage in every sphere of life, business and development.
  • Cultivating shared understanding of race equity and inclusion takes time but accelerates and sustains progress.
  • It is not possible to solve entrenched challenges with entrenched beliefs — fresh thinking, honest conversations, and resident-led approaches are required if we are to achieve lasting progress.
  • Fresh approaches to community building in the Mahoning Valley are an urgent necessity. For too long, our community has struggled to find lasting solutions to our most urgent concerns. Challenges remain. Disparities deepen. Racism persists.
  • To solve the problems we face, we must trace them to their root causes. To trace problems to their root causes, we must acknowledge the history of systemic racism. To overcome systemic racism, we must all learn to identify it, describe it and dismantle it.

When we all begin our own REI journeys, we will, as a community, begin to create a healthy, vibrant, equitable and economically-stable Mahoning Valley.

Our REI Journey

Awareness

  • Sponsored Racial Equity Institute Training ($105,000):
    • Sessions (6): Community stakeholders (118)
    • Hosted Racial Equity Institute Training, in partnership with the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force (20), a cooperative of task forces that support community initiatives across the Mahoning Valley

Learning

  • Pursued personal, organization and community learning through racial equity and inclusion trainings
  • Informed REI practices by participating in DEI committees of local and regional partners 
  • Engaged Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) to produce a local Existing Conditions Report disaggregating data by race
  • Commissioned Embedding Racial Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy in the Mahoning Valley, a report on the findings and recommendations of a broad exploration of stakeholders’ perspectives on the challenges and opportunities associated with the Foundation operationalizing its newly renamed Racial Equity and Inclusion Strategic Direction: 2019–2023 (REI Strategic Direction)

Practice

  • Racial Equity Theory of Change (RE TOC) shifted to REI Strategic Direction, a board and staff driven intentional effort to further operationalize racial equity
  • Developed Desired Racial Equity and Inclusion Outcomes (DREIOs) for each pillar
  • Engaged GOPC toward the development of metrics to support DREIOs
  • Revised human resources recruitment practices to be more equitable and inclusive:
    • Updated job descriptions
    • Disclosed salary information
    • Made apparent the Foundation’s commitment to creating and sustaining a culture that challenges racism
  • Engaged both Strategic Partners in a new, deeper process of documenting their REI commitment beyond participation in the Racial Equity Institute training in the areas of awareness, learning and practice.

Awareness

  • Sponsored Racial Equity Institute Training (2) sessions ($30,000)
    • Hosted in-person session before onset of COVID-19 pandemic; community stakeholders (18)
    • Hosted virtual session; community stakeholders (27)  
  • Supported Mahoning County Health Improvement Plan with local data

Learning

  • Joined the Ad-Hoc DEI Committee of the Fund for our Economic Future (FFEF), a funding alliance striving to eliminate systemic inequities in Northeast Ohio
  • Collaborated with a local funder in creating the Getting to Know You Zoom Tours as intentional engagement between Black philanthropic leaders and Black and Hispanic/Latinx nonprofit leaders from Warren and Youngstown

Practice

  • Conducted an Equity Footprint Assessment with Third Space Action Lab (TSAL), a grassroots research, strategy, and design cooperative, to further REI integration 
    • Formed REI Board/Staff Committee
    • Prioritized RE TOC as first project
  • 2019 Community Survey findings guided 
    • Allocation of the Strategic Direction 2019 – 2023 Grantmaking budget
    • Alignment of NSG grants with the Resident Identified Priorities 
  • Mahoning Valley COVID-19 Crisis Relief and Stabilization grants: Ensured ongoing, equitable access to resources especially in communities of color 
  • Transitioned to an online platform intended for managing social impact projects, capable of streamlining grantmaking processes, reducing bias and tracking and disaggregating grantee data
  • Hired program officer to manage capacity building programming with an emphasis on REI 

Awareness

  • Sponsored Racial Equity Institute Training ($80,000) 
    • Sessions (6): Wean board (100%) and community stakeholders (169)
    • Co-sponsored session: Strategic Partner, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (40)
  • Promoted Racial Equity Institute Training through presentations with local, regional and state organizations

Learning

Practice

  • Implemented Strategic Direction: 2019 – 2023, with an emphasis on achieving our mission and measuring success through a REI lens 
  • Expanded participation in Race Equity Institute Training expectation to Neighborhood SUCCESS Grants (NSG) agreement
  • Created REI Transformation Team
  • Exercised discretion in funding beyond the strategic priorities with support to an oral history project committed to collecting and preserving the rich heritage of Warren’s Black residents

Awareness

  • Sponsored Racial Equity Institute Training ($59,000)
    • Sessions (6): Community stakeholders (163)
    • Co-sponsored session: Warren City School District administrators (37)

Learning

  • Participated in the six-session Putting Racism on the Table
  • Attended two-day Art of Participatory Leadership workshop with Strategic Partners
  • Created REI thought partnership with local funder
  • Retained consultant to support REI efforts

Practice

  • Added Racial Equity Institute Training expectation to Community Investment Grants agreement
  • Emphasized grants that embed race equity and inclusion into the work and demonstrate a distribution of decision-making power, reflective of the communities we serve

Awareness

  • Sponsored Racial Equity Institute Training ($24,000)
    • Sessions (2): Wean staff (100%), Wean board (89%) and community stakeholders (80)

Learning

  • Commissioned Center for Effective Philanthropy to conduct a Grantee Perception Report 
  • Commissioned Dr. Robert Fisher to conduct a survey as additional follow-up to a 2006 PolicyLink report to provide further perspective on the Foundation’s progress 
  • Joined the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee of Philanthropy Ohio, a statewide membership organization aiming to lead and equip its members to be effective partners for change in Ohio’s communities.

Practice

  • Implemented consideration of DEI in Community Investment Grants review
  • Added Racial Equity Institute Training to the Emerging Leaders Program curriculum
  • Authored Philanthropy Ohio’s Find Your Niche and Do Your Part article
  • Participated in Philanthropy Ohio’s Investing in Race Equity and Inclusion video

Awareness

Attended Racial Equity Institute Training following invite from regional philanthropic partners