Centering equity in education: William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: August 28, 2018

Editor’s note: The following is a Power Moves toolkit Power in Practice example.

“All too often, equity is diluted or dumbed down as merely giving data greater attention. Head counts and tests scores are no substitute for the full sense of how education can be made to truly fulfill its potential as a leveler and empowering force field.” – David Addams, Executive Director, William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund

Since 2015, the $108-million William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, led by David Addams under the direction of William Graustein and trustees, has adopted an explicit racial equity lens in the foundation’s mission and approach to improving education outcomes in Connecticut. The revised mission is “to achieve equity in education by working with those affected and inspiring all to end racism and poverty.”

This shift was motivated by the trustees’ sense of moral obligation to respond to the profound racial and socioeconomic inequities in education affecting their state. The board also saw how targeted equity grantmaking can lead to a greater and more meaningful impact in education. In 2017, the Memorial Fund invited its grantees to raise questions and explore critical topics together through convening, capacity building and training opportunities. The Fund asked:

1. What is already going on in Connecticut that is bringing people together around equity in education? What are they learning about what works, what inspires and what moves us to action?

2. What are the particular challenges of improving equity in education in Connecticut?

3. How do we bridge across current social divides about racism and poverty … through civic dialogue, the arts, social media and other avenues?

4. How do we change the culture in education in ways that move us toward equity?

5. In what ways are we, the Memorial Fund, promoting equity and in what ways are we perpetuating inequity?

While the Fund is still working to gather data on how its new investments and strategic approaches to addressing structural racism have been working, the foundation has created and hired new positions to implement the change and is documenting its journey through periodic reflections from Addams and updates on the Memorial Fund’s website.

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves. Follow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity! Read more case examples here.