Bringing community into decision-making: Hyams Foundation

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: September 13, 2018

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

“By partnering with the organizations we fund, we have a unique opportunity to support transformative, community-based action to produce just and fair systems and processes. The urgency to fund this type of racial justice work is evident in the inequities we’re seeing daily. … Understanding the root causes of these disparities, partnering with community-based organizations and other funders, and working collaboratively to propose solutions will be key in having a lasting impact that will not only affect Boston and Chelsea, but can serve as best practice for other cities and towns across the Bay State and the country.” – Jocelyn Sargent, Executive Director, The Hyams Foundation

The Hyams Foundation is a private, independent foundation with a mission of increasing economic, racial and social justice and power within low-income communities in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. Hyams’ one overarching goal is to dismantle persistent, racialized economic disparities while engaging in close collaboration with others. NCRP listed Hyams as a top social justice funder. Since 2008, the foundation granted over $35 million, of which 68 percent went toward social justice.

Hyams has undergone an intentional journey to internalize racial equity in all facets of the organization. Not only is the board and staff diverse regarding race and gender, but the foundation also has strong representation of leaders from social change organizations. Hyams’ belief is that well-functioning organizations with racially and ethnically diverse boards and staff are more effective in serving communities. Additionally, the foundation includes board and staff diversity as an application criterion.

The foundation demonstrates its core value of inclusivity in other ways as well. Recently Hyams released a first-of-its kind report, Racial Inequities, Policy Solutions: Perceptions of Boston’s Communities of Color on Racism and Race Relations, which elevates the opinions of Boston voters of color on policy solutions to address racial equity.

Hyams has also committed to addressing three important racial justice challenges in Boston and Chelsea today, with the understanding that these may evolve over time based on community input. Each one has emerged from the community, has involved active organizing and related efforts by Hyams’ grantees and others and presents specific current or emerging policy change agendas with potential for results.

From the board room to staffing, from research to grantmaking, Hyams brings community leaders into its decision-making to truly share power.

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justiceFollow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity!

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of case examples on building, sharing and wielding power for NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit. Register now for “Ceding Control: Sharing philanthropy’s power for equitable, inclusive relationships,” a FREE webinar on Sept. 20, co-hosted with Funders for LGBTQ Issues.