The new initiative represents a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility as a transformation framework for the foundation and the philanthropic sector
BOSTON – Ask any philanthropic leader in the United States if the sector would benefit from including more diverse perspectives in decision making. Without exception, you’ll hear a call to foster more inclusive, equitable and diverse cultures.
And yet, the sector has moved slowly to make change. Systemic barriers and complex power dynamics are still common in philanthropy, including the sector’s reliance on existing, self-perpetuating hiring networks and pipelines, and harmful perceptions about who belongs in philanthropy.
The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, as a young and growing philanthropy, has set out to create a new approach to talent recruitment and development with the launch of its new Rising Leaders for Equity initiative, a salaried, full-time, two-year position for early career professionals who bring a diversity of identities, perspectives, and viewpoints to philanthropy. The initiative seeks to demonstrate how the field can dismantle historic hiring barriers and recruit talented individuals whose contributions are critical to shifting the sector’s approach to doing philanthropic work, while providing a holistic professional experience centered on mutual learning, growth and innovation.
The vision, says President Vilas Dhar, who began developing the initiative soon after he was appointed in 2020, is a philanthropic sector that reflects a diversity of identities, experiences and perspectives in its staffing and leadership, decision making and community engagement. Moving forward, the Foundation will launch a series of activities designed to share initiative learnings and foster dialogue with others interested in advancing inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) in philanthropy.
“As a signature initiative of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Rising Leaders for Equity is centered on trust and transformation,” said Dhar. “To build public trust in philanthropy, we have to fully align our values and actions, and that starts in-house. As we take this important step, we’d welcome the opportunity to come together with other philanthropies for authentic conversations, self-reflection, and learning new ways of working. Together, we can be agents of transformation at every level – individual, organization, community and society – to build a more equitable and inclusive future for all.”
The initiative will be led by newly appointed manager Leah C. Taylor, who brings extensive experience in strategic program design, management and execution for mission driven organizations with an emphasis on centering equity as both a practice and an outcome.
“The launch of this initiative is a step forward in how the Foundation lives our values and walks the walk when it comes to IDEA and pursuing justice,” said Mike Kohn, the foundation’s Director of People and Talent. “There’s a fantastic opportunity for us to do something impactful with our new leaders, the entirety of our Foundation, as well as the field of philanthropy. I am looking forward to working closely with Leah and the entire team to further build and scale our program.”
The initiative provides an opportunity for talented, ambitious and socially conscious early career professionals to learn all aspects of working in a philanthropy setting. They will be included at all levels of engagement within the organization, including relationship building, grant making, communications, and operations. Rising Leaders for Equity has been designed to offer associates a variety of learning and skills development opportunities through a rotation model, similar to how early career physicians and lawyers are trained, so they are exposed to all aspects of the non-profit and philanthropic fields. They will be encouraged to pursue their curiosity and professional interests through access to others in the field, peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and technical assistance. Their learning will be grounded in technology ethics, one of the Foundation’s key areas of advocacy, so that they can advance ethical considerations in their future career fields.
Claudia Juech, the Foundation’s Vice President of Data and Society, called the initiative an important step for the Foundation as it advocates for more inclusive and ethical approaches to data and AI development for social good. “The successful use of data and AI for social impact is dependent on being representative of all segments of society in terms of who is involved in designing, implementing and using those tools. We must also do the same within our own culture. I’m excited to be working with the new team to support them in their philanthropic careers and make meaningful change in philanthropy.”