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By Kimberly Theodore Sidey

Sixteen years ago, the Women’s Fund at Austin Community Foundation was created to support the needs of women and children in Central Texas. Over the last four years, our investors honed in on this objective by making the economic security of women the focal point of our work. This included concentrating our resources to provide women access to: affordable housing support services, quality child care, higher education and workforce participation, and preventing unintended pregnancies.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot along the way and one thing is clear – among the most pressing issues in our community is the racial wealth and health divide facing women of color.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated these inequities. Women continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, shouldering the majority of unpaid labor, experiencing more job loss, and losing access to vital health care services.

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With this in mind, the Women’s Fund is undergoing The Strategy Shift, a deliberate action to address and create a more equitable grantmaking strategy and process. The Strategy Shift is an opportunity for learning, co-creating, and acting, and through a series of focus groups and workshops with community members, nonprofit leaders, and investors, we aim to co-author a funding process centered in racial and gender equity.

In October, we convened for our first-ever Equitable Grantmaking Workshop, centered on challenging long held beliefs and biases in our processes. Since then, Women’s Fund investors have been participating in virtual events focused on each of our four impact areas. The workshops are being facilitated by Nicholas K. Jayanty, a design researcher at IBM with expertise in helping diverse groups learn, articulate, and align priorities. Our aim is to shift the strategy for each pillar of our collective work to meet this moment. So that this work is truly co-authored and community-led, our revised vision statements will then be circulated to nonprofit focus groups for feedback and further refinement.

To center this work in the lives of women most impacted by the systemic inequities, we are proud to work with Meme Styles and her team at MEASURE to deepen our community engagement. Through MEASURE’s Equity-Focused Group Tool, we gain a more holistic understanding of how the Women’s Fund might serve as a transformative and intentional vehicle towards establishing racial equity through philanthropy.

The Strategy Shift is still ongoing, and we are looking forward to hosting the last of two open workshops focused on women’s health and child care next week. Learn more and engage in this transformational work.

In December, we look forward to sharing the 2021 Women’s Fund grant application and the changes that have been informed by The Strategy Shift.

You can support this work and the Women’s Fund by making an investment today.

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