Meeting the Moment, Keeping the Momentum

Stories of Racial Equity and Liberatory Practices from the Field

A Report by The Racial Equity to Accelerate Change Fund at Borealis Philanthropy and Research Action Design 2024

Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity to Accelerate Change (REACH) Fund and Research Action Design (RAD) are honored to put forward the wisdom of racial equity practitioners in Meeting the Moment, Keeping the Momentum: Stories of Racial Equity and Liberatory Practices from the Field.
Through narrative and five in-depth case studies, this new publication offers tangible guidance on how organizations working for social change can implement practices to foster an equitable culture within their own workplaces, and across the broader movement ecosystem. The report lifts and explores the complex realities of truly transformative work, covering practices related to inclusive governance, field building, holistic healing, political education, and more.
We invite you to dig into the wisdom and insights shared throughout this report, which we hope sharpen your understanding of this tender work, and deepen your resolve to advancing racial equity within and beyond your own institution.


Founded in 2019, The Racial Equity to Accelerate Change (REACH) Fund is a donor collaborative fund housed at Borealis Philanthropy that invests in seasoned racial equity practitioners - capacity builders, facilitators, and healers - to disrupt white supremacy culture in our organizations and movements, and move courageously towards liberatory practices that will disrupt and rebuild our systems. The racial equity (RE) practitioners work closely alongside nonprofit leaders and organizations to apply a racial equity lens towards dismantling institutional racism, building race-conscious organizations, and designing internal and external strategy, policy, and cultural change. REACH’s investments have been critical to these practitioners as they have deepened relationships with their stakeholders while simultaneously developing new tools and practices in the wake of renewed attacks from the far-right that are chipping away at progressive gains including affirmative action, reproductive rights, voting access and body autonomy. In addition, consolidation of corporate interests continues to enrich extractive industries and promote monopolies. These continuing political assaults are a predictable systemic response to our resistance, and they behoove us to fight back harder and more collectively.

The REACH Fund and Borealis Philanthropy believes that when racial equity is fully integrated into the policies and practices of nonprofits and philanthropic organizations, this will lead to more resources invested in communities of color and their power-building efforts. Well-resourced community-driven organizing and advocacy on social justice issues will allow grassroots movements to grow their impact and more effectively carry out strategies on the ground to close the gaps for those facing disparities.

When nonprofit leaders declare commitments to racial equity and justice, what does that journey really entail? Both RE practitioners and their nonprofit clients stress that the work of racial equity requires deep transformation and alignment at multiple levels—individual, interpersonal, organizational, and movement ecosystem. There is no one blueprint or logic model.

The work is not linear, and it is often interrupted by discomfort, conflicts, and even harm.

How do racial equity practitioners, then, help their clients navigate these uncertainties, while not losing heart or momentum? The practitioners supported by REACH hail from different but interlocking strands of social justice lineages and have divergent specializations in organizational development areas, with each continuing to innovate based on new and emerging realities. One commonality among them is their long-term investment in trust-building, courageous conversations, and patience with their clients. Quick fixes or short-term contracts often backfire.

REACH is a laboratory where the RE practitioners experiment in new and innovative ways of organizing themselves in order to dismantle white supremacy, racial capitalism, and various forms of intersectional oppressions, so that we can embody the liberation we seek. More than dismantling the old, the RE practitioners are working with movement organizations to build a just society where joyful and thriving people and communities that are in right relationships with each other and the planet can share power and resources equitably. Since there is no one blueprint, this report documents multiple (but not exhaustive) promising practices through interviews with the practitioners and their client organizations. Many of the RE practitioners talked about the way the nonprofit sector is organized often hampers their work, and how the ways of the “nonprofit industrial complex” are not working. In fact, the ways that most nonprofit organizations operate, organize themselves, compensate their staff, and compete with each other for funding replicate the racist and economic inequities and power distributions of dominant white-supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchal, and ableist values that limit marginalized people’s access to power and decision-making. Noting that this nonprofit industrial complex is deeply entrenched by a philanthropic sector that reinforces scarcity and competition and prizes short-term productivity over long-term vision, many RE practitioners believe this moment calls for a bolder political stance that centers racial equity to counter the tides of white supremacy (beyond putting out public statements condemning it).

In this report, REACH cohort partners and their clients emphasize the foundational liberatory practices of inner transformation to mirror the change we want to see in the world and the decolonization of the nonprofit and philanthropic industrial complex. They also lift up political education, inclusive governance, healing engagements, and field building as liberatory practices central to the long term success of their work. The report offers several case studies on these topics, illustrating the hard and challenging work of racial equity, the complex and nuanced ways practitioners and their clients collaborate, and the rewards from alignment and progress.

Recent political developments have created an opening and a public awareness of racial equity discourse, but perhaps because of unrealistic expectations about progress and outcomes, this window is showing some signs of closing. Without deep alignment and collective organizing and advocacy among the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, we will continue to risk fatigue, complacency, and further backlash. Racial equity practitioners are often the preventive glue in this ecosystem. To counter pushback from more resourced oppositions, practitioners have to be innovative, rigorous, and accountable. There is also a need to create networked relationships among practitioners to articulate, refine, and amplify liberatory practices.

But this report is also intended for other actors in the movement building ecosystem. For funders, meeting this moment requires critically examining power dynamics in philanthropy and building authentic trust with those on the front lines. For nonprofit organizations, this report shows that vulnerability, transparency, inclusiveness, and liberation are possible even within the constraints of the nonprofit sector. But transformation is complex and only within reach if it is rooted in courageous conversations, justice, and healing. We hope this report will help our different audiences to not only seize this opening and stay the course, but also double down on our commitment to the work and inspire moral leadership and imagination.

Dedication, Gratitude & Acknowledgments

First and foremost, this report was made possible thanks to the generosity, thoughtfulness, and care of the REACH racial equity & justice cohort members and their partners and clients. We thank everyone who shared their time, experiences, wisdom, and practices with us during the listening sessions and interviews. We are so grateful to those who participated early on in the design phase of the project and those who helped reflect, refine, and affirm what we heard from you in your review of the preliminary themes, analysis, and narrative. Your collaboration, partnership, and engagement have been essential to the project and process.

We would like to thank the members of the research team at Research Action Design, whose commitment to research justice and accountability work to create and demand space for movement-led research and stories.

We would like to thank the dedicated members of the Borealis Philanthropy team, whose vision, partnership, and openness in the pursuit of justice that include reflexive contemplation of the role of philanthropy in this work, made this possible, including Makkah Ali, Truc Anh Kieu, Randall Quan, Bianca Carter, Dr. Kholi Murchison, Jeffrey Andres Guzman, Ashley Johnson, Tupa Hoveka, Ribkah Naga, Natasha Khanna, and Philip Koberlein.

While this list is not exhaustive of all the racial equity and justice practitioners of the REACH program and their partners, all of whom we send our deepest gratitude and respect, we would like to thank those who shared their time, perspective, power, and wisdom throughout the research process, be it in project co-design sessions, listening sessions, interviews, and the deep review process of the final report. This case study project was only made possible by the contributions of many racial equity practitioners and their partners and clients engaged in this work. We thank all for sharing their time, expertise, and commitment to the integrity of this project and the stories held within this report. Participants are identified based on their preferences and consent.

Racial Equity and Justice Practitioners

Partners & Clients

We would like to thank our brilliant graphic and web design team members at Kompleks Creative.